The Traditional Puppet Dance Festival recently concluded at Rabindra Bhawan in Guwahati, showcasing the rich heritage of puppetry in Assam, locally known as “Putla Naach.” Puppetry is an ancient art form that involves manipulating puppets from above, combining choreography and drama.
Assam has a long history of puppet dance, dating back to references in the Kalika Purana. It has been a source of joy for the people of Assam for centuries, although this art and culture is sadly fading away. To revive and promote puppet dance, the Assam Government Cultural Centre has been hosting regular puppet dance shows.
The festival, which took place at Rabindra Bhawan, was inaugurated by popular Assamese actress Chetna Das and Dr. Chandan Kumar Goswami, Head of the Department of Public Relations and Journalism at Gauhati University. Over two days, six puppet dance dramas were performed by artists from various districts of Assam, including Nagaon, Kamrup, and Darang.
Some of the notable performances included The Navaratna Puppet Theatre presenting “Bhakta Prahlad” from Nagaon, The Ruby Puppet Theatre with “Gauripuria Govru” from Kamrup, The Assam Puppet Theatre showcasing “Bishahari Mansa” and “Devi Durga, Darang’s” The Kalaguru Puppet Theatre’s show “Kang’s Prison,” and Sagarika Puppet Theatre’s “Kankalta” and “Sagarika” and The Pancharatna Puppet Theatre’s show “Keligopal”. These performances typically draw inspiration from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as address various societal issues.
Puppet dance is deeply rooted in Assam’s folk tradition, particularly in Nalbari district, where numerous puppet dance troupes once thrived. Unfortunately, many of these troupes have faded away, but efforts have been made in recent years to rejuvenate puppetry by incorporating new artistic techniques and leveraging advancements in science and technology.
This evolution is a positive sign for the preservation of Assam’s puppet dance art, but it also underscores the importance of involving the younger generation with fresh ideas and techniques to keep this folk art alive.
The Puppet Dance Festival at Rabindra Bhawan attracted a diverse audience, including art enthusiasts and school students, who had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the traditional and captivating world of puppetry, ensuring that this cultural heritage endures.