Maguni Charan Kuanr – Puppeteer from Odisha to win Padma Shri in 2023

Maguni Charan Kuanr is a puppeteer from Odisha, who preserves the dying art of rod-puppetry. Belonging to a family of Khyatriyas, because of his passion towards this art form, he overcame caste barrier and practiced rod puppetry considered avocation of Dalits/fishing community. For his contributions towards art, government of India honoured him with fourth civilian award, Padma Shri in 2023. He was one among 4 people from Odisha who won Padma awards this year. He was 85 while receiving this honour.

Apart from puppetry, Maguni Charan Kuanr learnt sculpture in different media

Maguni Charan Kuanr hails from Keonjhar district, Odisha. He was born in 1937. He was initiated to the world of puppets, one of most ancient forms of visual art by his father Baishnab Charan Kuanr. The resistance from the caste and family failed to come in way of his love for the art. He learned sculpture in clay, stone, and wood from Shri Bhagaban Jena, a traditional sculptor. He has contributed to the recognition of Kandhei Nach beyond Orissa, and also established a troupe of his own, the Utkal Vishwakarma Kalakunja Kandhei Nach, based in his hometown.

He creates and designs his own puppets for his shows

Apart from creating his own puppets, their costume designs are also done by Charan Kuanr. To promote this dying art, he participated in many camps and also arranged workshops. His efforts have been widely promoted by Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi and other institutions. He also received awards from Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi and the North Orissa University. In 2004 he was honoured with Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to the traditional puppetry of Orissa.

Twenty plays and 300 puppet characters in 70-year old career

It’s not an easy task to carve 300 puppet characters and organize 25 plays in a career spanning to 7 decades. He took the art form to such a professional height that was unheard of during that era. Odisha is the only state to have all these four styles, and rod-puppetry locally known as Kathi-Kandhei Nacha is found only in Keonjhar.

Shri Viswakarma Kalakunja is his troupe, and it mostly practises tales from Ramayana and Mahabharata. There was a time when he was a busy artist. As time moved forward and technology swallowed many traditional art forms, same fate happened for puppetry art form too. Maguni Charan Kuanr still preserves this art form in whatever way he can.


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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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