An Overview
Multiple functions of Indian Puppetry
Skilled Craft of Indian Puppetry
Inanimate to Animate in Indian Puppetry
SOCIAL ROLE OF PUPPETRY
Puppet Play on Social theme
Introduction

It is seldom realised that puppetry has, besides its entertainment and educational aspects, several supportive roles to the society. Both children and adults can gain assistance in the area of rehabilitation. Puppetry can be put up with used material and costumes, and can be shown either in daylight or under illumination from brass or earthen lamps. It has an appeal to the young and old alike and is perhaps the ideal medium for the rich and poor, scholar and illiterate, the child and adult. Everyone can laugh with a comedy and cry with a tragedy, and the events and problems of the puppet-play can easily be made relevant to one's own life. Hence the utility of the puppet-medium for religious sermons as well as social preaching on cleanliness, resistance to disease, and awareness on many ills and ailments in our social life..

Puppetry in Vocation

The role of puppetry as a vocation in India is far from satisfactory. The traditional puppeteers, who might have had such a vocation even some years ago, have left it and even their children are not encouraged. Many workshops held at official level, to revive interest in puppetry as a vocation, have not produced tangible results. It does seem that the rapid advancement of the electronic media is pushing traditional puppetry even further to the background. The other major drawback in India is the absence of organised curriculum on puppetry in universities or colleges as also the lack of university theatre-groups and clubs who can take puppet-shows to children and social centres. This has resulted in any person, wishing to take up puppetry as a vocation, to depend only on his own initiative and attach himself to an urban puppet-group, if he resides in a city. On the contrary, there are no set academic courses that can be used for training. Since there no State-owned or State-supported puppet theatre, official patronage can hardly be said to exist, --- where trained people even from amateur groups can come and join for a vocation.

Puppetry in Therapy and Rehabilitation

Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal at Udaipur conducted some pioneering work under Devi Lal Samar to use puppetry in mental and physical therapy. There experiments, with children and adults, led to some significant conclusions. For instance, people with normal relationship with family at home and friends outside make puppets with standard features and proportionate bodies; people with problematic behaviour pattern with others generally make puppets with very disproportionate features. Since nobody is born to crime and only circumstances create criminal tendencies, puppetry appeared to be immensely helpful for their special treatment. In another experiment involving a problem child who kept running away from the school, --- puppetry was used as a substitute for his class work. This event was a turning point in his activities at home and at school. In another experiment with stammering children, the latter were found to be nervous while speaking to a group and usually stammered on particular consonants. These children could successfully narrate a story with the help of glove puppets, manipulated behind a curtain, while eliminating listeners from their view. Puppetry for therapy was experimented upon for the physically handicapped, particularly for those having no limbs. They are generally frustrated in life because of these deficiencies, as is the case with the deaf, dumb and blind. In an experiment involving a child without legs, string puppets were made with loose limbs so that the slightest movements with the child's remnants of limbs could move the puppets. The child could successfully put up a show with a musical narrative of his own, since he had a sweet voice. Another child, who was blind but had all the limbs intact, used ready-made glove, rod and string puppets manipulated by himself with a helper. He spoke dialogue perfectly well and sang songs, -- even better than those who were gifted with sight!

Puppery for Social Change

There are vital social issues like illiteracy, status of women, bride burning, dowry system, female infanticide, family planning, and other problems, which need urgent attention from one and all. In the above milieu, puppetry can be a powerful tool for inducing social action and bringing in social change. Puppetry can convey messages through its tragic and comic themes reflecting the realities of society and its environment. Traditional puppetry in India has a built-in value system, which is in consonance with the Indian social ethos. The Yampuri puppets in Bihar are quite explicit about socially correct activities permissible in heaven and wrong activities debarred from it. The Puranic tales narrate the relentless pursuit of good deeds and good conduct which make the rest of the world, including Death, bow down to them. When the puppet-plays adopt historical characters, they depict the triumph of the good and punishment of the evil. It is striking to note that even the timing and duration of the performances are both linked to social purposes, based on the belief-system that a timely puppet-play brings rains, prevents pestilence and yields a good crop. The all-night duration is often associated with the notion of sanctity of the place and the security of the audience against social ills. Traditional puppeteers are occasionally used for spreading social messages on the need for life insurance, the habit of banking, family planning, traffic rules, etc.

Conclusion

As stated above, puppetry can be a powerful medium for helping therapy, easing rehabilitation and promoting social change, --- apart from providing a wonderful opening as a vocation. This is primarily due to the puppet's universal appeal to all: where animals and birds are welcome and sex does not play a role.

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