Chadar Badar - Santhal Storytelling Tradition

A unique legacy of indigenous puppetry and language

Chadar Badar Puppeteers (2023)Banglanatak

Chadar Badar is an ancient form of indigenous puppetry of the Santhals, one of the largest indigenous groups of India. Traditionally, this form has been an important means of folk education, also making it a vehicle of their ancient language.

Chadar Badar Performers (2023)Banglanatak

Traditionally, Chadar Badar has been practiced by Santhal residents of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and Assam. In Bengal, it is performed in pockets of Birbhum, Purba Bardhaman, Bankura and Uttar Dinajpur. 

Chadar Badar Puppetry Group Performance (2023)Banglanatak

Seen here is a Chadar Badar performance from Ausgram, Purba Bardhaman, West Bengal.

Santhal Village Wall Painting (2023)Banglanatak

Historically, the Santhals have had a rich repertoire of cultural expressions. Among those are paintings with which they decorate their mud house walls...

Santhal Ritual for Harvesting (2023)Banglanatak

...rituals on harvest such as the Bhumi Puja (worship of the land)...

Musicians of the Chadar Badar (2023)Banglanatak

...folklores, songs, literature that got promoted initially through oral traditions and eventually by poets and writers from the community whose outstanding contribution led to its cultural vitality!

Olchiki Script by Raghunath Murmu (2023)Banglanatak

The Santhals have great pride in their language, leading to the development of their own script, Ol Chiki, by Pandit Raghunath Murmu as early as in 1935–36. Santhali is one of the only two tribal languages, listed as a scheduled language of the Indian Constitution.

Performance with Puppetry (2023)Banglanatak

Chadar Badar puppetry, a hallmark of the Santhali culture showcases the creativity and cultural vibrancy of the Santhals by narrating stories combined with songs, music and dance.

Chadar Badar SongBanglanatak

The songs are on folktales from ancient Santhal culture, as well as their daily lives. Enjoy a Chadar Badar song here.

Chadar Badar Puppets (2023)Banglanatak

In every show, the puppets are organized in a specific way. A line of women puppets are installed opposite to a line of men puppets. In the middle is a man, called Rashik who is always in a trance-like state, dancing.

Chadar Badar Puppet Dance (2023)Banglanatak

The puppets are made to perform and render appropriate gestures to the songs and verses to portray the story.

The Puppets are attached to a Central Lever (2023)Banglanatak

Chadar Badar brings together literary, handicraft, and performing art skills in a unique storytelling tradition which is entertaining and educational.

Making of Puppets (2023)Banglanatak

The puppets are hand-carved out of local wood with simple tools, and are about 5-9 inches in height.

Crafting Wooden Puppets (2023)Banglanatak

The community is skilled in making their own puppets.

Chadar Badar puppets (2023)Banglanatak

Once the puppets are shaped they are painted and clothed in their traditional attire.

The Lever system of Chadar Badar Puppetry (2023)Banglanatak

The puppets are operated by an indigenous lever system made by the puppeteers themselves. These intricate lever controlled mechanisms have strings and sticks attached to them. Both the making and the operation require high level of skills.

Decorated Chadar Badar Puppet (2023)Banglanatak

Chadar Badar derives from Chadar Bandhuni (wrapping in a cloth), referring to a canopy-like structure of bamboo and fabric where the puppets are kept.  The performers carry this hut-like unit to the space of the performance. Musicians and dancers accompany the puppeteers.

Process of Chador Bandhuni (cloth wrapping) (2023)Banglanatak

Performers preparing the hut-like structure.

Puppeteers in their Village (2023)Banglanatak

Although the practice of Chadar Badar has diminished over time, puppeteers are still found to carry their units and visit their neighbourhoods and nearby villages to put up shows. Often the themes of these shows are associated with social messages.

Chadar Badar Performers (2023)Banglanatak

Different kinds of local musical instruments are played during the puppet show. Among them are dhamsa, madol, khorkoto, flute, etc.

Chadar Badar Musical Instrument (2023)Banglanatak

Khorkoto and Banam are the two most interesting indigenous instruments used in Chadar Badar.

The Puppeteer with his Puppets (2023)Banglanatak

The puppeteers have a strong emotional bond with their puppets and consider them their children.  As skilled narrators they can continue to tell stories with their puppets in a show for as long as the  audience remains interested, making the length of each show quite flexible.

Chadar Badar Puppets and the Puppeteer (2023)Banglanatak

The richness of their native language and the strong legacy of their oral traditions make Chadar Badar an outstanding example of conservation of cultural and linguistic diversity!

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