Remember the time you saw those magical figures dressed in a riot of colours and dancing to the tune of a lively music? Or when you felt immense joy and sadness as you watched them narrate the story of the charming prince, in their own animated way? Many believe India to be the birthplace of puppetry, with crude specimens found in the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilizations as well. The art of puppetry as a divine creation or form of entertainment and illustration has found widespread mention in many ancient scriptures and literary works including the Mahabharata, Gita, and works of Kalidasa and Patanjali.
It is a known fact that this ancient art is dying a slow death due to neglect and more sophisticated forms of entertainment. Puppeteers find it difficult to earn a living and feed their families just by giving puppet shows as there is hardly any audience left. It would be very rare to find a puppet show these days, and is only seen sometimes in fairs that try to promote traditional Indian art forms. However, Press Trust of India reports in NDTV.com the good news that there are slum children of about 2,600 families in Delhi, who have taken on the responsibility of keeping puppetry alive.
This classical art form, however, has been kept alive by children of around 2,600 families from the slums of Delhi, who put up shows under the banner of Kalakar Vikas School.
Hailing from Rajasthan, Gopal, says he wants to show this art form to a much larger urban audience, who in his opinion, are not very much aware of puppetry.
Gopal’s ambition is echoed by Lakshmi, a 14-year-old from a village near Delhi, who says the urban audience needs to know more about this almost-dying art form.
“Urban people are not very much aware that this art form is almost on its deathbed. We are struggling to keep it alive, but we are ready to do anything for it,” Lakshmi says.
Their efforts are encouraged by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), as it has recently released a journal with the focus on puppetry, and The Union Internationale de la Marionette (UNIMA). It is touching to see these children with very few means of livelihood taking an active step in the conservation of an Indian heritage, a step that many affluent people would also not dare to take. The passion and optimism of these kids is a lesson to most of us who hesitate to protect what we know is valuabe and on the verge of being lost to us forever.
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Image Courtesy: PuppetIndia.com