Tolu Bommalata

6:38 PM / Posted by li i /


Tolu Bommalata, originally uploaded by Bindaas Madhavi.

Leather puppets are a popular means of rural entertainment through the ages. Leather puppet making is a craft that has carved out a niche for itself in the state. The puppets of mythological figures are used to enact shadow plays, popularly called 'Tolubommalata'.

Tolu Bommalata, the shadow puppet theatre, has been popular not only in Andhra Pradesh, but also in Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Orissa as well. While the puppets of Kerala, Maharashta, and Orissa are traditionally black and white, the Karnataka, Tamilnadu, and Andhra puppets are multi-coloured. The Andhra puppets are larger in size, with separate parts of the various limbs stitched loosely for better articulation. The earliest mass medium using coloured images, the shadow-puppet theatre has always been popular among rural folk, combining entertainment with moral instruction.

The leather puppets of Andhra Pradesh trace their origins back to around 200 B.C. They were used for shadow plays that travelled the countryside. These puppets are made of buffalo or sheep hide, they are later bleached with local paints. Gods, Horses, elephants, warriors, fruits, cows, birds, deers are the popular figures made. Dharmarao Cheruvupalli in Nellore district, Nammalakunta in Anantapur district and Narasaraopet in Guntur district are the main centres for the production of leather puppets.

A general belief is that the art of puppetry was prevalent in this part of the country even by the beginning of the Christian era. It is also believed that this art was carried from here to the South-East Asian countries where Indians had colonised.
The puppet is coloured on both sides, it can be used both ways depending upon the direction of the head required to suit a scene, especially when the character is engaged in conversation.

The Andhra puppets are the largest multi-coloured puppets in India. The usual size of a puppet ranges between 5X3 to 6X3-1/2 feet. There are even larger figures. Stories usually are depicted from Ramayana or Mahabharata.

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