In the 1950’s, an artistic colony in Delhi was developed, the Kathputli colony. This colony is in Shadipur Depot and is famous especially for puppet shows by performers from Rajasthan. It is an abode of traditional musicians, healers, snake whisperers, jugglers, fire-eaters, and street-magicians. The puppet show in India is the oldest form of entertainment. Artists enchant with their talents the traditional Rajasthani folk songs in which they illustrate stories from the Holy books of Hinduism.
The puppeteers have an exquisite command over their hands, palms, chest, and mouth as the acapella. The snake dance is a part of the traditional show which adds on to the anticipation. The show is followed by the Rajasthani folk songs sung by Jagdish Bhatt, master of Wooden Puppet Animation. Harmonium, Karthal, and Dhol are Jagdish’s forte. “I can sing songs in all Indian languages and can learn any new language in six days”, he says. Jagdish and his nomadic troupes have performed in several places London, Japan, Paris, Dubai, Bangkok, and Sweden. They also participated in Indian reality shows – ‘India’s Got Talent’ and ‘Satyamev Jayate.’
In 2009, the city authorities announced demolition of this slum area. To overcome this, the localities indulged themselves in re-painting walls and images of puppets were made. One corner had stalls of ‘Rajasthani Mehendi’ and handicrafts to be sold while the other corner had a man clad in Rajasthani dress making wooden carved puppets. The crowd gathered took immense pleasure in dancing on the beats of the famous ‘Kachhi Ghodi‘ (Horse Dance). Dancers wore novelty horse costumes and participated in mock fights while a singer narrated folk tales about local bandits.
Open Eyes Project is gathering momentum for the cause. They identified a few artisans of the community and are working towards sustainable development of the arts revival. The aim of the initiative is to give a decent livelihood to the artisans. A part of the project is to extend services to the corporate looking for a responsible way to entertain and organize activities for their employees. This would directly benefit the community at large. In the long run, it will be beneficial to the youth of the community as the project also extends in providing them with vocational training in tourism.