COVID-19 Awareness Through Puppetry In Odisha’s Ganjam

Berhampur: With clever assimilation of dance and music, a puppet dance or puppetry promoting awareness on COVID-19 enthralled the audience in Bhanjanagar of Ganjam district on the penultimate date of COVID Week (September 24-October 1) on Wednesday.

Guru Chaitanya Behera (63) of Maa Jagatjanani Kandhei Theatre Group of Badakodanda who is practising the puppetry for the last 50 years, has showcased his talent at New Delhi, Banaras, Bihar and several other places.

On the occasion of COVID Week, his group performed the puppet dance (popularly known as Kandhei Nacha) at Sanakodanda and Lalsingh. His two sons Jagabandhu (35) and Balaram (33), who have also mastered the art form, helped him. His family has been practising puppetry for several generations.

“We have prepared a song with 18 dance steps for the purpose. One of the step says ‘Hataku safa rakhiba, barambara kari dhounathiba, dhounathibalo karona parasta heba’ (Keep you hands clean. Wash your hands at intervals. If you do it, you could defeat corona). Though we are engrossed with movies and latest forms of entertainment, everyone would love puppetry,” said youngest son Balaram who operates and pull the strings of the puppets.

Puppet making is a a very old folk art of Ganjam. The dolls are painted in bright colour and dressed meticulously representing various characters. A white screen, about 4×6 feet, is tied to two metal poles at a height of three feet from the ground. A group of puppeteers and musicians sits behind it, hidden by a curtain that is hung from the screen. Wooden puppets are hoisted up on stage with a wooden frame attached to their body and covered by their flowing garments. With the accompaniment of songs, dialogues and Dholaks, puppet show is performed by pulling the strings skillfully, Balaram said.

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