A Puppet can be defined as an artificial, inanimate figure representing a human being or an animal, that are manipulated or animated by the hands, rods, wires, etc, on a miniature stage. Puppetry is a form of theater  or performance that involves the manipulation of these puppets. Such a performance is also often referred to as a puppet production. Puppetry occurs in almost all human societies where puppets are used for the purpose of entertainment through perfirmance as sacred objects in rituals, as symbolic effigies in celebrations such as carnivals and as a catalyst for social and psychological change in transformative arts. The script that is written for a puppet production is called a puppet play. Persons who make the puppet move are called puppeteers and they use movements of hands and arms to control the devices such as rods or strings to move the body, head, limbs and in some cases the mouth and eyes of the puppet. Sometimes the puppeteer himself/herself lends voice to the character of puppet and in other they perform on a recorded soundtrack.


Puppetry is a very ancient form of theater which was first recorded in the 5th century B.C in ancient Greece. Experts are of the opinion that some form of puppetry may have originated in 3000 B.C. Some claim that they even pre-date actors in theater. Puppetry has many forms but the basic thing they all have in common is that it involves the process of animating inanimate performing objects to tell a story. There is evidence that in Egypt, puppets were used as early 2000 BCE when string-operated figures of wood were manipulated to perform the action of kneading bread. Not only that, in Egyptian tombs, wire controlled articulated puppets made of clay and ivory have also been found. India has a long tradition of puppetry. References to puppets are found in the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. Their mention is also found in the Tamil literature from the Sangam era as well as in the edicts of Ashoka. Works like the Natya-Shastra and the Kama-Sutra elaborate on puppetry in some detail.  Almost all types of puppets are found in India.


India has a wide variety of types and styles of puppets.  Some such types include –

• String Puppets – These puppets controlled by strings are called Marionettes. Marionettes have jointed limbs controlled by strings and they offer greater flexibility. Marionettes of Rajasthan are called “Kathputli”, “Kundhei” in Orissa, “Gombeyatta” in Karnataka and ” Bommalattam” in Tamil Nadu.

• Shadow Puppets – Shadow Puppets are flat figures which are cut out of leather and are treated to make them translucent. Shadow puppets are pressed against the screen with a strong source of light behind it. The manipulation between the light and the sreen make silhouettes or colourful shadows which are made to perform the action of the play. This tradition survives in the states like Orissa, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Glove Puppets – Glove puppets are referred to as sleeve, hand or palm puppets. The head is made up of cloth, paper mache or wood, with two hands emerging from just below the neck. Thd rest of the figure consists of a long flowing skirt. These puppets look like lifeless dolls but the deft hands of a capable puppeteer  can make them produce a wide range of movements. The tradition of glove puppet in India is popular in Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Kerala.

• Rod Puppets – These are an extension of glove puppets but are often much larger and are supported and manipulated by rods from below. This form is popular in West Bengal and Orissa. 

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