Wood- Artisans use seasoned 'Aardu' wood or mango wood to make the face and upper body of the puppet. It is therefore the most basic raw material in the process of puppet making. As 'Aardu' wood is soft, light in color and low priced it is preferred over mango wood. The wood is brought from the local market at a rate of Rs.500- Rs.600/Quintal. By using wood cutting machines the big logs are cut into smaller pieces of about 7-8 inches length.
Decorative Clothes- Artisans make two types of puppets, one for sale and the other to be used in performances. Puppets made for performances are decorated with beautifully ornamented cloth pieces that are brought form a place called 'Katla'.
Saree Cloths- Puppets for sale are dressed using simple saree materials that are quite basic in quality. For this cut pieces taken form of simple sarees and other such unembroidered plain fabrics are procured from the tailor.
Gotta (Ribbon)- Puppets are ornamented with bright shining 'Gottas' (golden ribbons) which are bought from the local market. They are priced about Rs.10/meter to Rs.200/meter depending on the quality.
Paint- Artisans use synthetic paints to draw facial features on the puppets. The main colors used are White (for base of the face and eyes), Red (lips and 'Bindi' for women) and Black (for eyebrows, hair and eyes)
Jewelry- Small pieces of jewelry are used to decorate the puppets. These pieces of jewelry are made using beads, chains and different small shining items.
Chaan (Waste rags)- These are brown colored waste rags used to fill the body of the puppets and bought from rug factories at a rate of Rs.10-Rs.20/per sack.
Nails- Most of the jewelry, cloth, strings etc. are attached to the puppet with the help of nails. Small nails with broad heads are used and these are bought from the local hardware shop.
Thread- Strong threads are used to stitch the clothes of the puppets and also to make the strings.
Cotton- Cotton is used as filler material.
Tools & Technology
Basola (Hammer)- Hammers of various shapes and sizes are used during the different production stages. Big hammers are used to hammer and carve the face of the puppet while smaller hammers are used for nailing.
Chorsi (Chisel)-Chisels of different shapes and sizes are used for carving the wood. Flat and big chisels are used for the basic carving of wood while smaller chisels are used to carve out finer details such as eyes, nose, ears etc. Round headed chisels are used for even further detailed carving.
Sui (Needle)- Needles of various sizes ranging from 1 inch to 4 inches are used according to requirement.
Sewing Machine- To achieve a better finished product and faster work performance artisans have now switched to hand operated sewing machines.
Scissors- Used for cutting cloth pieces and strings.
Files-Small wooden files are used for polishing the puppet's face.
Aari (Hand Saw)- Small hand saw is used for cutting blocks of wood
Koochi (Brush)- Koochi a type of brush is used in applying a base coat on the puppet. These bushes are made out of palms leaves.
Paint brushes- Eyes, mouth and other fine detailing are done by paint brush. These brushes are bought from the stationary shops.
Whetstone-It is used for sharpening the tools.
Regmaal (Sandpaper)- Sand paper is used to smooth/polish the surface of the puppet's face. Generally, 60 and 100 number Regmaal is used for this purpose.
Crafting the form
The craftsmen who make these wooden puppets are called 'Chilai'. When making these puppets the craftsmen give special attention to the details of the face and begin by making it first. Different characters in a narrative can be separated by their different facial structures and expressions. Using a hammer and chisel the craftsmen painstakingly carve each puppet taking almost three to four hours. Usually there is not much difference in the facial details of the male and female puppets. The head of the puppet along with its turban is made out of wood whilst the torso of the puppet is stuffed with cloth and wrapped with strings.
Once the face is made it is left to dry. After this it is polished with sandpaper and coated with a mixture of turpentine and plaster of Paris. This helps to cover the small holes in the wood. After it has dried the surface is polished again with sandpaper to remove any remaining fibers. With the help of a 'Koochi', touch-wood paint is applied to the face and left to dry again.
After the face has dried it is coated with pale white color made to resemble a fair skin tone. This is followed by the addition of facial details where white is used to paint the eyes and red is used to color the lips. A red colored 'Bindi' is added to the puppets that depict females.
Making the body and clothes
The decoration starts with the preparation of the clothes and these are hand stitched and stuffed with old clothes or rags. Women usually partake in this activity and they stitch the designs in keeping with each character's unique look. The puppets made for performances are decorated with rich, colourful and glittering fabrics just as an actor would be dressed for stage, while the puppets made for sale are decorated with regular saree materials. The male puppet is dressed in a 'Dhoti' (Indian men's trouser) while the female puppet is dressed in a 'Lehenga' (Indian long umbrella skirt) and these are both made out of sarees.
The puppets for performance are decorated with beautiful handmade jewelry and other accessories. This enhances the beauty of the puppet making them appear more eye-catching and life like. Majority of these puppets are sold as souvenirs and for this reason the female puppets have a traditional 'Gorla' on their foreheads while the males have 'Bheens' (Snake Charmers Flute) as these are an important part of the Rajasthani culture.
Attaching the strings
Strings are a crucial element of the puppet and need to be attached with proper planning. Correct location of the string is necessary for better maneuvering of the puppet's actions. These are mainly attached to the neck, shoulders, hands, legs and head of the puppet. The strings are either looped on the fingers of the puppeteer or attached to a small wooden strip that is operated by the puppeteer. The string attached to the head of the puppet also connects to its back. Strong cotton threads are used as strings, so that they can bear the load of the puppets.