Here are the Baul singers and musicians arriving on deck to entertain us. I was enjoying a cruise on the Hoogli, part of the great Ganges river, when a mysterious boat drifted up alongside and several men clamboured aboard.
I’d been aware in the early morning of single male voices raised in a haunting song as we drifted past the settlements on the banks and here was the explanation. Baul singers tell the tales of their folk culture in song and each will play an instrument to accompany the singing of others.
It was great to hear them up close, but a wonderful shivery feeling lying listening to them in the misty and dark early mornings.
Rajasthan brought the chance to further my acquaintance with international puppetry. Round the road from 1st Gate, a marvellous boutique hotel, in Jaisalmer, there is a Museum of Folk Arts and culture.
Museums are hard to come by in India and I tend to fall on those there are. The gentleman who set this one up is a retired history teacher and he was around on the night I visited. The ticket entitled one to browse the museum and watch the puppet show.
The puppet show specialised in dance. we saw several dancing puppets telling the story of The Boy Who Lost His Ball, The Camel Dance and the Male/Female nature of humanity.
A narrator told the story first in both Hindi and English and then handed over to the musicians and puppeteers.
One of the items on display was this travelling shrine or theatre. I hope you can see how the panels slide in and out. Religion has often had to rely on drama and pictorial representation in early or primitive societies where literacy is not high. I encountered another, bigger, version of these theatres later in my trip.