When I heard of a performance of leather puppets being performed at Shilparamam, I was very keen on watching it as I hadnt seen one before. I had been to the workshop and I have seen how the puppet makers were making new and more unconventional designs along with their traditional ones with equal enthusiasm.
Here, they were playing a scene from Mahabharatha called Uttara Vijayam from Virata Parvam. When the Pandavas were in hiding during their 13th year of exile they took shelter in the Matsya Kingdom. Arjuna disguised as Brihannala the dancer, helped the Prince Uttara get his cows back. In this particular scene, the true identity of Brihannala is revealed to Prince Uttara and the prince understands his folly and asks for forgiveness.
You could read more about the complete story at Chapter 46.
The leather puppeteers’ first love is to perform the puppets shows. But with the advent of television and movies their audience has diminished over the years. Even though the art form is said to have originated in the heart of Andhra Pradesh it has travelled to Indonesia where it is far more popular. It is obvious that the craftsmen need to adapt to the changing scenarios and make their art more appealing to a wider audience. Without a doubt they are good at their trade, many of them even know the epics by heart. The intricacy of the puppets, the bright colours, the folk appeal to their narrative, only underscore the fact that this is another art form that is slowly dying and deserves all the help it can get. At present, the Crafts Council is involved in helping them with more contemporary designs as well as providing them with a platform to showcase their work.
For those interested in puppets, puppet shows or lampshades can contact
Mr. Vanaparthi Kotilingam
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On a personal note, I would like to dedicate this post to a close friend who has been a great encouragement and sounding board. God knows I needed one. Thanks for being there!
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