Puppet forms of India

Different Types of Puppets in India

    • Ancient Hindu philosophers have likened God Almighty to a puppeteer and the entire universe to a puppet stage.
    • Themes are mostly based on epics and legends.
    • 4 Main types:
      • String Puppets
      • Shadow Puppets
      • Rod Puppets
      • Glove Puppets


  • Marionettes having jointed limbs controlled by strings
  • allow far greater flexibility

Kathputli, Rajasthan

      • p1Carved from a single piece of wood
      • Large dolls – colourfully dressed.
      • Costumes and headgears are designed in the medieval Rajasthani style of dress, which is prevalent even today.
      • Accompanied by a highly dramatised version of the regional music.
      • Oval faces, large eyes, arched eyebrows and large lips – distinct facial features.
      • Wear long trailing skirts and do not have legs.
      • Puppeteers manipulate them with two to five strings which are normally tied to their fingers and not to a prop or a support.

Kundhei, Orissa

      • p2Made of light wood,
      • have no legs but wear long flowing skirts.
      • have more joints and are, therefore, more versatile, articulate and easy to manipulate.
      • Use a triangle shape wooden prop, to which strings are attached for manipulation.
      • costumes resemble those worn by actors of the Jatra traditional theatre.
      • music – regional music & Odissi dance’s music.

Gombeyatta, Karnataka

      • p3Puppets – styled and designed like the characters of Yakshagana
      • highly stylized and have joints at the legs, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.
      • manipulated by five to seven strings tied to a prop.
      • complicated movements are manipulated by two to three puppeteers at a time.
      • music – beautifully blends folk and classical elements.

Bommalattam, Tamil Nadu

      • p4Combine the techniques of both rod and string puppets.
      • made of wood and the strings for manipulation are tied to an iron ring which the puppeteer wears like a crown on his head.
      • few puppets have jointed arms and hands, which are manipulated by rods.
      • This puppets are the largest, heaviest and the most articulate of all traditional Indian marionettes.



      • Shadow puppets are flat figures.
      • cut out of leather, which has been treated to make it translucent.
      • pressed against the screen with a strong source of light behind it.
      • manipulation between the light and the screen make silhouettes or colourful shadows
      • found in Orissa, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Togalu Gombeyatta, Karnatakap5

      • puppets are mostly small in size.
      • puppets however differ in size according to their social status, for instance, large size for kings and religious characters and smaller size for common people or servants.

Tholu Bommalata, Andhra Pradesh

      • p6puppets are large in size and have jointed waist, shoulders, elbows and knees.
      • coloured on both sides, throwing coloured shadows on the screen.
      • music – influenced by the classical regional music
      • theme are drawn from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas.

Ravanachhaya, Orissa

      • p7Puppets are in one piece and have no joints.
      • not coloured, hence throw opaque shadows on the screen.
      • manipulation requires great dexterity, since there are no joints.
      • puppets 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.
      • puppets are smaller in size
      • create very sensitive and lyrical shadows.



      • an extension of glove-puppets, but often much larger and supported and manipulated by rods from below.
      • found mostly in West Bengal and Orissa.

Putul Nautch, West Bengal

      • carved from wood
      • p9costumed like the actors of Jatra, a traditional theatre
      • puppets have mostly three joints.
      • heads, supported by the main rod, is joined at the neck and both hands attached to rods are joined at the shoulders.
      • bamboo-made hub is tied firmly to the waist of the puppeteer on which the rod holding the puppet is placed.
      • puppeteers each holding one puppet, stand behind a head-high curtain and while manipulating the rods also move and dance imparting corresponding movements to the puppets.
      • puppeteers themselves sing and deliver the stylized prose dialogues & a group of musicians provide the accompanying music with a drum, harmonium and cymbals.
      • music and verbal text have close similarity with the Jatra theatre.

Orissa/Odisha Rod puppets

      • odisha-puppetMostly three joints, but the hands are tied to strings instead of rods.
      • Elements of rod and string puppets are combined in this form of puppetry.
      • Most of the dialogues are sung.
      • music blends folk tunes with classical Odissi tunes.
      • puppets of Orissa are smaller than those from Bengal or Andhra Pradesh.
      • more operatic and prose dialogues are seldom used.

Yampuri, Biharp10

      • Made of wood.
      • puppets are in one piece and have no joints.
      • requires greater dexterity.



      • Also known as sleeve, hand or palm puppets.
      • head is made of either papier mache, cloth or wood,
      • hands emerges from just below the neck.
      • rest of the figure consists of a long flowing skirt.
      • controlled by the human hand – first finger inserted in the head and middle finger and thumb are the two arms of the puppet.
      • In Orissa, the puppeteer plays on the dholak with one hand and manipulates the puppet with the other.
      • delivery of the dialogues, the movement of the puppet and the beat of the dholak are well synchronised and create a dramatic atmosphere.

Pavakoothu, Kerala

    • p12Head and the arms are carved of wood and joined together with thick cloth, cut and stitched into a small bag.
    • face of the puppets are decorated with paints, small and thin pieces of gilded tin, the feathers of the peacock, etc.
    • manipulator puts his hand into the bag and moves the hands and head of the puppet.
    • musical instruments –Chenda, Chengiloa, Ilathalam and Shankha the conch.
    • theme – based on the episodes from either the Ramayana or the Mahabharata.
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