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Kathputli: The World of Rajasthani Puppeteers

Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy (Author)

This book explores elements of Rajasthani kathputli puppetry--one of several traditions of string or marionette puppetry that evolved in Europe, Asia and Africa. In addition to performance techniques, it focuses on the views and attitudes expressed by the hereditary puppeteers, the kathputli Bhats, through their art as well as through their verbal expressions. Interviews with forty-seven puppeteers, photographs and audio and video recordings of kathputli events form the basis of the book, collected during field research from 1978 to 1995 in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pakistan and Washington, D.C. Beginning with the history of puppetry and related performing traditions, it explores the extraordinary world of the numerous bard and genealogist communities and their connection with the performing arts in India. It then elucidates performance content and context, preparations and practices, including the traditional songs sung by the puppeteers and their families, and the function of the puppeteers' boli voice modifier. Bhat oral tradition throws new light on historical events, most importantly that of the chief figure of their central play, the renegade Rajput Amar Singh Rathor, and the recognition accorded to him as a hero of his clan. The book culminates with modern developments through which the puppeteers brilliantly merge their traditional repertoire with innovative elements, reflecting their desire to preserve tradition while creating for themselves new avenues for attracting modern forms of patronage. Illustrated with nearly 100 color and b/w photos, maps, drawings, musical examples and index. As the author states in his Introduction, “No printed work can do full justice to the dynamic visual presentation of kathputli puppetry. The two audio-visual publications, Kathputli: The Art of Rajasthani Puppeteers (Smithsonian Institution Office of Folklife Programs, 1988) and Retooling a Tradition: A Rajasthani Pupper Takes Umbrage at his Stringholders (Apsara media for Folklife Programs, 1988) and Retooling a Tradition: A Rajasthani Pupper takes Umbrage at his Stringholders (Apsara media for Intercultural education, 1994) should be used as complements to this monograph". Similarly, this detailed study elucidates the author's films that preceded it, as only a written work can.

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About the author

Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy

Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy (1927-2009) was the former President of the Society for Ethnomusicology and founder of the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (ARCE) of the American Institute of Indian Studies, New Delhi. He was internationally recognized as a leading expert on Indian music and culture, as well as fieldwork methodology, archiving, organology, ethic, and technology. He retired as Emeritus Professor from the Department of Ethnomusicology at the University of California (UCLA), which awarded him recognition for nearly twenty years of distinguished service.

His publications number over one hundred, and include articles as well as audio and video productions concerning both classical and folk music of India, some cast in a fictional vein. 

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Bibliographic information

Title Kathputli: The World of Rajasthani Puppeteers
Format Softcover
Date published: 25.03.2007
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 8188051313
length xiv+280p., Figures; 24 B/W & 166 Col. Plates; Appendix; Notes; Bibliography; Index; 21cm.