Puppetry is a very ancient art form that originated about 3000 years ago. Natya Shastra by Bharatamuni in the second century brings much evidence on puppets. The producer-cum-director of the human theatre has been termed as ‘Sutradhar’ meaning the holder of strings. Puppets have been used since the earliest times to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies. Although puppets have been employed by various disciplines and community, little has been written about their use as a communication tool in research. A qualitative research study on string puppets of Maharashtra is conducted to explore the origin and history of puppetry, to revive the art and to explain how and why traditional art forms continue to have educational efficacy for contemporary developmental projects.
Kalasutri Bahuliya has its origin in 1600 A.D. Also known as Zaiti, it is a Marathi folk form, immensely popular till the twentieth century – ‘Kal’ meaning forefingers of human hand, ‘Sutri’ meaning black thread and ‘Bahuliya’ meaning puppets. This is a small wooden puppet with moveable arms and shoulder joints.
Kalasutri string puppets came from the Rajasthan-Gujarat area to Maharashtra and were given patronage by the rulers of Sawantwadi. Sawantwadi is the last big town in Maharashtra before the Goa border. Sawantwadi was the kingdom of the Bhonsle dynasty that is well known for the traditional arts and crafts. Twenty kilometers away from Sawantwadi is Kudal jilla of Sindhudurg district. Pinguli ten kilometers away from the town of Sindhudurg known as the puppetry village has been home for praramparik kalakars or traditional folk artists from mid-eighteenth century onwards.
Culture Aangan, a social enterprise involved in preservation of art and culture, traditional customs, intervened to preserve the dying arts. On 26th July 2005, the Culture Aangan team met Parshuram Gangavane for the first time and was inspired by his sincere effort to save the dying art and agreed to help him set up the art village in Pinguli. Together with artists and Parshuram Gangavane, Culture Aangan helped tribes set up the Thakar Aadiwasi Kala Aangan Museum and guided them in organizing activities like puppet shows and other art forms for tourists. Parshuram Atmaram Gangavane is a passionate puppeteer who learnt the folk art from his father and uncles and has vowed to keep the 400-year-old ancestral heritage alive.