I’ve rarely interacted with children. Apart from the ‘so cute’ and ‘she is so adorable’, I haven’t said much to them. All this changed last week as I spent two awesome (and exhausting) days organizing the puppet making workshop. The tiny tots (aged 6-12 years) surprised me in every way possible. From correcting my facts on the Ramayana to getting the artisan make T-Rex dinosaur puppets, they gave me more than I gave them. If only we exposed our young generation to more such crafts. I am doubly sure that we will have designers, doctors and engineers who appreciate the innate wisdom in traditional Indian ways.

The workshop was held at Tharangini. A quaint little place at Sadashivnagar in Bangalore just on the banks of Sankey tank is home to a beautiful block printing workshop and a little hut-like place to conduct workshops for children. We started the workshop with a brief on the craft (click here to read more), introduced the artisans to the children and showed them a small presentation on where the craft originates, some pictures of the village, etc.

A lamp made by one of the participants

The children then set off drawing fishes, peacocks, etc that they decorated/filled in traditional Charmakari form. We gave them various forms and explained the process in each. Once they were confident of the shapes, we gave them each a piece of leather. The final design was etched on the leather and the kids were given an option of making puppets or a lamp. The most critical part of puppet making is punching. Holes are punched to let the light pass through. Here the punching was done by the kids with our help. The children painted beautifully, taking cues from the artisans and the various puppets hanging around.

We ended the workshop with a little puppet show depicting a scene from the Ramayana.

Working with kids is a lot different from working with adults. Though Nisha, my associate in Bangalore and a mother of two warned me about the exhaustion, I am grateful for all her help and wisdom. She knew the right answers to their questions!

So at the end of it all, the kind of ideas and questions that young minds throw up make me wonder if all our learning was worth it. They are far more intelligent than I can ever be now that I am so educated :)

 

Hanuman puppet

Hanuman puppet

I got a leather puppet custom-made to fit my balcony window. It is a 6 ft tall structure of Radha in all her splendour. There was a Krishna too in beautiful blue, but I needed just one and I chose Radha over Krishna. I haven’t installed the structure yet. Once it is in its place, I will definitely put up a picture.

Tulsi Rao, Charmakari artisan

Tulsi Rao, Charmakari artisan

Once of my friends Nisha Subramaniam (I call her ‘Nishakka‘) had been here earlier. I’d asked her to get me a puppet. Once I saw my ‘Radha‘, I had to see the whole thing myself. So my recent trip to B’lore took me to Nimmalakunta, a 3 hour drive from Bangalore. Here I met Tulsi Rao (the one on the left) who was happily dozing under the cool shade of a banyan tree. I had spoken to him countless times over the telephone. Though we speak no common language, we have mastered the art of communication in such circumstances.

Radhamma, Tulsi Rao's sister and a puppeteer

Radhamma, Tulsi Rao's sister

Almost everyone in the village is involved in either making puppets or hosting shows. Here is Tulsi Rao’s sister, who plays the female lead in the puppet shows.

Preparing the leather canvas

Preparing the leather canvas

Made with goat leather that is soaked in water and dried, the translucent sheets of leather are used as canvases for these puppets. The basic deign is sketched on the sheet, cut out to form a puppet and then coloured.

Tools for punching leather

Tools for punching leather

Holes are punched into these puppets with simple tools. These holes let light pass through when held against it. This contrast is used for the puppet show.

Leather lampshades

Leather lampshades

Nowadays, owing to the lack of interest in puppet shows, business has taken a downturn. So colourful lamps are made to cater to the current market trends.

Dasavatar punched leather puppet

Dasavatar punched leather puppet

Tulsi Rao was all enthusiastic as he took out his harmonium and played ‘Bahut Pyaar Karte Hain Tumko Sanam‘. He also showed us a minute long puppet show. But what took my breath away was this Vishnu’s Dasavatar (10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu) piece that he had made.

Scene from the Ramayana

Scene from the Ramayana

Ramayana is a very common theme for their puppet show. Here is Hanuman and Sita.

Animal puppets, deer

Animal puppets, deer

And here is the deer that lured Sita away! :)

Lord Ram puppet

Lord Ram

So many beautiful pictures, an amazing bunch of people. Here is my favorite picture.

And if your glass door is asking for something like this, any design, any size can be custom made. How about a back-lit panel of Lord Krishna for the Pooja room door? :)

Please click here for more pictures.