Two Girls, a Palace and Puppets

An impromptu decision on a soporific afternoon led us to Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion on the University campus (the boss was away you see). All this in the name “getting inspired”. And inspired were we! Our imaginations went wild while our jaws dropped. This happens every time we visit this place, unfailingly.

V and I sauntered wide eyed soaking in the history, culture and the grandeur. Then we came across something that took us down the memory lane…puppets!! Puppet shows were something akin to a blockbuster back then. Puppet masters enthralled us with their magical stories and transported us to lands far far away. As time has passed puppetry has vanished from the screens and minds of people. This is a small attempt to bring it to fore. Relive the innocent childhood!

Puppetry in India has existed since the ancient times. The philosophers of the yore have paid the greatest tribute to puppeteers by likening God to a puppet master and this world as her/his stage. India has almost all forms of puppetry which once again goes to show the diversity of the country. The colorful puppets which capture the imagination of children and adults alike are a testimony to the prowess and dexterity of the Puppeteers.

In Karnataka there are two forms of puppetry that are prevalent:

The string puppet called the Gombe aata. The form is believed to have been prevalent in the ninth century, as mentioned in the Puranas. All the ritualistic rigours of theYakshagana are observed. This form is prevalent in the district of Bellary, Bijapur, Chitradurga, Dharwad, Mandya, Mysore, North Canara, Shimoga, South Canara and Tumkur. The gombe atta presents stories based on episodes drawn from the epics like Ramayan and Mahabharata. The music used is highly dramatic which is a blend of folk and classical style.

The leather or shadow puppet locally called Togalu gombe atta. The puppeteers hail from the districts of Bellary, Bijapur, Chiradurga, Dharwad, Gulbarga,Hassan, Kolar Mandya, Mysore Raichur, and Tumkur. Here again the stories are drawn from epics and puranas and a number of characters like clowns, dancers, etc, are also presented in almost all plays.