Puppet show on Swami Vivekanand’s life and teachings

Artistically carved and handpainted puppets appear against an equally imaginative stage backdrop. Different stories and events are presented in the backdrop of a modern young boy being instructed about the important values of life by his grandfather while his vigilant mother cautions him to be practical instead of being idealistic. This is a unique show with high-class background music, lights and special effects. The colourful puppets appear lifelike through the nimble fingers of the dedicated team of puppeteers which enlivens the show. The puppet show depicts various incidents from the life of the great saint Swami Vivekananda and also tells stories based on his inspirational messages.

The puppet show was organised on January 3, at Balayogi Auditorium, Parliament Library Building, New Delhi by Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi with the help of Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur. The extraordinary show was developed to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of the great patriot-saint of modern India. Ramakrishna Mission in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts took up the project of developing this puppet show based on the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda with the help of Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal, an internationally renowned puppet theatre group of Udaipur. The first show was inaugurated by the Swami Suhitanandaji, General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math, at the Vivekananda Auditorium on August 11, 2013. Since then it has performed its Hindi version for more than 200 times at various places all over India in front of appreciative audiences, especially in schools and education institutions.

Following up on the demand to reach a wider audience and for the benefit of non-Hindi speaking states and overseas audiences its English version was commissioned and its first show was inaugurated on July 31, 2014. Subsequently, 64 English shows have been staged in the North East, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka where it was watched by appreciative audiences numbering 54,000 people approximately.

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Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal, president Salil Singhal said, “Till date, we have staged 275 shows in India and abroad. The show has travelled to USA, UK, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore and has been well received by the foreign audience. We keep adding new stories as per the audience and demand.”

Some of the incidents depicted during the puppet show included: Narendra’s mother pouring water on the child to cool his irrepressible energy; Narendra ignoring the warning of an elderly neighbour while swinging from a tree; Narendra managing a situation with the help of policeman when a friend falls ill during a boat ride; and Narendra serving an injured seaman, who had volunteered to help the boys lift a trapeze, and so on.

The message-based stories of Swami Vivekananda which are shown in the puppet show include: a lion rescuing a cub which had strayed away in flock of sheep; the king of Alwar being taught about the efficacy of worship; the meeting of the frog from the ocean with the frog from the well; a story depicting the sacrifice of a young Sanyasin and the sacrifice of a family of birds; Swamiji waking up at night and telling Swami Vijnanananda about his premonition of a disaster which actually took place in Fiji and Swamiji being lauded by different sages and wise men.

“Swami Vivekananda’s teachings are relevant for everyone, so we plan to take this show to every corner of India and the world,” explained Swami Shantatmanada, Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission.