Glove Puppets of West Bengal

The glove puppet which may also be referred to as hand puppets is characterised by a small figure with a head and arms, and a long skirt as part of its costume. The puppeteers fit their index finger into the hollow head of the puppet; and the middle finger and the thumb into the two hollow hands of the puppet, hence the name glove puppet. Commonly nomads would put up performances in open spaces using these puppets and minimum props. These people usually belong to the lower strata of the society. This craft is a mean for them to earn a livelihood and sustain themselves. As they belong to the lower strata of the society, they didn't have the necessary means to chronicle this craft. In the southern region of West Bengal, glove puppets are popularly referred to as Bener Putul, meaning dolls of the commercial people. Typically the puppeteers come from the scheduled caste of the old palanquin-bearers, commonly from among the land-less labour. The puppets are one and a half foot tall, and have terracotta heads and wooden arms. The puppets have anklets fixed on their arms, which help in keeping rhythm by clapping. The puppeteers attract the attention of the crowd with the help of a Domru (small drums) and sing songs during the show to tell the story. The music is inspired by either common folk tunes or even popular Hindi or Bengali songs, complete with hearty humour and sarcasm. The puppeteers through their craft tell tales of social events like linguistic differences, escapades of people in love, or even family planning.

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