Strings attached: puppets offer safety lessons to fight COVID-19




  • A trust based in Assam has made videos using the traditional art(Putola Nach) form to take forward the message through social media
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an Assam-based trust the opportunity to focus on a near-forgotten form of string puppetry called Putola Nach.

New initiatives

  • In collaboration with the UNICEF-Assam, the Anamika Ray Memorial Trust (ARMT) has produced three short videos using string puppetry for creating mass awareness of COVID-appropriate behaviour. A fourth video is on the issue of school dropouts.
  • The video ‘COVID Shatru (Enemy)’ is based on a king, who preaches safety measures after the spread of the novel coronavirus threatens to devastate his realm. 
  • ‘COVID Bibhrat (confusion)’ is aimed at students for instilling COVID appropriate behaviour — washing hands regularly, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and adhering to other precautionary measures as prescribed in the standard operating procedures.
  • While these two are in Assamese, ‘Mama ro Mina ko COVID Katha’ (COVID Tale of Mama and Mina) is in the Nepali language, made especially for the Sikkim government.


Putola Nach-Assam's traditional string puppet 

  • Traditional  string puppet theatre from Assam in north-east India. Putala nach (putal, doll, and nach, dance) remains popular in Assam whereas other forms of puppetry and shadow theatre have disappeared. 
  • The Ramayana, either in its entirety or by episodes, is performed, as well as scenes from the Mahabharata. The puppeteers are happy to add dialogues or chants taken from bhaona, the local traditional theatre.
  •  In this regard, some traditional performances include contemporary educational themes such as the fight against deforestation or family planning messages. The sculpted form of the puppets, their costumes and manipulation vary according to regional style.
  • The putala nach is also called putala bhaona due to its ancient link (16th century) with bhaona theatre.
  • Today, there are troupes and traditional families performing putala nach, some of whom are master puppeteers recognized in their communities and sometimes nationally for their contribution to the art of puppetry.


Assam’s string puppetry had three distinct styles based on the area performed. These areas were Barpeta-Nalbari in western Assam, Kalaigaon in northern Assam and Majuli “island” in eastern Assam.

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