Q . The puppetry flourished in ancient times is facing negligence in modern times. Describe various puppet theatres that exist in India.  (15 marks, 250 words, GS-1)


Puppetry had been one of the ancient forms of entertainment. Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro have yielded puppets with sockets attached to them. Description about puppet forms is found in many literatures including Silappadikaaram and Srimad Bhagwad Gita.

The puppet theatre in India is categorized into four categories-

  • String Puppet

These are miniature figures generally of size 8-9 inches, chiseled out of wood and painted with oil colour. Some regional forms includes-

      • Kathputli, Rajasthan

It is carved from a single piece of wood, colourfully dressed in medieval Rajasthani style. It is accompanied with regional music. Some distinct features includes oval faces, large eyes, arched eyebrows and large lips.

      • Kundhei, Odisha

These are made of light wood without legs. They have more joints that provide more flexibility and the strings are attached to triangular prop held by puppeteer. The costumes resemble to those worn in the Jatra traditional theatre and accompanied music is of regional form with influence of Odissi dance music.

      • Gombeyatta, Karnataka

They are designed and dressed like the characters of Yakshgana and are highly stylized. They are controlled through 5 to 7 strings using prop. Their uniqueness is that more than one puppeteer is needed for manipulating puppets.

      • Bommalattam, Tamil Nadu

It is the combination of both rod and string puppets, made of wood and the strings for manipulation are attached to an iron ring which the puppeteer wears like a crown on his head. These are the largest and heaviest and the most articulate of all the traditional Indian marionettes.

  • Shadow Puppets

These are flat figures cut out of leather, painted identically on both sides of the leather. Puppets are placed on a white screen with light falling from behind and creating a shadow on the screen. The figures are manipulated so that the silhouettes created on the blank screen create telling images. Some regional forms includes-

      • Togalu Gombeyatta, Karnataka

These are small in size however differs in size according to their social status.

      • Ravanachhaya, Odisha

The puppets are in one piece without any joint and hence require greater dexterity for manipulation. These are not coloured and hence throw opaque shadows.

      • Tholu Bommalata, Andhra Pradesh

They are large in size and have joints at waist, shoulders, elbows and knees. These are coloured on both sides and music accompanied is influenced by the classical music.

-Rod Puppets-

These are extension of glove puppets and are manipulated by rods from behind the screen. Some regional forms includes-

-Putul Nautch, West Bengal

They are carved from wood and are human sized. The costumes are similar to those in Jatra and have mostly 3 joints. The puppeteers themselves sing and deliver the stylized prose dialogues and accompany music with a drum, harmonium and cymbals.

-Yampuri, Bihar

It is made of wood and is in one piece and has no joints. They are dressed in bright colours.

-Glove Puppets-

This is also known as sleeve, hand or palm puppets. Their head is made of either papier mache, cloth or wood with two hands emerging from just below the neck. One of its regional forms is-

-Pavakoothu, Kerala

Their height varies from 1 foot to 2 feet and head and arms are carved out of wood and joined together with thick cloth, cut and stitched into a small bag.







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