Indian Puppetry

Puppet Show from KBC 5

Last night’s episode of Panchkoti Mahamani Kaun BanegaCrorepati had a mini puppet show in the beginning. It was short and sweet and got me thinking that puppetry is such a fun art. Unfortunately it has become quite rare today. I think I actually saw a puppet show live for the first and only time atleast 15 years ago. It was a Kathputli show, typically seen in Rajasthan. I was a child that time and it was truly a very fascinating experience for me to see colourful dolls telling a story.

Puppetry is ofcourse an ancient art or means of entertainment that was there in place when there was no TV or internet. In olden days puppets were used to depict stories of kings, heroes or even satire on current political or social issues. There are various kinds of puppets – glove, rod, string and shadow:-

Glove Puppet from Kerala

Glove Puppet
Glove puppets are quite small in size and comprise of a head, arms and long skirt. These are attached to a glove which is worn by the puppeteer. The puppeteer controls puppet by moving his fingers. This form of puppetry is seen in the states of Kerala (Pava-kathakali), Orissa (Sakhi Kundhei- nacha) and West Bengal (Bener Putul nach).

Puppet from West Bengal

Rod Puppet
Rod puppets come in various shapes in sizes. The puppeteer controls the puppet through attached rods. The rods to control actions are attached to hands, and the main rod of the puppet is concealed in its costume. This type of puppet show is popular in Assam (Putula nach), Orissa (Kathi- Kundhei-nach) and West Bengal (Danger Putul nach).

Shadow Puppet

Shadow Puppet
Shadow puppets are cut-out figures which were traditionally made of animal skin. These are held between a source of light and a translucent screen. Light is directed on the screen from behind, in a way that the shadow of the puppet falls on it. The puppet cutouts have cane sticks attached vertically to them, for handling and manipulation. Shadow puppets are popular in Andhra Pradesh (Tholu Bommalata), Karnataka (Togalu Gombeyata), Kerala (Tolpavakoothu), Maharashtra (chamadyache Bahulya), Orissa, and Tamil Nadu (Tolpavaikoothu).


String Puppet
String puppets are also known as marionettes. They have a body and limbs that allow movement. String puppets are made of wood, or wire, or cloth stuffed with cotton, rags or saw dust. Strings are attached to various parts of the puppet’s body, and the puppeteer controls the puppet by loosening or pulling the strings. String puppets are popular in the states of Andhra Pradesh (Koyya Bommalata), Assam (Putala Nach), Karnataka (Sutrada Gombeyata), Maharashtra (Kalasutri Bahulya), Rajasthan (Kathputli), Orissa (Gopalila), Tamil Nadu (Bommalatam) and West Bengal (Tarer or Sutor Putul).

The ones shown on KBC were glove puppets, made of wood and they were actually 150 years old.

There are different puppet traditions in India. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Kerala, Assam, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal are some states where puppetry is still alive and all these places follow a different tradition altogether. You can read more about this at this site - Pavai

Puppetry can be used in the development of speech, reading, hearing and motor-control in spastic children. It can also be used to encourage artistic and creative abilities in kids - like drawing, painting, needlework, carpentry, composing music, writing songs and stories.


  1. The KBC had done a nice thing to promote Puppetry in india. The best of puppetry comes from the voice over. It is something that ads to the drama. The use of lights and colors. it is a very different form of stage and one can do a lot of inovative things using it. Sharing one of such great works done by MPTourism recently.

  2. Thanks for sharing the video, its one of my favourite ads infact! But its not an example of puppetry but its a different art form popular in India called Hand Shadow Art. I think its most popular in Bengal. Another art that incorporates shadow is a form of sand animation, mostly popular in Orissa and Bengal. Infact India's Got Talent once featured such a group, sharing link with you -


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