Puppetry: An Integral Part of Rajasthani Culture

The Rajasthani string puppetry is one of the most vibrant aspects of Indian culture. These handmade wooden puppets are much more than just plaything or decorative dolls. They are a part of the traditional performance of puppetry – narrating an event from history, myths, folklore or legend, complete with music and speech. The tribes of Rajasthan have been performing this art from the ancient times and it has become an eternal part of Rajasthani culture and tradition. No village fair, no religious festival and no social gathering in Rajasthan can be complete without the Kathputlis. They are the repository of traditional wisdom, knowledge and social mores. Within them are contained the oral history of the region.

It is said that puppetry of Rajasthan is more than a thousand years old but there is no written evidence of it. Mainly the ‘Bhat ‘community practices this art termed Kathputli (Kath meaning wood and Putli meaning doll). Their legend goes back to the times of the Great King Vikramaditya, of Ujjain whose throne ‘Simhasan Battisi ‘ had 32 decorative dolls dancing and doing acrobatic feats. The first Bhat produced a play with 32 puppets on the life and achievements of king Vikramaditya and his progeny performed it for hundreds of years.

Much later came Prithiraj Chauhan of Delhi who gave them money to produce a play on his life and achievements. Under the patronage of Amar Singh Rathod of Nagour kingdom, the Bhats produced plays on his reign and heroic death, which are still present today. Under The great Moghuls of Delhi ,The Kathputli Bhats were gradually reduced to great penury. The Moghuls loved glamorous and gorgeous entertainment and did not patronize puppets.

Rajasthani puppets have their own unique specialty. Puppeteers manipulate the puppets with a whistling, squeaking voice and are interpreted by a narrator who also provides the rhythms. The puppets have no legs and movements are free. A slight jerk of the string causes the puppets to produce movements of the hands, neck and shoulder. Many puppets hang on one rope: one string tied to the head and other to the waist. The puppeteer makes a loop around his fingers and manipulates the puppet. He takes ghungru (bells) in his hands and plays it according to rhythm. The stage is made by placing two cots together vertically and tying bamboo around them horizontally. A curtain, generally dark in colour, is at the back-stage and a colourful curtain with three arches hangs at the front .The puppets are tied with dark strings, which do not show against the dark backdrop, and dim lights are used.

A traditional Puppet show : http://youtu.be/rnbhP348Q20

In India, puppets or ‘Putlis’, have a life of their own. The word being derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Putta’, equivalent to Putra (son), the puppets are believed to be the articulation of life and thought. Especially for the artists of Rajasthan, the Bhats, puppets are a sort of divinity giving them livelihood, peace, activity and joy. For the rest of the world, this ancient performative art of Rajasthani puppetry is a source of pure joy, entertainment, cultural enrichment and artistic satisfaction.

The the modern version of the traditional show, http://youtu.be/Pg-pJd47dfQ    it clearly displays how the Puppets are manipulated.

Ref: Puppetindia.com

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Worlds Largest Stepwell: Chand Baori

Building stepwells (Baori in Rajasthan) has been a necessity under northern India’s hot summers. These wells acted as rainwater harvesting systems and they were a cool oasis in the parched hot summer of this area. The temperature difference between the surface and the lowest depths of these wells could be 5 to 6 degrees. The earliest were made around 550 AD, but famous ones like Chand Baori were made during medieval times. And from those times, over 3,000 stepwells were built in India’s two northern states. Rajasthan and Gujarat.

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Chand Baori in Abhaneri, near Jaipur, Rajasthan is propbabaly the largest step well in the world and perhaps the most visually spectacular stepwell. Chand Baori is an incredibly geometric sight; it is a deep four-sided structure with an immense temple on one face. 3,500 terraced steps march down the other three sides, 13 stories, to a depth of 100 feet. The construction dates to the tenth century, and is dedicated to Harshat Mata, goddess of joy and happiness and is believed to have been built by King Chand, ruler of Abhaneri and a Rajput from the Chahamana dynasty.

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Chand Baori is also well known for being the location where Batman gets imprisoned in the “ The Dark Knight Rises” and for the movie “The Fall”. A version of the game “Minecraft” is also based on the Chand Baori.

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The fall

 

 

 

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Chand Baori Minecraft

Galtaji Temple – Jaipur

A pre-historic Hindu pilgrimage site, the Galtaji Temple, is located only 10km away from Jaipur. Ascetics are said to have flocked to the site since the early 1500s, but the present temple complex was built by Diwan Rao Kriparam, a courtier of Sawai Jai Singh II, in the 18th century.The temple complex encompasses natural fresh water springs and 7 holy ‘kunds’ or water tanks. Among these kunds, the ‘Galta Kund’, is the holiest one and is believed to never get dry. A spring of pure water flows from the ‘Gaumukh’, a rock shaped like a cow’s head, into the tanks. A spectacular structure, this magnificent temple is built in pink sandstone, amidst low hills, and is structured to look more like a palace or ‘haveli’ than a traditional temple. Temple is nestled in peaceful surroundings between two granite cliffs and has a back-drop of gorgeous landscape featuring lush green vegetation, and offers a fascinating view of the city of Jaipur.

Also known as The Galta Monkey temple, the temple is famous for the many tribes of monkeys that dwell in this area. These monkeys can outnumber people at any day and they never harm anyone. Galtaji was recently featured on National Geographic’s multi-award winning series ‘Monkey Thieves’.

This temple complex is usually overlooked by tourist who stay within the old city of Jaiur, visiting the forts and palaces. They miss the rich architectural and cultural heritage of Galtaji which attracts scholars, archaeologist and local pilgrims in large numbers. To plan your Jaipur trip…..Road2Travel

FORTS OF RAJASTHAN – AMER

Amer or Amber Fort is about 11 kilometers from Jaipur, in Rajasthan, India. It is considered as one of the best hilltops fort in India which makes it a major tourist spot near Jaipur. The fort is a typical example for Rajput’s life style in Rajasthan. This magnificent fort is situated alongside the lake of Moatha. Amer was once known as Dhundar and was ruled by the Kachhwahas from the 11th to the 16th century, until the capital was moved from here to Jaipur. Raja Man Singh built this fort in 1592 AD and Raja Jai Sigh I expanded and renovated it later. While many such old structures have been either destroyed or replaced by other things, this fort has stood against all the tests of time and invasions.

The Amer Palace & Fort is in a beautiful natural setting, located on a rocky mountain gorge and overlooking an artificial lake.  The craggy and rugged view from the complex from the outside betrays the beauty and culture that is on display inside with an amalgam of Hindu and Moghul architecture, a rich blend of white marble and red sandstone, and exquisite palaces, halls, pavilions, gardens and temples, which were built over two centuries by each of the then ruling Maharajas. The walls of the fort are covered with frescoes paintings, which depict the scenes of daily life. Some other walls are designed with mosaics and minute mirror works which is absolutely royal. While the exterior of the fort is rough and mighty, typical of the life of the gallant Rajputs- militant, adventurous, temperamental, and self indulgent, the interiors have a soft, comfortable and soothing ambience. Amer has a pure majestic look.

The Amber Fort is divided into 4 sections. An imposing stairway and a broad isle for elephants to walk up the ramp lead to the hilltop palace. Suraj Pol is the main gate which leads to Jaleb Chowk which is the main courtyard. Jaleb Chowk also served as an area for welcoming back the army who return home after winning a war. Here the army would then display their war earnings to the population at large. Leading to the palace is the main stairway which is situated in Jaleb Chowk.

Ganesh Pol is another imposing gateway painted with images of the elephant headed Good- Ganesh and Rajasthani Motifs. This gates leads to the inhabited apartments of the Kings.

The Amber Fort has a lot to be seen in its four sections:

Diwan I – Aam : Also known as the Hall of Public Audience this is the first huge room to come across, entered through an imposing stairway. The hall has a lattice gallery and a well proportioned 40 pillared beautiful pavilion made of a combination of marble and red sandstone. The pillars are elephant shaped columns and intricately carved suggesting the mastery of the artisans of Rajashtan.

The hall pavilion built by Raja Jai Singh I was used by the Maharajas to receive the general public and to govern over their kingdom. During proceedings and problem solving issues the King sat in the middle of the pavilion with all the important nobles and officers sitting on the northern side while the less prominent officials along with the general public sat on the western side, with the crowd spilling out in the adjoining courtyard. The southern part was kept clear for the royal ladies to watch the proceedings from their apartments.

Shila Mata (Devi) Temple:The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali, Goddess of Victory and is located near Singh Pol. The temple has a unique black marble idol of Goddess brought from Jessore (now in Bangladesh) by Raja Man Singh in 1604. The temple gates are silver with images of nine forms of Goddess Durga (strength) and ten forms of Goddess Saraswati (knowledge). The mandap is made of white marble which is contrasting with the colour of the idol.

Legend of the idol: Before the war with the Maharaja of Bengal, Raja Man Singh prayed to the Goddess to grant him victory. Goddess Kali appeared in his dreams and instructed him to retrieve her idol hidden in the Bay of Bengal if he won the war. Raja Man Singh won the war, retrieved the idol form the spot and installed it in his temple.

Another temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, where Raja Man Singh always prayed before he left for any war. The temple is situated just before the entrance to the right side with a stairway leading to it. The temple is famous for huge silver loins and silver doors. The doorway to the temple has an image of Lord Ganesha, carved from a single piece of coral.

Diwan e Khaas: This is the Hall of Private Audience. Decorated with beautiful mirror work and carvings on walls and ceilings, the hall is also largely decorated with miniature murals made of coloured glass.

Old Amber Palace :Originally Amber fort was a place complex called Jaigarh Fort situated with in the Amber fort of today and was connected to Amber via fortified passages. The Jaigarh Fort is located above the Amber fort complex and was known to be the treasure vault of the Kachhwaha rulers.

Sheesh Mahal : This is the Hall of Mirrors located deep inside the fort and entirely filled with mirrors to lighten up the entire path. A single candle is enough to ward away the darkness of the night and the innumerable number of mirrors around light up as soon as one lit candle enters this hall.

Jai Mandir: Behind the Ganesh Pol, are a number of residential apartments of the Maharaja. Amongst them is Jai Mandir also known as Hall of Victory with inlaid panels, dazzling mirror ceilings, mosaics and sculptures. The hall has pattern made of glass that illuminate in the darkness just like twinkling stars (Convex mirrors)

Jas Mandir :Also known as Hall of Glory, this hall has pierced screen windows of alabaster that offer a beautiful view of Kesra Kyari (saffron bed) which is a garden with geometric designs.

Sukh Niwas : Opposite the Jai Mandir this is the Hall of Pleasure. It has a sandalwood door inlaid with ivory and a channel running down to the room. This helps in the natural flow of water to create an air conditioning effect to help cool the temperatures of the hall in the summer.

Zenana :This is the ladies house or royal apartments in which all rooms have a common entrance but separate chambers. The zenana surrounds a spectacular courtyard. Sitting right in their apartments the ladies could watch the proceedings in the Diwan e aam.

Gardens : Dil e aaram is the graden through which one enters the fort and the Charbagh garden is ornamented in patterns of Mughal Style.

The fort is a ten minute walk uphill and your little trek will be worth the wonders that it offers. You may also use the service of elephants to ride up to the fort from the bottom of the hill. The sound and light show should not be missed in the evening.

Road2Travel operates a Hotel in Jaipur and for your Rajasthan trip you are welcome to contact us. The best time to enjoy the heritage of Rajasthan is from October to March.