An Ensemble Of Puppets From Mandalay


A Rapunzel with hair to spare?


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I could be wrong, but she is most likely a Burmese Draupadi – that virtuous, wronged wife of the Pandavas (the five heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata) – who vows never to tie up her long tresses until she can anoint them with the blood of her molester, who incidentally, is her husbands’ step brother.

I recently watched the gory details of how one of her five husbands (no. 2) avenges her dishonour and helps her fulfil her vow, in a serialised version on TV. How that scene (or the shocking one leading up to it) got cleared for family viewing, when the mere suggestion of a kiss gets our film censor board in a tizzy, is beyond me!

This ubiquitous shopping stop on our shore excursion from the Irrawaddy Explorer, was one I actually had to be dragged away from. It was more a warehouse overflowing with artefacts than a showroom, and utterly fascinating. No I didn’t buy a single puppet, although I shamelessly helped myself to the complimentary juice and coconut cakes while the others did.

Below are more characters from the epics, a couple – or two – of lovely wooden Buddhas, some Apsaras, a few demons and a pretty little craftsgirl (?) hard at work. Oh, and don’t miss the Ganesha!

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Happy travels folks. And a fabulous weekend!

Catch up with you all soon….

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

26 thoughts on “An Ensemble Of Puppets From Mandalay

    1. We aren’t shoppers are we? We had two extremely talented brothers do a puppet show on board the boat one night, and it was mesmerising! I should have included those images as well, but I hadn’t processed them. Am juggling time yet again…setting off for Bangalore in just over an hour :/

  1. A super interesting read. I am always super fascinated by the tales. A puppet echoes mystery in form and would love to get a Burmese one. Lucky you:)

  2. Here in Indonesia kissing on the lips is also censored on TV, but violence is often not — another similarity between our countries. I love traditional puppets, but whenever I travel I never buy one for there is not enough space to put them in my place. Really really love your shots, Madhu. Thanks to his elephant head, Ganesha is indeed one of the most recognizable Hindu gods, whether you’re in South or Southeast Asia.

  3. I think puppeteers are talented, and puppets themselves often works of art, but there is something about them that I always find a little scary! (Enjoyed the post, though! 🙂 )

  4. Oh those shopping stops on tours can be so annoying, good for yo for taking advantage of the freebies! That’s the strangest Ganesha I’ve ever seen 🙂

  5. You really see the world don’t you? And I mean really see. Beautiful photos. And on the subject of shopping, do bloggers and travellers have time? Apart from anti-consumer principles. Can I come with you to Bangalore?

  6. Oh the Mahabharata and Ramayana. My two textbooks when I arrived in India to begin my cultural assimilation. 🙂 As I usually live in any story I read to try and experience each character some of them caused me much distress. lol. Loved the shared artwork.

  7. LOVE the shots! While in India once, I came across the brass head of a doll. My mother had a porcelain dollhead while I was growing up (my sister got it). I bought that doll head, thinking I’d give it to my sister one day. I still have it sitting on my bookcase right there. I’m a guy, but I really like that head. I’m not sure if it’s a goddess or what, but her hair is a long curled loop in the back of her head?? Any thoughts?

  8. I hope to visit Mandalay one day ~ have yet to visit the city. Great photos, and I am now very curious about the story of the wronged wife of the Pandavas ~ history and culture of places around the world seem to be a never-ending discovery. Wonderful post Madhu.

  9. Hi Madhu, wow… beautiful photos! I love them all…
    And about the puppet, she reminds me to the similar sculpture I saw during my visit to Thailand recently. A woman holding her long hair… The same figure I saw when I visited a Burmese Buddhist temple in Penang, Malaysia.
    I could be wrong as well 🙂 but I think she is not Draupadi (I’m a big fan of Mahabharat :D), but the Earth deity or Vasudhara (or Phra Mae Thorani in Thai). She is a figure close to Buddha. According to the myths, while sitting in meditation to attain the enlightenment Buddha was tempted by Mara, the Evil one. At that time the Earth deity took form to help Buddha, twisted her hair and flooded Mara’s army so Buddha was safe to continue his meditation.

  10. What intricate art and great photography! Loved the gentle artiste absorbed in her work. Wish all the faces were as serene as her’s and the Buddha’s. The scary faces, well, scare me!
    Interesting story. And you are right. There’s more amoral activity on display in our Indian shows and showcased carvings than on bikini beaches.
    Keep trekking, Madhu

  11. Love the puppets. My sister is a puppeteer so I have an appreciation and enjoyment of beautiful puppets. Love these photos. Thanks.


  12. I love them all And about the puppet, she reminds me to the similar sculpture I saw during my visit to Thailand recently. A woman holding her long hair… The same figure I saw when I visited a Burmese Buddhist temple in Penang, Malaysia.

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