Rajhastani Puppets- Making your own Puppets

How to Make Your Own Kathputli Puppet excerpts from Shilpa: Folk Dances, Music, Crafts and Puppetry of India, By Carol Hansen, Peggy Mueller, and Marilyn Turkover. New Delhi: Educational Resources Center, 1980.

The patterns given here are designed to resemble traditional kathputli. The skit provided for this activity “The Magic Sarangi” is scripted although kathputli normally do not perform with a script. Each character in the skit “Magic Sarangi” is inspired by an Indian puppet. For simplicity, paper sculpture has been chosen as the art medium rather than woodcarving.

Materials per Puppet:

own1· 1 sturdy cardboard cylinder, 6 inches round and about 8 inches long.
· One piece of felt or colorful cloth, 9 inches by 12 inches.
· One piece of bright-colored cloth for kilt or skirt, 13 inches by 24 inches.
· Cotton batting or cloth cord 40 inches long.
· One regular size needle and thread.
· One large-eyed needle.
· Bits of decorative materials, i.e. ribbon, trim, sequins, etc. Paints and/or color crayons, masking tape, glue, scissors.

Copy the puppet heads onto plain white paper ready for construction, as thefollowing picture shows, and then move on to Step One.

Step One:
own2Choose the character you will construct as a puppet. Paint or color the head as you wish. Lips and markings on forehead, nose and ears are red. A red dot goes in the corner of each eye. Cut out the head, nose and ears making sure to cut also on dotted lines if they are indicated. Fold nose on dotted line and insert tabs into slits on face. Secure tabs on back side with tape or glue. Fold back tabs on ears and tape or glue to designated place on face. Set aside and prepare the cardboard body.


Step Two:

own3Use heavy cardboard tubing such as foil or wrapping paper tubing, about 8 inches long and 6 inches or slightly more in circumference. There are no legs. The marionette wears a kilt or skirt for easy movement

About 4 inches from the tube, make a small hole with scissor or large needle. Reinforce with masking tape. Directly across from it, make another small hole and reinforce it in the same way (See illustration 19).





Step Three:

own4From pattern given here, cut two pieces of cloth for arms and stitch as directed on pattern page, wrong sides together. Turn and stuff with cotton batting or strips of scrap cloth. Turning raw edges in, stitch arm ends closed and wrap wrist several times with colored thread or yarn. A hand is not necessary but may be added by cutting one from cardboard. The Indian puppets sometimes have a little yarn tassel added in place of a hand . Sew little cloth tabs to underside of each arm at shoulder (Tab is about ¾ inch by 1 inch). Next, attach arms to tube at the X markings. Be sure attachment is firm by using good glue or little brass brads or some method of your own (See illustrations 21 and 22).






Step Four:

Either paint the bodice directly on the tube with poster paint or glue bright cloth or felt around the body (accommodating the arms with slits in the cloth or felt). The bodice is about 2 ½ inches wide and goes entirely around the tube. Its lower edge will be about 5 inches from the top edge. (illustration 22)

Step Five:

own8Choose gaily colored cloth to harmonize with the bodice. Cut a piece 13 inches by 24 inches. If bordered cloth is used, border should run along the 24 inches side. Try to use a salvedge to eliminate the need to hem the bottom edge of the kilt. Right sides together, stitch the raw edges of the 13-inch side together. This will form a large tube from which the kilt is to be made. Gather the top edge of the kilt with a running stitch (use double thread for strength when gathering).

Turn the cloth so that the right side is out and begin pulling the gathered edge together. This is to be the waistline of the kilt. Place the tube inside the gathered kilt and draw the gathers up snugly about the tube just above the lower edge of the bodice. Pull from both ends of the gathering threads so that you can tie and knot the ends tightly to help secure the kilt. Use strong glue at waist to secure the kilt firmly to the tube.


Step Six:

A double thickness of material, the same as used for the kilt or commercial seam building may be sewn over raw edges at the waist to form the belt. Secure at the backside of the puppet.

Step Seven:

A length of string or heavy carpet thread 40 inches in length is now attached to the puppet at two points. Thread one end of the strings through two holes in the tube, entering from the outer side at one of the holes, passing across the diameter of the tube and emerging at the opposite side through the hole made at that point. Pull the string through far enough to knot with the long end of the string and position the knot just above the center point at the top of the tube (illustration 24).

Attach the other end of the string to the backside of the puppet at the waist using a large eyed needle to sew it into place (illustration 25).




Step Eight:

Glue or tape the tabs on either side of the face around the tube so that the tabs rest just above the arms. Clip off the rounded neckpiece if it interferes with the bodice. Decorate bodice with colored tape or ribbon. (Illustrations 16, 17). Practice working the puppet by working the string in and out between fingers of one hand. (Illustration 25)



  • Dhola Maru Story
  • Introduction
  • Puppet Making
  • Thesis on Puppets
  • Make your own puppets
  • Performances