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What is Puppetry? How is it linked with Indian culture?

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Rashmi

Puppetry is basically a form of art where figures of paper, cloth or wood are created for story-telling which can be either string puppets or shadow puppets. They actually serve the purpose of enacting the story being told.

Puppets for many generations have been a part of cultural activities in India and in fact, they are a part of our living culture with puppetry practiced in different parts of the country. Puppets are mostly based on the themes of epics, puranas, legendary stories etc.,

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  • Kathputhali: The Kathputhali shows are popular not just in India but worldwide for their mesmerizing performances with string puppets. This form of puppetry originated in Rajasthan. Kathputhali is the most popular of all forms of puppetry. It is an integral part of any event, festival or fair in Rajasthan narrating various legends and folk tales of Rajasthan. Kathputhali was a form of entertainment in the royal durbars of Rajasthan receiving a lot of patronage from the kings.

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  • Gombeyatta: Gombeyatta is a form of puppetry native to the state of Karnataka. The puppets here are generally made of leather using animal skin due to its properties of flexibility and bright display of colors.  The colors used in the puppets are made from vegetable dyes and narrate the stories of the great Indian Epics.

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  • Tholu Bommalata: Tholu Bommalata is an indigenous shadow puppet tradition of the state of Rajasthan. The puppetry shows are conducted by a group of people who wander from one place to another telling the tales and stories through these puppets. It was supplemented with musical instruments and various traditional songs.

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  • Tholopavakoothu:  This form of puppetry is practiced in the state of Kerala. This form of leather puppetry is mainly highlighted and performed by the practitioners in Devi temple dedicated to Goddess Kali. It is also important to note that the worship of Devi i.e. Shaktism is extremely predominant in the state of Kerala and that it has influenced this form of puppetry in the state.

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  • Bommalatam: Bommalatam is one of the oldest forms of puppetry in Tamil Nadu mainly in the regions of Kumbakonam, Salem, Tanjore. This form of puppetry is mostly used during festivals and exhibitions in temples. Bommalatam is present both in the form of string puppets and shadow puppets. The themes are again based on the stories revolving around Ancient Indian Literature.
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