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Shadow Puppet theatre traditions of India

What are various shadow puppet theater traditions in India ?

There are six shadow puppet theater traditions across different regions in India, which are locally known as:

  1. Chamadyacha Bahulya in Maharashtra,
  2. Tolu Bommalatta in Andhra Pradesh,
  3. Togalu Gombeyatta in Karnataka,
  4. Tolu Bommalattam in Tamil Nadu,
  5. Tolpava Kuthu in Kerala and
  6. Ravanchhaya in Orissa.

Though these forms have distinct regional identities, languages and dialects in which they are performed, they share a common worldview, aesthetics and themes. The narratives are mainly based on the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, Puranas, local myths and tales. They communicate significant messages to the rural community besides entertainment.

Shadow Puppet Theatre Traditions of India  and the communities which are distinctively associated with it are:

Community/ Group
Group Province
Bahulya, Thakar
Tolu Bommalatta
Killekyata/Are Kapu
Andhra Pradesh
Togalu Gombeyatta
Tolu Bommalattam
Tamil Nadu
Tolpava  Kuthu Vellalachetti

What is Puppetry ?

Puppetry is a traditional art form used as an effective medium of entertainment and communication. In Sanskrit terminology Puttalika and Puttika means ‘little sons’. The root of Puppet is derived from the latin word ‘Pupa’ meaning a doll. India is said to be the home of puppets, but it is yet to awaken to its unlimited possibilities.

The earliest reference to the art of puppetry is found in Tamil classic ‘Silappadikaaram’ written around the 1st or 2nd century B.C. Puppets from different parts of the country have their own identity. Regional styles of painting and sculpture are reflected in them.

Ancient Hindu philosophers have paid the greatest tribute to puppeteers. They have likened God Almighty to a puppeteer and the entire universe to a puppet stage. Srimad Bhagavata, the great epic depicting the story of Lord Krishna in his childhood say that with three strings-Satta, Raja and Tama, the God manipulates each object in the universe as a marionette.

This image is showing the Ravanachhaya puppets of Odisha state performing a scene from the Ramayana showing Kevat sailing the boat carrying Rama,Lakshmana and Sita to get the river crossed. Ravanachhayais one of the most theatrically exciting forms of shadow puppetry in India. The puppets are made of deer skin and are smaller in size than other shadow puppets. They are thick and opaque and throw black and white shadows on the screen.

Tolpava Kuthu in Kerala
Tolpava Kuthu in Kerala
Chamadyacha Bahulya
Chamadyacha Bahulya
Tolu Bommalatta
Tolu Bommalatta
Togalu Gombeyatta

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