Puppet Sellers and Builders
Allied Arts In India


Ventriloquist Dilip Kumar
of Kolkata
Ventriloquism started around the 6th century BC and was used to communicate with the dead. In ancient times, the people believed that the spirits of the dead went to the stomachs of the prophets. The prophets were then able to foretell the future by the spirits who were speaking from belly. The name "ventriloquist" means, "belly speaker" in Latin. The prophets had learned the art of ventriloquism to fool their listeners and claim to have divine powers. In India, magicians used this art as if they were talking with a ghost. Some magicians came to the stage with a glass-bottle in hand and said there was invisible ghost in the bottle.  They started taking with the ghost, often called ‘Atmaram’.
The famous old magician Ganapati had one such ghost called ‘Ramu’! Now the ventriloquist uses a doll, which they place on their lap in order to operate its movements. The ventriloquist then pretends to carry on a conversation with the doll by moving its mouth and providing its voice. The doll's voice actually comes from the ventriloquist, but there is no sign that he is moving lips, and the voice seems to come from the doll. Sometime they have more than one doll. Prof. Y. K. Padhye in Mumbai used ventriloquial dolls ‘Ardhawat Rao’ and ‘Awdabai’ since 1920. His son Ramdas Padhye performs ventriloquism show using ‘Vent’ and other puppets in stage, radio and TV. There are many well-known ventriloquists in India who perform quite a lot. The ventriloquist Dilip Kumar of Kolkata uses this art for literacy, pulse-polio and anti-AIDS campaign.


Mime Artist Jogesh Dutta

The language of gestures is born with everyman and is re-born daily as part of his need to express himself. Before the human voice developed, gestures served not only as means of communications but also as an aid in the development of vocal sounds. Gestures and expressive movements were also utilised in ancient religious dances and ceremonies. In Greece, the first pantomime actor was the legendary dancer Telestes who acted in the Aeschylus play Seven Against Thebes (467 BC), by detaching himself from the chorus and interpreting the action that the chorus sang or recited, through rhythmic steps and gestures. After the fall of the Roman Empire, entertainers who inherited the Greco-Roman mime traditions sang, danced, imitated and performed acrobatics at the courts and at private banquets throughout Europe. In France, Gaspard Deburau had immortalised the silent ‘Pierrot’ pantomimes, which we today call pantomime blanche because of the whiteface the artist wears. By the mid-20th century, Paris was the place for mimes to be. Etienne Decroux, Marcel Marceau, and Jacques Lecoq developed modern schools of mime that no longer represented the traditional 19th century pantomime. In 1978, Marceau opened his school in Paris and taught at workshops in America. Instead of limiting themselves to silent expression and classical pantomime or codified mime technique, they experimented freely with texts and the use of voice. They also included props, costumes, masks, lighting effects and music.
The Indian term Abhinaya, suggests imitation of the various psychological states of character in a play, as distinct from the European acting. Acting is only one aspect of Abhinaya and Mukabhinaya in the Indian context is more than just 'Acting without Words'. Mukabhinaya is one of the most ancient and difficult art forms in theatre. It can be traced back to the earliest annals of our cultural heritage. In Bharata’s Natyashastra, the finer aspects of role-playing were discussed under Abhinayam Adhyaya. Hence, it demands rigorous practice to perfect its various techniques. Indian classical dance and theatre outlined the language and grammar of Mukabhinaya. The most important thing in Indian pantomime is that it tells tales which are fundamentally connected with the Indian reality of everyday life and not in abstraction, as in the West. In 1956, Jogesh Dutta, a self-trained artist, introduced the art of modern pantomime in India. He established a training institution Jogesh Mime Academy in Kolkata in 1971. His student Niranjan Goswami has another training institute Indian Mime Academy in Kolkata. National School of Drama, Delhi; Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata and other theatre-training institutes in India impart training in mime. Mukabhinaya conveys, through gestures, a large variety of expressions. In a world, where so many languages are spoken, Mukabhinaya is a non-lingual art form that is comprehended easily by the common man. This art thus can be an effective medium of mass communication: to raise awareness on various social issues.


A Woman Juggler
The origin of juggling is very ancient and closely associated with pantomime, dance, and music. The primitive man performed religious rituals by crude chants, hand clapping, and the striking of sticks together. The first graphic representations of jugglers appear on wall paintings of the Egyptians on tombs on the east bank of the Nile and on Greek vases of early period. 
In India, some nomadic people have been showing jugglery on the streets to earn money since ancient time.
There is evidence in old manuscripts and prints that jugglery was practiced in India, apart from Burma, and Indonesia. Asians value the ability to work with almost every part of the human body, not just the hands. On the other hand, the western jugglers prefer to work with their hands. Bhavai, a folk form of Gujarat, has dancers who dance with a stack of cup-plates or glasses on the head or perform balance tricks to give a gimmicky touch. Traditional Kathputli puppeteers of Rajasthan also show some juggling in between shows for providing a break.
The puppeteer  comes in  front of the tamboori  ( tent  for
puppet show) and performs some juggling tricks.

Now they have stopped to perform this type of juggling. Modern puppet groups often use jugglery tricks in a variety show to give a comic break. Generally, the narrator performs these tricks or sometimes they use a marotte to perform juggling. The children, in particular enjoy juggling. The juggling is not a very easy job, needing a lot of practice and concentration.



The word ‘origami’ comes from the Japanese verb ‘oru’, that is, to fold and the noun ‘kami’ or ‘gami’, that is, paper. The craft of origami is often referred to as Japanese paper folding. All we need for origami is one sheet of paper, ten fingers and a lot of imagination! Japanese history dates it back to Heian period (8th century) in connection with the Hina Matsuri or Doll festival observed annually on March 3 in Japan. On this day, children were said to have made dolls out of paper which were later thrown into a river with the belief that, as the dolls were swept away in the river’s flow, so were the evil spirits which lurked within the bodies of the children. As time passed, the art of origami gained popularity and became very well known at Musopachi period (1333-1513). At the time of Emperor Taisho (1912-1926), use of square coloured paper became popular and origami was made an integral part of teaching at girls’ school.

Origami has always been a favourite pastime among children and adults.  There are a limited number of basic folds and, ones these are mastered; there is virtually no limit to the number of designs, which can be created. Origami can be practised almost anywhere and takes up little space during making, and most designs can be flattened for storage. By practising origami, children become acquainted with geometric figures, such as, triangle and square. They can even draw the animal or object by copying the shape of origami figures. Origami requires precision and it is impossible to skip a fold. No knives, scissors, pins or gum need be used in origami and one should always be able to unfold the paper figure back to the same square or rectangle with which one started. Besides, small children can make simple things very easily and safely, and can get an idea about the shape of an object or animal by using origami. Origami can be used as wall decorations or can be made into very nice ‘hangings’. As it is very cheap, anybody anywhere can use it. As puppetry, it is a very effective medium in classroom teaching, -- an origami figure attached with a stick or strings can be used as puppet and these origami figures can be easily made by the children of all ages.

Any piece of paper, which creases easily, is suitable for origami. Origami papers are generally coloured on one side and white on the other. The Japanese use a handmade paper called ‘Washi’. Poster paper, glaze paper, metallic paper, brown paper, handmade paper and patterned paper, even newspaper is useful for first attempt. Now origami is a very popular art in India. Many schools are teaching origami to the children.


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