Kathputli Colony - Delhi’s Lesser Known Artist Hub

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Say hello to Kathputli Colony – the land that inspired Salman Rushdie’s 1980 Midnight’s Children. The slum houses close to 3500 families including acrobat, magician, puppeteer, singer, dancer and musician communities. They’re active artists who have been bringing the streets alive with their art for over five decades.

Spend a day here, and you’ll get to discover the rustic charm of traditional art forms, practiced right here in the Capital. Think blanking acts by women during a Bhawai Dance performance, a typical Rajasthani show, a Kachi Ghodi dance, all complete with costumes, make-up, and meticulously detailed props.

These artists are ambassadors of Indian culture who perform at international events, and accompany our diplomats and bureaucrats across seas. Aziz Khan, whose rope trick made it to the Guinness Book of World Record in 1995, said that this art is their lifestyle and their identity. Kathputli colony is trying to hold on to these disappearing symbols of our culture and heritage that once adorned the courtyards of our erstwhile Royals.

The next time you spot an aerial view of colours among dilapidated huts and shanty conditions from the metro, between Shadipur and Kirti Nagar station, you can be sure you’re looking at Kathputli.

This neighbourhood now, however, is a victim of urbanisation; The DDA has sold the Kathputli land to a private estate developer to construct a mall and high rise apartments, as part of the apparent ‘Delhi Makeover Drive,’ which has sent the inhabitants into a tizzy. Questions like where will the 30 ft. high puppets be stored, or 80kg heavy drums be kept, and where can they practice their art without disturbing and getting disturbed plague every individual.

If you want a guided tour of the colony, Getyourtourguide offers a 3.5 hour tour walk at $50 {INR 3000 approx} per person, which includes a performance by artists, including puppetry and a fire show, light snacks, a water bottle, and an umbrella for use. Find out more here.

Artforhope offers a similar package at the same price, and comes Trip Advisor recommended. If you’re planning on visiting solo, we’ll have you know, the artist folk are very friendly and used to their fair share of attention. We do recommend modest dressing though. Find out more here.