Best Puppetry in India

Sandarbha Desk
Sandarbha Desk
  • The art of puppetry finds the earliest reference in the Tamil classic ‘Silappadikaaram’ written around the 1st or 2nd century B.C.
  • There are four types of Puppetry
  1. String Puppets
  2. Shadow Puppets
  3. Rod Puppets
  4. Glove Puppets


  1. String Puppets ( Puppetry ) 
  • Jointed body and limbs that allow movement.
  • They are also known as marionettes.
  • These are controlled by loosening and pulling the strings attached to the Puppetry .
  • They are made of wood, or wire, or cloth stuffed with cotton,rags or sawdust and are usually small.
  • Rajasthan, Karnataka, Odisha and Tamil Nadu are some of the regions where this type of puppetry has flourished.
  • Example
  • Kathputli, Rajasthan- ( Puppetry)  Source:
  • They are carved from a single piece of wood.
  • Oval faces, large eyes, arched eyebrows and large lips are the distinct features.
  • They wear long trailing skirts and do not have legs.
  • The strings are attached to the fingers of puppeteers and not to any other prop or support.
  • Accompanied by a highly dramatized regional music.
  • Gopalila Kundhei, Odisha ( Puppetry ) 
  • They are made of light Puppetry wood.
  • They have no legs but wear long flowing skirts.
  • They have more joints and are easier to manipulate.
  • The puppeteers hold a wooden prop, triangular in shape, to which strings are attached for manipulation.
  • Their costumes are similar to those worn by actors of the Jatra traditional theatre.
  • The music is drawn from the popular tunes of the region and is sometimes influenced by the music of Odissi dance.
  • Gombeyatta, Karnataka ( Puppetry) 
source: indianetzone
source: indianetzone
  • They have joints at the legs, shoulders, elbows, hips Puppetry and knees.
  • They are manipulated by 5-7 strings which are tied to a prop.
  • They are styled like the characters of Yakshagana, the traditional theatre of Karnataka.
  • The stories are based on Prasangas of the Yakshagana plays.
  • The music that accompanies is dramatic and beautifully blends folk and classical elements.
  • Bommalattam, Tamli Nadu ( Puppetry ) 
source: ananthablahblah
source: ananthablahblah
  • They are made of wood.
  • They combine the techniques of both rod and string puppets.
  • The puppeteer wears an iron ring on his head to which the string are tied.
  • A few puppets have jointed arms and hands, which are manipulated by rods.
  • These are the largest, heaviest and the most articulate of all traditional Indian marionettes.
  • Other examples- Tarer or Sutol Putul (WB), Kalasutri Bahulya (Maharashtra),

2. Shadow Puppets ( Puppetry) 

  • These are flat figures cut out from leather, which has been Puppetry treated to make them translucent.
  • They are pressed against a screen with a strong source of light behind it.
  • The manipulation between the light and the screen make silhouettes or colorful shadows, as the case may be, for the viewers who sit in front of the screen.
  • Odisha, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka & Tamil Nadu.
  • Examples:
  • Togalu Gombeyatta, Karnataka ( Puppetry) 
source: theethnicstory
source: theethnicstory
  • They are small in size but generally differ in size according to their social status.
  • Larger ones for kings or religious characters and smaller ones for common people or servants.
  • Tholu Bommalata, Andhra Pradesh ( Puppetry ) 
source: wikipedia
source: wikipedia
  • The puppets are large in size.
  • They have jointed waist, shoulders, elbows and knees.
  • They are colored on both sides and hence throw colorful Puppetry shadows on the screen.
  • The themes of the puppet plays are derived from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas.
  • Music is dominantly classical music of the region
  • Ravanachhaya, Odisha ( Puppetry )


  • The Puppetry have no joints and are small in size.
  • They are not colored and hence throw opaque shadows on the screen.
  • They are made of deer skin and are conceived in bold dramatic poses.
  • Apart from human and animal characters, many props such as trees, mountains, chariots, etc. are also used.
  • Other examples: Chamadyache Bahulya (Maharashtra), Tol Pavakoothu (Kerala)

3. Glove Puppets ( Puppetry) 

  • They are also known as sleeve, hand or palm Puppetry .
  • The head is made of either paper mache, cloth or wood, with two hands emerging from just below the neck.
  • The rest of the figure consists of a long flowing skirt.
  • Its movement is controlled by the human hand. The first finger is inserted in the head and the middle finger & the thumb become the two arms of the puppet.
  • It is popular in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Kerala.
  • In UP, the themes are usually based on social subjects.
  • In Odisha, themes are based on stories of Radha and Krishna. Dholak is also used in Odisha.
  • Dialogues play an important role.
  • Example:
  • Pavakoothu (Pavakathakali), Kerala ( Puppetry) 
source: puppetindia
source: puppetindia
  • It is influenced by Kathakali.
  • Height of a Puppetry varies from 1-2 feet.
  • The head and the arms are carved out of wood and joined together with thick cloth, cut and stitched into a small bag.
  • The face of the puppets are decorated with paints, small and thin pieces of gilded tin, feathers of peacock etc.
  • The musical instruments used during the performance are Chenda, Chengila, Ilathalam and Shankha-the conch.
  • Themes are based on episodes from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
  • Other examples- Sakhi Naach (Odisha), Beni Putul or Bener Putul (West Bengal).

4. Rod Puppetry

  • These are extension of glove puppets, but often much larger and supported & manipulated by rods from below. 
  • Found mostly in West Bengal and Odisha.
  • Examples
  • Putul Nach, West Bengal
source: ccrtindia
source: ccrtindia

Also Read:-Geographical Indicators (GI)- Handicraft (Part-2)

  • The puppets are carved from wood.
  • They are about 3-4 feet in height and are costumed like the actors of Jatra theatre.
  • They mostly have three joints.
  • The puppeteers themselves sing and deliver the stylized prose dialogues along with a group of musicians.
  • The puppets are manipulated by a bamboo-made hub tied firmly to the waist of the puppeteer on which the rod holding the puppet is placed.
  • The puppeteers themselves move and dance imparting corresponding movements to the puppets.
  • Themes are social issues.
  • Yampuri, Bihar
source: ccrtindia
source: ccrtindia
  • The puppets are made of wood.
  • Unlike those of west Bengal and Odisha, the puppets of Bihar are in one piece and have no joints.
  • As a result, their manipulation is difficult.
  • Other Examples- Kathi Kundei (odisha)




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