The puppet in the East

Puppets are special. The puppet

The puppet in the East


Undoubtedly, the ancient East was the realm of the puppets. In countries like
India, China, Japan, the Indonesian archipelago and Turkey, among others,
shadows, thread or stem puppets were incorporated into the culture
popular and consolidated traditions that most have
survived to our day. 


All over India, puppeteers
they were part of a particular caste; in Rajasthan, for example, the
manipulators of the Kathputliwallas (wooden dolls) belonged to the
Bhatt sects of Nat and Bhatt of Kankli, and the secrets of their art
they passed exclusively from parents to children.This community was called
descended from the mouth of Brahma (there is a legend that says that the
the first puppeteer was born from the mouth of Brahma - the god who shapes
in the world), and for that reason he could only dedicate himself to the show. It's been a while
centuries this Rajasthani manipulators dominated almost the entire north of
In this country, the puppet of
glove is handled mainly by beggars. In Uttar Pradesh
known as "Gulabo Satibo" and in the south as "Chinni Patti" (small doll).
The beggar usually sings while manipulating the puppets and makes them
speak with extraordinary agility.
Although the art of manipulating and
making puppets has ended up in the hands of the lower classes and
poor, the puppeteers continue to follow all the ancient rituals.
They consider that life penetrates the puppet the moment it is read
put or paint the eyes - that’s why they make them at the end of the construction.
Another aspect of puppets
of India to keep in mind is that like all popular arts
ancient, are a gift from God, and as such are revered. For example,
an old puppet is never thrown at him: he is treated like a dead human,
with reverence, and is cremated or submerged in a river or
the ocean.
It is also customary, when
they keep or transport the puppets, not to mix those they represent
evil characters with the benign ones. These enter the scene by the
right and the others always do it on the left. This is especially true
in the shadow theater. This custom derives from another that says never
nothing must be given or received with the left hand.
Puppet handlers,
of shadows or putxinellis have created works on religious themes. The
Southern shadow manipulators are generally illiterate and depend on
“Sutradhar” or teacher who teaches them to memorize texts
of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Others are also based on fun and
narrative elements.
The basic elements found in traditional shadow shows have the same plot structure:
The demon Raktabija, who has
obtained the favor of the gods, he challenges them. The gods first resort to
Visnu, who proposes that they raise their prayers to Adi Sakti.
The goddess appears and promises her protection. Then he goes to the garden
of the devil under the guise of a beautiful woman and seduces a messenger
to convince the devil, son-in-law of another demon, Mahisa,
to take her to Raktabija's wife's palace. The devil sends
emissaries, among them the son-in-law, so that they go to look for the beautiful lady.
She kills them all, and when Raktabija himself shows up, he
mata. Thus he frees the gods and maintains harmony in the world. 
The performance begins with
music, a prayer in Ganapadi and a Sarasvati dance, accompanied
for the madangem (timpani), the thala (digital cymbals) and the harmonium.
The secret nature of art
of puppets is another way to prevent their progress; although
this is currently being lost, it still exists.
It seems, however, that there is an awakening due to
the arrival of educated people in this field and the effort of the Commission
of Popular Arts of the Government. There is an academy the "Darpana of Ahmedabad"
which teaches courses to teachers, children and professionals. In the
hospitals and clinics also use them in physiotherapy. In the
Family Training is used to fight marriages between
children, against the dowry system, to teach hygiene and sense



JAPAN: Bunraku

The viewer contemplating by
first time a Bunraku function will immediately notice the existence of
three different elements: manipulators that move the dolls, one
reciter who sings and recites the text of the gesticulating narration of
expressive way, and a musician who plays an instrument similar to the
mandolin, called samisén.
Bunraku is the name that
it is now commonly used to refer to Japanese puppet theater. In the
Japan the art of puppetry has been around for over a thousand years, but this one
term is relatively modern. It is the abbreviation of the name of Uemura
Bunrakken manipulator of Awaji Island. 
The puppet theater had
fallen into a period of painful decay and Bunrakken infused him
new vitality when he founded a company and a theater in Osaka in 1805, the
Bunraku-za. It must be said, however, that the classic name of this theater is “ningyô
jôruri ”. Ningyô means "doll" (human form), and jôruri is a type of
ballad or recitative derived from the name of Lady Jôruri, heroine of a
famous legend of the late fifteenth century, told by bohemian minstrels
of that time.
It should be noted that this is not the case
of children's entertainment. It is a dramatic adult art that contains,
in many of his works, aesthetic elevation and transcendence
thematic of the tragedies of Shakespeare or the dramas of Lope i
The Bunraku spectator
he contemplates to his right, on one side of the stage and on a platform
elevated, two artists: the reciter sitting on a pile of pillows
that raise his figure and diminish that of his companion, the
interpreter of the semisén or “semisenista”, that sits to its left.
The "tayû" reciter is considered the aristocrat of Bunraku.
For a faithful interpretation
of the text, must study for years (the learner needs eight years for
master the art of crying) and must know the traditions perfectly
secrets of recitation that are sent from parents to children and from teachers to
disciples. The reciter is the voice of the puppets.
The reciter will recite,
he will narrate, sing, and express his face, fleetingly or with
insistence, all possible feelings of any normal situation or
conflicting: joys, doubts, anxieties, indecisions
of the dolls. (the reciter acts with all his body, in spite of not being able
move from the place it occupies. It is forbidden any kind
of improvisation and must adhere to the strict rhythm of the melody
The samisenista or interpreter of the
samisén “tayûtsuke” sits next to the reciter. There are several types
of the samisén. The one used for bunraku is the largest. The box is
of wood, almost square. It is covered in cat skin. The stick is
long. It has only three braided silk ropes of varying thickness and two
The gesture of the semi-senator
it is the opposite of that of the reciter, as it remains impassive,
expressionless and only occasionally emits short screams and strange sounds and
dry, almost grunting, to mark certain beats of the rhythm.
Its main occupation is
encourage and enhance their interpretation of the text. But his performance
it is not secondary. The weight of the reciter's performance and movement
of the dolls fall on their music. Do not give a note on time
it could be catastrophic for the whole set. This converts to
semisenista in a kind of group director.
The stage is about ten meters long by seven meters deep and more than four meters high.
The peculiar feature of bunraku is the performance of the manipulators in the public eye.
Doll size is over or
minus one meter. Female dolls are smaller. The manipulator
main usually acts with a luxurious ceremonial kimono, kamishimo, and with
the head uncovered (his figure is taller than his
comrades, the effect is achieved with Japanese sandals, geta, of
very high sole. Like the Greek quail). Grab your head, keep your balance
of the doll with the left hand and produces its different movements
facials. With the right hand move the doll's right hand.
The other two manipulators are dressed in black and have their faces covered in a kind of black hood.
The second manipulator moves the left hand of the doll.
The third handler is in charge of the
feet. His position is very awkward as during the performance
you are never right.
It is said that the performance of these three men can only be successful if they all breathe at the same pace.
Attending a bunraku performance is equivalent
to contemplate the crystallization of a thousand-year-old history, a
pure manifestation of the Japanese soul. Because bunraku is based on
the harmony of different elements, in the sacrificed collaboration of
several people to achieve a goal, beauty. And harmony and
beauty are the two worlds that the Japanese love most and seek endlessly 
In addition to the manipulators, other people
they collaborate in the development of the representation producing effects
specials from the sides of the stage. 



The essential feature of theaters
of shadows, multiple and varied, which has developed in the East and
The West could be summed up in these words: on the Asian side, no
annoying that the manipulator can be seen by the public, while, in the
Mediterranean band, it seems that the illusion of the show would remain
destroyed if the manipulator was allowed to be seen.

In the western shadow theater, the screen
separates the manipulator from his audience; in the east, on the other hand,
the viewer can be placed to his liking and can pass alternately
from one side of the screen to the other

INDONESIA: Wayang Kulit
The traditional method
of illuminating the screen in representations of wayang kulit is the use
of coconut oil, or blencong, hung in such a way as to focus
directly the head of the puppeteer. The flame casts enchanting shadows and
the puppets seem to beat with life and energy as the light
hesitates due to the wind. It makes the characters breathe and be
they move constantly even if they are palpated on the
banana trunk platform due to the erratic lighting of the
live flame.

Pekingese style figures
they are made of donkey skin, because they can be made into thinner strips than with
of other skins maintaining all their tensile strength. The skin is
treated in such a way as to be transparent.
The simple characters and
kind have almond-shaped eyes and angular features. The unreliable ones,
round eyes. Comics have their eyes surrounded by a white circle. He
costume is based on the usual clothing in China since the dynasty
T'ang until the twentieth century. The details of the wardrobe are underlined
skin relief. The bas-relief and high-relief techniques come from art
to cut paper. Handmade punches and knives were used
different sizes and shapes.
Light colors are for
students and girls. The golden one for the imperial family. The colors
dark are a sign of old age and black is for the lower classes.
It used to be painted with vegetable dyes. They are now painted in Chinese ink.
The laces of the figures are sewn with silk thread.
Generally in the figures
Pekingese style there are ten distinct parts: two legs, the trunk
upper and lower, two hands, two arms, two forearms, head and
the neck. The heads are removable, so the characters can
changing costumes and the same costume can be worn by characters
of other works. According to superstition, if the head is not removed, the
character can come to life and act on their own. Three are used
wands to move the figures.
The screen is made of silk clothes.
cotton or blackberry paper. It leans slightly toward the audience, from
so that the force of gravity helps move the figures.
The light is placed between the
screen and manipulator. Previously, oil lamps were used. Now
fluorescent. The music served as the background for the action, announcing the tickets
and the exits and gave relief to the battles. The musicians played
behind the stage and the audience did not see them. The theater of shadows
constitutes an oral tradition. The works are broadcast live
generation after generation. The repertoire of a shadow theater company
it could include 500 works collected over many generations. Les
works, based on the great Chinese classical literature, can be
classify into epics, historical legends and folk tales.

The shadow theater actor instructed his son, guarding one
scrupulous secret about manipulation techniques. There were families
who sold their children as an apprentice to a theater company
of shadows, who sometimes hired orphans as apprentices.
Learning was a slow process, and it took 20 years
become a master in the trade.

TURKEY: Karagoz
Karakoz is a character
-Shadow- of leather, with hump and jacket fastened at the waist. We find it at
Turkey, Greece and the Arab countries.
For a long time it was
considered a vulgar form of popular entertainment, historians and
theater essayists had ignored him.
There is a legend, one that
he wants the shadow theater to have been born under the reign of the Ottoman sultan
Mahmud (it is not known if he was I or II). Despite having no interest
It is worth noting that it inspired one of the classics of the
Karakoz Theater.
Karakoz and Hadj Iwaz (els
main characters of the shadow theater) were two companions who
they told stories in the palace. One day, the sultan, what a bad mood,
bored with their chatter, he ordered their heads cut off.
After a few days, the sultan leaves
claim the presence of the two companions. No one dared to tell him that
he had been beheaded. His minister called the sheikh and he went
have a brilliant idea; explained to the sultan that the two companions,
ashamed to have bored their master, they did not dare to present themselves to
their court and they would continue their chatter in a room
separated from that of the sultan by a curtain. Mahmud could hear them,
see his shadow and they would not be ashamed to meet him
sovereign, whom, for a moment, they had disliked. The sultan found
nice idea. The chaik using slippers and imitating voices
the other companions cheered the shadows behind the screen.

And so the shadow theater was born.
The Arab shadow theater is watching
face, on the side of the shadows, the viewer sits and is not mobile as
the shadow theater of the Far East.
The figures are made of leather
donkey skin) or cardboard (Tunis), about 20 cm high are supported by
means of stems placed horizontally in their main ones
joints. They have free and articulated legs, few of them
have the articulated arm other than the main hero, Karakoz himself.
The shadows all play the
dialogues accompanying them with different instruments (flute, tambourine of
rattlesnakes and a darbukka), and manipulates the figures. Sometimes you have one
assistant who, in this way, learns the trade. The shadow manipulator
improvises the text that, well passed down from generation to generation, is always
adapted to the audience and local events. The
lighting is provided by an oil lamp.

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