Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Thiruvathirai Nombu –Arudra Darishanam

Thiruvathirai or Arudhra Darisanam is a Hindu sacred festival celebrated widely in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Thiruvathirai is the nakshtram or the star in Tamil which is also known as Arudhra in Sanskrit and other Indian languages. In Tamil means "sacred big wave", using which this universe was created by Lord Shiva about 132 trillion years ago goes the legend.

According to legends, this is the day when Lord Shiva performed his blissful dance that energies the whole world to his two adherent devotees- Vyagrapadha and Adi Sesha. The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva represents five activities-Creation, Protection, Destruction, Embodiment and Release.

One more legend goes that there was Maharishi named 'Karagavanam' who wanted to destroy Lord Shiva sent all kinds of weapons, endangered species. Lord Shiva welcomed them and wore as ornaments and performed the cosmic dance.

Every year Arudhra Darshan is celebrated in the month of Margazhi or Dhanur masam(December-January) on a Full moon day which is the longest night of the year. At Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, annual festival called Brahmostavam is held for Lord Nataraja. Lord Nataraja’s Five Sabhas or abode are quite famous known as Pancha Sabha. They are 1) Kanakasabha (Gold) - at Chidambaram (Thillai or Tillai), 2) Velli Sabhai (Silver) at Madurai, 3) Ratnasabha (Ruby) at Tiruvalankadu, 4) Tamrasabha (Copper) at Tirunelveli, 5) Chitrasabha (Pictures) at Kutralam. In Thillai Chidambaram 10 day Festival is held during Thiruvathirai. On the 9th day night (i.e., 10th day very early morning) Maha Abhishekam will be done to Lord Nataraja and Goddess Sivakamasundari at Raja Sabhai at around 3 am. The MahaAbhishekam will be held for about 3–4 hours.

Then special Thiruvabaranam (Sacred Jewels) Alankaram, Rahasiya Puja will be done to Sri Natarajar. Pancha Murthi Thiruveethi Ula, will be held at around 12 pm Noon. Soon after Pancha Murthi Ula in the afternoon Lord Natarajar and Goddess Sivakami will bless devotees with Aarudra Darisanam and enter Kanaka Sabhai (Golden Sabha).

Tamil hymns of Maanikavasagar's Thiruvasagam:

The hymns Thiruvempavai and Thiruppalliezhuchi are chanted in all the Shiva temples all through Margazhi masam. On the very day of Thiruvathirai the idols of Nataraja (Lord Shiva) and his consort Shivagami-the Goddess Parvati is taken out of the temple premises for a grand procession. It is one of the major events in almost all the Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu.

Thiruvathirai Nombu: Nombu in Tamil meaning fasting or vratham or sacred fasting led worship. In Tamil Nadu, the unmarried women will fast during the daytime. They will take food before sunrise and start their fasting. They will break the fast after witnessing the moon rise. Some do Nombu (fasting) for all ten days and ends on Thiruvathirai day.

It is believed that married women observes this Nombu for the longevity life of their husbands life and unmarried woman or young girls observe to beget good husband. On this day, married women also change their sacred yellow mangalya thread called ‘Charadu’ which is tied during wedding. The unmarried young girls are tied with a thin Nombu charade on the right hand wrist.

Thiruvathira in Kerala

In Kerala, the festival is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shiva. Thiruvathira in Malayalam is Thiruvathirai nakshatra or star as per the Malayalam calendar of Lord Shiva. Another belief is that the festival commemorates the death of Kamdeva, the Hindu god of erotic desire. In Kerala, Thiruvathira is an important traditional festival along with the other popular festivals, Onam and Vishu.

This has been celebrated by the Nambuthiri, Kshatriya and Nair communities of Kerala from days of yore. It is largely a festival for women; unmarried women observe a partial fast on this day to get good husbands and married women take a fast from the preceding day Makayiram nakshatra and on the day of Thiruvathira for the well being of their husbands and family. The first Thiruvathira of a newly wedded woman is her Poothiruvathira.

In Kerala, the fast involves abstaining from rice-based food. The typical meal includes cooked broken wheat and Thiruvathira puzhukku, a delightful mix of tuber vegetables: colocasia –(chembu), yam (chena), Chinese potato (koorka), sweet potato (madhurakizhangu) with long beans (vanpayar) and raw plantain or banana fruit (ethakaya), cooked with a thick paste of freshly ground coconut. The dessert is koova payasam, a sweet dish made of arrowroot powder, jaggery and coconut milk.

Thiruvathirakali in Kerala is a dance form performed by women on the day of Thiruvathira to the accompaniment of Thiruvathira paattu meaning folk songs telling tales of lovesick Parvati, her longing and penance for Lord Shiva's affection and Shiva's might and power. The graceful movements executed by the group of dancers around a nilavilakku embodies lasya or the passionate charm and grace of the feminine. The dance follows a circular, pirouetting pattern accompanied by clapping of the hands and singing.

Thiruvathirakali in Tamil Nadu

Thirvathirai kali is a special pudding prepared as an offering to Lord Nataraja. Then Ezhu Kootu- it is a savory dish prepared with seven vegetables and pulses namely-raw banana, sweet patato, yam,yellow pumpkin, broad beans, beans, cluster beans, okra, brinjal, colocasia, mochai (Lima beans or butter beans) and so on. Thiruvathirai kali is a special pudding prepared.

There goes another story behind this pudding preparation- There was a very poor devotee of Lord Shiva nmed Sendanar. He did uncondition service to mankind and the temples. To test his sinecerity of devoition Lord Shiva in disguise went to his house and asked for food to eat. As this devotee had very little edible rice flour and some jaggery, he mixed the same in prepared apudding with best of his devotion and offered it to Lord Shiva. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva accepted it also made it known to the ruling king and the world about Sendanar’s unparallel devotion and service to the mankind.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Puthalika Patrika- Volume 1 Issue no 3 January 2020

India, a land of rich culture, traditional ethos and values is perceived as land the most dangerous country in the world for women has reignited the country's ongoing debate over women’s safety over high incidences of sexual violence, lack of access to justice in rape cases, child marriage, female feticide and human trafficking. Where are we heading?, what are we doing?, are we addressing the issues and generating awareness of respecting women?…. endless questions arise with bleak or no solution. Our folk arts and folklore did address issues relating to women, societal norms and values.

I wonder, why did the traditional puppeteers performed episodes from Ramayana and Mahabharat? Are the episodes from the epics act as a guiding force? Was it to reinforce the common masses about the essential ethics to be followed for the harmonious living?, or as a community counseling of changing scenario, the mindsets of the people?

There must have been a good reason for adapting stories from the epics and Puranas-be it Sita Harana (Kidnapping of Sita), Draupadi Manabhangam (disrobing of Draupadi in the court), stories of Satya Harichandra, all acted as a guiding force and stood as a correction centre. Through the puppet performance, the puppeteers connected and compared the scenarios in the present day context.

Through the puppet plays and other folk art forms, common masses were sensitized on the sensitive issues periodically and strengthened the morality.

Maybe there is a need to restructure and re-strengthen our arts forms for our own benefits.

In this Issue:

Page-1-2 : Traditional Puppetry of Kerala State, India

Page-3-4 : T. Rangarajan-Storyteller, Theatre Artist and Sri Vaishnava Scholar

Page-4-5: Natyashastra guiding encyclopedia of Indian Traditional Puppetry

Page5-7:Role of Puppetry in School education

Page-7-8: DIY Tiger Puppet making

Safe New Year 2020!!

Yet another challenging year for all puppet lovers to explore in the field of puppetry enhancing the rich tradition, cultural ethos towards strengthening safe society for one and all.


Padmini Rangarajan

Traditional Puppetry of Kerala State, India

Puppetry is an art form in which the performance is carried over by the inanimate objects called puppets, a lot resembling a human or animal figure, that are manipulated by an artist called as puppeteer.

In Kerala puppets are of different kinds, such as ‘Nool Pava Koothu’ - String Puppets controlled either by threads or hands. In some areas sticks are also used for the same and such puppets are known as Rod Puppets‘Pava Kathakali’- known as glove or hand puppets. There is one more kind of puppetry known as ‘Nokku Vidya Pava Kali’- the puppets are perched atop a pole that rests vertically on the upper lip of the puppeteer squatting on the floor wherein the small puppet is balanced in between nose and lips and is moved accordingly. A rare kind indeed. Then of course, the most popular puppetry form in Kerala is the shadow puppetry or Tholpavakoothu’ or ‘Nizhalpaavakoothu’, in which shadow of puppets is shown through the white curtain placed in front the puppets in earthen lamp lights.

Nool Pava Koothu perhaps this one of the oldest puppet forms prior to Pava Kathakali thrived up to the early 20th century in the region of Ernakulum and around the temple of Tripunithura, where the puppeteer-showmen performed every year during religious festivals. However, these puppets remain under the care and custody of a royal family.

The puppeteers belong to the Nair community. Today Nool Pava Koothu performances have disappeared, but there are still forty-five puppets kept safely in the temple of Tripunithura. Pava Kathakali is the miniature depiction of Kathakali form with puppets. Puppets dressed in Kathkali costume and looks stunning during the performance. Absence of screen and live fire during a performance mesmerizes the audience. On the other hand, one can watch Pava Kathakali and Thol Pava Koothu performances even today.

Thanks to the brave young generation for shouldering the responsibility of preserving and promoting the art form and keeping it breathing. With regard to Nokku Vidya Pava Kali it is only performed by the K. S. Ranjini granddaughter of Moorzhikal Pankajakshi. On the other hand, Tholpavakoothu on Kambar Ramayana is performed by Pulavar brothers. It entailed anecdotes from Rama’s journey to the forests to his coronation.


Loss of - Thol Pavai Koothu artist Kalaimamani R. Kuppusamy

Puducherry based shadow puppeteer Kalaimamani R Kuppusamy passed away after a prolong illness at his hometown in the Union territory. A ninth-generation shadow puppeteer he breathed his last in November 2018. He was 60. He was battling duodenum cancer over the last two years. He managed Rajappa Tholpavai Koothupattarai until his health deteriorated. He is survived by a son and daughter. (Source-Times of India-Puducherry Novemeber 13, 2019).


“Katha Sangraha”- Call for short stories to be featured in Puthalika Patrika. The best Stories will be awarded and adapted for our in-house production.

लोकत्र यविरत्नताक तन्त्रवास्तु
प्रस्तावन प्रतिसमपनसुत्रधरः

T. Rangarajan- A Storyteller, Theatre artist and Scholar

नारायण त्रिभुवनैक परायणो व:, पायादु पायशतयुक्थिकर: सुराणां, लोक त्रायाविरत नाटक तन्त्रवस्तु, प्रस्थना प्रतिसमापन सुत्रधार:

“Saviour of Gods, vanquisher of evil, One and only last resort of the three worlds. O’ Narayana, the string holder of the perennial drama of life, with the universe as its stage, I humbly bow before you; protect us all! “ O’ Narayana, You are the string holder – Sutradhara-of the perpetual drama of life enacted on the stage of the universe from its beginning to end”—Dutaghatotvakacham Bhasa.

“योवन्त प्रवॆश्य मम वाचं एम्म प्रसुक्तं संजीव यति अकिल शक्ति दर स्वधामन, अन्नयं च हस्त चरण श्रवण तवक्क अदीन, प्रनान नमो भगवते पुरुषाय तुम्भ्यं”

The above Shloka which little Dhruva pronounced after he attained Sri Hari’s vision in the midst of dense forest during - Shri T. Rangarajan, began to narrate the story of “Little Dhruva”. Within the same same story there was a sudden twist and yet another story. So, one could easily get to learn 4-5 short stories within the main story. Filled with humor, satire, voice modulation to inculcate strong confidence in young children. Just a normal conversation leads to storytelling for Shri. T. Rangarajan. ‘Our own life experiences are the best stories we can learn from’ –he opines.

Born in an orthodox conservative Iyengar Brahmin family in 1936 Shri. T. Rangarajan was exposed to religious and spiritual readings, Shloka recitation, listening to Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Thiruppavai Upanyasam discourses from younger days. His mother Rajammal fondly called by all as ‘Chitti’, use to tell short funny stories with proverbs and Tamil language saying based. So, from the beginning he was open to more of listening skill “Shravana”.

As most of the discourses were oral in nature, this helped in developing listening skill. As always, his emphasis on youngsters to listen and develop this skill well. As he grew older, he developed an inclination towards reading rich scripture books, short stories, novels in Hindi, Sanskrit, Kananda, Telugu. Tamil and English languages. High school days participated in Kannada and Sanskrit drams during school day function.

Then it was his high school senior students Shri N. B. Narayana is also known as Drama Narayana and fondly called by all as Nani. Then he became makeup Nani. It was Nani the main wire puller towards theatre, dramas and plays.

During his younger days, he was a voracious reader, good information gatherer, study about culture, cultural practice, body language, language usage, diction, pronunciation, and study the script thoroughly. Good command over languages adds for theatre passionate. He is grateful to his theatre passionate colleagues serving in Indian Railways for exposing him to various drama culture present then. He got to learn more about ‘Veera Shaivisms’ philosophy and great personalities. Similarly, his inclination towards the spiritual path from younger days also made him open to explore the great philosophy of Sri Shankararacharaya, Sri Ramanujacharya and Sri Madhvacharayas. In 1980, he gave his first Thiruppavai discourse at Hubbali. Here, it was Upanayasam – yet another form of Storytelling. The first emphasis on emotional scene, navarasa, voice modulation, theatrical gestures, pauses and space made the normal discourse filled cinematic effects, therapeutic form, the artist should be aware of Bhava, Tala and Laya.

Storytelling – be it Harikatha or discourse to make it applied form or Need to know to sing, know the lyrics well, be able to enact with a good voice, should be prepared to answer the queries or the questions related to the stories from the epics, Puranas. So, need to be good scholar all through. ‘We should feel the story and make others also feel the same. This is the effect of the ‘storytelling is a therapy’ opines T. Rangarajan.

Natyashastra guiding encyclopedia of Indian Traditional Puppetry

'Natyashastra' is a Drama Handbook of Dance and Drama by Bharatamuni in the 2nd Century. According to Shri T. Rangarajan (Storyteller, Theatre artist and Scholar), ‘Natya Veda’ is considered as Panchma Veda, i.e., the Fifth Veda created towards the recreation of mankind. It is further believed that Bharatamuni gained the Natya Veda Shastra directly from Lord Brahma and recorded it in the form of a written text manual. This is the only comprehensive guiding handbook of classical dance and theatre forms in India.

Natyashashtra handbook applies to traditional puppetry of India. The foremost reference is about the ‘Sutradhara’ who manipulates the doll or Puthali with 'Sutra'-the strings from inside. The Sutradhara literally the holder-'dhara' or manipulator and strings-the sutras: this directs to the play of God who upholds the strings of the destinies of human beings in his hands and he is the chief Sutradhara.

The 6th and 21st Chapters of Natya Shastra connect with the Indian Traditional Puppet theatre. Natya Shastra guides with regard to Puppet theatre-puppet looks, puppets and colours, costume and ornamentation, speech and emotion part, puppets movements and posture. This is called Aanghika, Vachika, Aahaarya, Sattivika and Abhinaya-which can be seen and preserved in traditional Indian Puppet theatre.

Aanghika - Movement of the limbs: Head, hand, breast, sides, waist, feet, eyes, eyebrows, lower lips, jaws and so on.

Aanghika- Movement of the limbs: Head, hand, breast, sides, waist, feet, eyes, eyebrows, lower lips, jaws and so on. Vachika- the speech connected parts. Aahaarya construction, colour, ornamentation, costume, Saatvika- the emotion. Abhinaya- the word “Abhinaya” is explained in the Natya Shastra as “Abhi” (towards), and “Naya” (to carry), or to carry the spectator towards the meaning. Abhinaya-can therefore be translated as communicating to the audience.

All the above four main components put together before the audience- Here, the emphasis on the ‘Postures’-Standing or Reclining Postures, Sitting Postures with the supportive Hasta movements known as the hand gestures.

Nevertheless, the adaptation from the Natyashastra by the traditional puppeteers is within the limitation of puppet form and style.

Role of Puppetry in School Education:

Puppetry as an inexpensive teaching tool provides teachers with one of the most powerful teaching aids in the classroom. The benefits from puppets are numerous. They let children into an imaginary world. This is foremost important brain exercise or activity which developed well to enhance learning skills. Working with puppets helps to check emotional stability. The teacher will know the ‘real-self’ student/s and their emotional problems. Children learn to learn from themselves with cooperation when working in a small group to produce their own puppet play. There are many openings for sequencing, organizing, verbalizing, sorting information and gaining self-confidence. In a nutshell, a puppet based learning helps students in thinking, approach, writing, how to work in collectives, and most importantly to express freely and learning without fear.

A good opportunity for teachers to teach subjects and languages effectively using puppets. The Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) provides a comprehensive and an integrated training in the preparation, manipulation and production of such puppet programmes which may be used in a variety of formal and non formal teaching situations. This training programme is held in all the four centres-Delhi (North), Udaipur (West), Hyderabad (South) and Gowahati (East) all through the year.

Some of the teachers who get trained put into practice and train other teachers too. Recently, Ms. Pushpa, Mrs Kusuma Nagaraj, Mr. Lakwinder Singh, Mr. Saravanan, Mr. Phunde, Mr. Swaraj Kumar Sen, Ms. Mahamaya Biswas, and many others have applied puppetry in academics and non- academic teaching and received accolades for their work. This pushes the zeal of the trainers too.

Recently, Mrs Kusuma Nagaraj School Assistant and CRP Incharge of Padumpanambur Cluster organized for two day workshop on “Role of Puppetry in School Education” at UBSC Government School Haleyanagadi, Udupi, Mangaluru, Karnataka State on December 13-14, 2019. First hand experience on making and manipulating of puppets by 30 teachers and students. 

UBSC School students from Haleangadi, Udupi, Mangaluru, Karnataka made these finger puppets from felt fabric material. 

Once comfortable to do with chart sheets than can try in felt fabric materials. Can use hot glue or fabric glue. Stitching with a needle and thread is recommended for longer stay. It is a good activity for primary school students of class IIIrd onwards. They get to learn one more skill.

Shri. K. Saravanan, Headmaster, Dr. T. Tirugnanam Primary School, Madurai, Tamil Nadu uses Puppets during weekend to create social and educational awareness. Puppet plays on ‘Child Care and protection’, ‘Good Touch and Bad Touch’ and ‘sex education’ has received good response within the vicinity of the school. Recently, his works were well captured by both print and electronic news media.

Thus, there is an ample scope for the exploration of the use of puppets in the present Nanotechnological stage.

DIY Puppet making

Things You’ll Need:

1. 14 X 14cmschart sheet paper or craft sheet paper of yellow or orange colour.

2. Black sketch or marker

3. Scissors and White glue

4. Half the 14X14cms, colour chart sheet paper or craft sheet paper of yellow or orange.

5. Black sketch or marker

6. Scissors and White glue. 

Now Steps: 

1. On the chart sheet draw the face of the character: Tiger for instance. For this draw a small circle.
Within the circle draw two small circles for the eyes.
2. In the two small circles now draw two smaller circles and fill with black colour for eyeballs. Draw two leaves like shape for two ears on the either side of the big circle.
3. Draw a numerical ‘3’ upside down for the nose. Mark the center point with a small black circle. Then either side, draw small black dots and draw whiskers.
4. Draw a small ‘U’ below the nose for mouth.
5. Tigers have black stripes. Now make small stripes with black sketch pen on the forehead. Then on the both the cheeks.
6. Then cut the face of the tiger-cut along the outline well with both the ears intact.
7. For making it into a finger puppet body- we need to make a roll. For this take the remaining yellow colour sheet and measure the size of the one’s index finger. This is the length of the finger puppet.
8. Now make a roll of the sheet of one’s index finger size. And secure the ends with glue.
9. Glue the tiger cut face of the top of the body. Then mark stripes on the body too.
10.Cut one strip in yellow sheet and draw stripes on it and fix it on the back of the body for tiger’s tail.

Ola!! The Tiger Finger puppet is ready!!

Similarly, try making giraffe, frog, lion or even elephant and have fun. Send us your Finger Puppet pictures to get featured in the Puthalika Patrika magazine.


Artists, Art lovers, Parents, Teachers, anyone passionate towards traditional and folk arts are welcome to contribute articles for Puthalika Patrika Puppetry News Magazine

For enquiries about Storytelling, storytelling with puppets, Puppet shows, puppet making workshop and customized puppet making contact:

Editor: Padmini Rangarajan

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Puthalika Patrika-Volume 1 Issue 2 December 2019

Ever wonder what these wonderful puppets do in the nights? Do they sleep, or play or plan for next day morning? Or how to escape from from their master puppeteers? Well, such questions push me to explore more into the world of puppetry.

In this Issue:

Page-1: Odisha-The land of all forms of Puppets 

 Page-2: Sri M.R. Ranganatha Rao ‘Bheeshmapethamaha’ of Traditional Puppetry of Karnataka

Page-3- Role of Sutradhara in Traditional Indian Puppetry

Page-4: DIY puppet making

Best Regards

Padmini Rangarajan

Odisha-The land of all forms of Puppets

Odisha is the only blessed region in India where all four forms of puppetry flourish-Shadow Puppetry – popularly known as ‘Ravan Chhaya’, Rod Puppetry- ‘Kathi Kundhei nach’ or ‘Kundhei nata’, String Puppet- ‘Suta Kandhei nach or ‘Danger Kandhei nach’ and Glove puppet known as a ‘Sakhi Kandhei nata'.

The traditional puppet performance, an amalgamation of dance, drama and songs, begins with an invocation prayer called Sthuti followed by the Sutradhara. Sutradhara is the stage director/narrator who introduces the episode to be enacted from the epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, or from the Puranas. String and Rod puppets carved out of wood are around 60 -70 centimeters in height and dressed in typical the Odisha style. The puppets have joints at the shoulders, and the shoulder joints are connected with strings inside the torso of the puppet to two rings, which are pulled to move the characters’ arms. According to an eminent scholar in Odisha puppetry Dr. Gouranga Charan Dash who opines that the shadow cast is symbolism to evil and divinity cast no shadow. Rama being a symbol of divinity cannot cast shadows, hence ‘Rabana’ is the hero of the Ramayana play. Ravan Chhaya puppets are made out of deerskin varying from 6 inches to 2 feet. The puppets are not coloured, have no joints and have perforations that outline their figures and costumes. The unique feature of Ravan Chhaya the puppet form of Rabana is much larger than that of Rama with greater dramatic impact. Puppeteers sit on the ground behind a screen. Multitasking musicians play drums, cymbals, and reed instruments, including the Indian clarinet and flute, harmonium. The traditional puppet play of Odisha includes short satirical skits or scene sequences about class and caste structure prevailing in the society in between the epic narratives. The real crisis of Ravana Chhaya today is the inaccessibility to leather. Ravana Chhaya puppet requires leather from deer, Blackbuck, Antelope and Wild boar. All these animals come under the Wild Life protection act.

Sri M. R. Ranganatha Rao ‘Bheeshmapethamaha’ of Traditional Puppetry of Karnataka

Sri Ranganatha Rao -86 years young, winner of the Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1981) and many more, revived the traditional puppetry style performed by his maternal grandfather Sri. Narasing Rao by renaming it as ‘Rangaputhali’ style. His journey in puppetry is similar to Eklavya’s training in archery in the absence of the Guru or the teacher. A government school teacher by profession switched over to take up traditional puppet performance after meeting Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. Sri Narasing Rao, who was the “Asthana” or court puppeteer in the Mysuru Palace, Mysuru. Backed by an academic background in drama and theatre and a career as a schoolteacher, it was natural for Ranganatha Rao to use puppets as a medium of expression to teach children in school. Mr. Ranganatha Rao hails from Magadi Taluk, Ramnagar district, Karnataka. He is multi-talented; he crafts these beautiful wooden puppets and is an adept puppeteer, lyricist, music composer and storyteller. He is the Founder and the Director of ‘Sri Rangaputli Kalaranga’- a Puppet theatre and training institute. He has travelled extensively all over the world. He has participated and performed at various International festivals. The ancient art form is taking new directions and visibility. He has been an instrumental as a serious revivalist in reviving the art of Puppetry by teaching, supporting students and art lovers from all walks of life. He has crafted miniature doll theater called Rasalok, at the Bimba Art Hut in Basavangudi, Bangalore, the theater is run by a very accomplished dancer is his student. Sri Dattatreya Aralikatte, a Sangeet Natak Academy Award (2016) and founder head of "Putthali Kalaranga" (Puppet Theater), Bangalore, Smt. Anupama Hoskere- Sangeet Natak Academy Award (2018), Founder Director of Dhaatu Puppet organization, Bengaluru are his disciples. Apart from the above, he has trained and established nine puppet troupes in Karnataka.

Manjamma Jogati, the Renowned Jogati Nritya performer is the Karnataka Janapada Academy Chairperson—a visible transformation.


“Katha Sangraha”- Call for short stories that will be featured in Puthalika Patrika. The best Stories will be awarded and adapted for our in-house production.

Role of Sutradhara in Traditional Indian Puppetry

The traditional Indian Puppetry upholds similarity in the puppet performance. The must of the ‘Sutradhara’ – narrator/ Stage manager and ‘Vidushaka’ –the clown The other commonalities are the ‘Sutradhara’ – narrator/ Stage manager and ‘Vidushaka’ –the clown characters in the puppet performances along with the interlacing of text, sound, rhythm and movement.

Sri Purandhara Dasa (1484-1564) - He was a composer, singer and one of the chief founders of South Indian classical Carnatic music. The great Haridasa of Karnataka State has composed numerous songs in a simple Kananda language on the Almighty. One such song is “Bombe atta vaiya, Brahmandave aa deva naduva”. It means that ‘it is a doll play of the Almighty’-who upholds all the strings and manipulates accordingly.

The classical Indian drama components: verses, poetry, music, and dance. The importance given to the sound of the words used as dialogue rendition than the action or the narrative; thus, the performance of a classical drama was essentially an enactment of verses and poetry. In the old classic Sanskrit drama plays Prakruth language is also used. Pakruth language known as a language of common people and Sanskrit the official language of nobles, Gods, aristocrats’. Here, the key role performed by the narrator is to enact through gestures and a comedy sequence translate the Sanskrit dialogue rendition by the characters to the audience in the language of the mass.

Natyashastra of Bharatamuni, an early writer on dramaturgy describes the traits of Sutradhara. The Sutradhara is a male character, must be proficient in playing the various musical instruments and songs, should be an expert in theatrical speech, steps, and movements and roles of different characters, highly conversant with tala, rasa and bhava.

In the traditional puppet performance, the Sutradhara puppet occupied the innermost place on stage in the purvaranga –Preplay rituals- invocation rendition- of prayer, worshipping ‘Lord Ganesha’. Then greets the audience, greets and garlands the village headman/men by inviting him on the main stage and introduces the play. It is an indication of the commencement of the play. Similarly, the Sutradhara enters at the closure of uttaranga – Post Play rituals.

Earlier traditional puppet play performance lasted for 6-8 hours depending upon the nature of the play and main highlights. Hence, every play had a leisure interval break during when the Sutradhara puppet welcomed the village, noble, patrons or headmen if any, who joined, the play in the middle and briefed about the play the performance.

Secondly, again, a practice that the village head and nobles honour the puppeteer troupe or individual character has enthralled the audience by presenting a sum of amount as a token of appreciation. Further, the Sutradhara Puppet here again, summons up the conclusion of the play, extends vote of thanks to the audience and village nobles and headmen if any present during the play.

DIY Puppet making:

Things You’ll Need:
A small size paper cup, yellow and orange colour chart paper -A4 size.
Chrome Yellow colour paint (Poster or acrylic)
Black colour sketch pen, Glue stick or glue drops.
Pair of scissors (young learners to use scissors under the supervision of adult/s).


1. Colour the paper cup with chrome yellow paint and allow it to dry.

2. Cut a circle to make a Lion’s face using a bangle or a geometrical compass from yellow colour chart paper.

3. With orange colour chart cut out lion’s mane- either in the shape of long strips to get hairy look or like a petal shape. Multiple layers of long strips cut to give the mane look.

4. Glue the long stripes or petal shaped cut all around the yellow circle.

5. Next, draw lion’s eyes and nose.

6. Fix two semi circle on the top of the circle to make ears.

7. Stick the lion’s face to the yellow cup.

8. Then make a lion’s tail and front legs by cutting thin yellow and orange

9. colour sheets and fix it to the paper cup.

With a thin stripe make a loop and fix it on the back of the paper cup to inset index finger. Ola!! The lion paper cup puppet is ready!!

Happy Puppet Making


Artists, Art lovers, Parents, Teachers, anyone passionate towards traditional and folk arts are welcome to contribute articles for Puthalika Patrika Puppetry News Magazine

For enquiries about Storytelling, storytelling with puppets, Puppet shows, puppet making workshop and customized puppet making contact:

Editor: Padmini Rangarajan

Saturday, 23 November 2019

KadleKai Parishe - Peanuts Fair or Jatara

Karthika Masa last Monday (as per Kannada Hindu Almanac) is a fair time at Basavanagudi, Bengaluru South, Karnataka. Kadlekai Parishe is the fair or Jatara held annually. Kadle Kai in Kannada means –Peanuts or Groundnuts. This is actually a two day fair or jatara now extended to four days or so. The whole of the Bull temple road, backside of BMS Engineering college road, and surrounding areas around 5 km is occupied by the peanut vendors.

There are two famous temples on the bull temple road-the Dodda Ganesha Temple and the Dodda Basava temple in Basavanagudi. Apart from the peanuts or groundnuts, there are numerous stalls in the fair, selling Bangles, clay pots, traditional toys and clay trinkets, plastic and glass dolls, food courts, Mehndi tattoos.

The legend story behind Kadlekai Parishe goes like this, in the past, Basavanagudi was surrounded by villages like Sunkenahalli, Guttahalli, Mavalli, Dasarahalli and other places where peanuts or groundnut crop was cultivated. On every full moon day a bull would charge into the groundnut fields and damage the crop. The farmers then offered prayers to Basava (Nandi) to stop this and pledged to offer their first crop.

‘Basava or the Bull or the Nandi’ as it is known in India. The Bull is the vehicle of Lord Shiva, known as Nandi. Nandeeshvara- is another name for Lord Shiva. So, in every Shiva temple, one can see Nandi or the bull seated before the Sanctrorum. It is said that one has to take Nandi or the bull’s permission to visit Shiva to offer prayers. All the wish fulfilling are whispered in Nandi o the bull’s ear.

Subsequently, after some days, an idol of Basava –the bull was found nearby the farmers. It is believed that, the idol was growing rapidly, and the farmers nailed an iron peg on the head of the idol, which is visible in the form of a trishula even to this date. Legend says that even today one can witness the night on which this Kadalekai Parishe ends, Lord Basavanna - The big Bull, used to come in the animal form and eat up all the groundnut and peels left overnight on the streets.

Yet another legend goes like this: founder of Bangalore Kempe Gowda had come to the temple and learnt about the story. He had prayed for the welfare of the farmers at the temple, there he had a vision of a treasure which he acquired later was used to build a temple based on the architecture of Hampi of Vijayanagar empire. Incidentally, the big Bull Temple or the Basava Temple is on the hillock near Bugle Rock in Basavanagudi.

Farmers from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana states and locals offer their first crop to the Lord Basava. During this time, every year, 100,000 lamps are lit in the Bull temple. This is accompanied by the annual fair for groundnuts. The entire Bull Temple Road will host the festive look during this time. The road is blocked from Bugle Rock to Ramakrishna Mutt.

The groundnut lovers find a great variety of groundnuts from Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Kolar, Doddaballapur, Ramnagara and few areas of Telengana in Andhra Pradesh. The ground nuts are spiced, fried, salted, boiled, sugar coated, roasted.

Since last year or so, the organizers have appealed the public to carry or bring their own cloth bags as to cut down plastic bag usage and a ban on plastic bags. This has definitely benefitted both the organisers the public and greatly cut down on plastic usage.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

PUTHALIKA PATRIKA- Puppetry News Magazine Volume 1 Issue 01 Novemeber 2019

Sphoorthi Theatre is glad to come up to a Puppetry and Puppetry related  monthly E- news magazine named "PUTHALIKA PATRIKA". Puthalika in Sanskrit meaning Doll or puppets.
This is the first Vol- 1 Issue no 01, November 2019
Hope to receive good feedback for the same.

In this Issue:
Page-1 Traditional Puppetry of Telangana State, India
Page-2 Meher Contractor ‘Mother of Modern puppetry’ in India Modern Puppetry
Page-3 Humour & Comedy in Puppetry
Page-4 Puppetry in Education

Traditional Puppetry of Telangana State, India

Puppetry is the oldest form of Folk Theatre in India. India is blessed with different forms of Puppetry performed in different states. The two Telugu speaking states are blessed in abundance with this art form. Andhra Pradesh is well known for traditional ‘Shadow or Leather Puppetry’ known as ‘Tolu Bommalata’ and Telangana State is known for ‘Wooden String Puppetry known as Koyya or Chekka Bommalata’. "Koyya or Chakka" meaning a piece of wood. However, there are traces of traditional shadow or leather puppeteers troupes settlers in Nalgonda and neighbouring districts of Telangana State.

"Bommalata" meaning play of dolls-puppets. Sri. Mothe Jaganathan and troupe from Ammapur Village, Nermeta Mandal, Janagoan District and Sri. Mothe Shankar and troupe from Burugupeta village, Venkapuram Mandal, Bhupalpalli (Prof. Jayashankar) District, Telangana State, are the only two families still practicing wooden string puppets. The troupe consists of 10-12 members who are again related to each other. All artists are singers, narrators, musicians and also puppet manipulators. Most of them are men with 1-2 women accompanying during performance. The string puppetry of Telanagna State is quite unique in appearance and manipulation. Each puppet weighs 8-10 kgs. They weigh more when garments are added on top. These traditional puppeteers also perform "Vedhi Bhagavatham" which they refer to as "Yakshagana". "Yakshagana” is yet another traditional folk art of Karnataka state.

These puppets are around 150-200 years old. The group is still persevering the oldest traditional puppetry, oral narration, songs, dialogues in traditional form. However, these puppets were made by Nakashi-the traditional idol makers as ordered by Mallyala Dora-the village headman. The present group is not aware of the puppet making technique. The Puppeteers perform episodes from the Ramayana- Lava-Kusha and Mahabharath- Virata Pravam, Ali-Arjuna, Nagalok Nagkanya. Other tales form Puranas like- Bhakta Ramadasa, Bhakta Prahalada, Chanchu Lakshmi-Adi Lakshmi. They also perform from regional folktale Balanagamma, Jayantha-Jayapala, Sathyavathi Devi Katha, Kanthamathidevi Dharmanganda Story and so on.

Meher Contractor ‘Mother of Modern puppetry’ in India

Meher Contractor ‘Mother of Modern puppetry’ in IndiaThe intervention of puppet lovers has pushed to reinvent, retell, remake and experiment with the puppets and the use of modern techniques. Meher Contractor (1918-1992) popularly, known as Meherbehn was instrumental in creating a platform for contemporary or modern puppetry along with Indian puppetry arts. She is well-known for her creative work an abstract style. Sergey Vladimirovich Obraztsov (1902-1992) was a Soviet and Russian puppeteer. Many individuals and puppet theatre groups across the globe owe their establishment to Obraztsov's influence. Meher Contractor is one among them. The credit for bringing Modern Puppetry to India, and linking Indian puppeteers to the world, traditional puppetry, and so on goes to Meher Contractor. 

Ms. Contractor has performed widely and has conducted lecture-demonstrations, training programmes and seminars in many parts of the world. She has also represented India in various international puppet festivals. Since 1957 she has been actively connected with Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. She produced her most important work in the shadow play for which she received international acclaim. Some of her works were from the Ramayana, Satyavan and Savitri, and Rostam and Sohrab. Her puppet theater ‘The Key To Happiness’ on family planning was filmed by the BBC in 1971.Her artistic work in the field of modern puppetry opened up to artistic exchange, and new forms and techniques affected puppetry, introducing new styles and giving origin to a refined urban puppet theatre. 

The birth of modern troupes and the opening to the international arena created new perspectives for traditional puppetry to prosper. Meher Contractor has also adapted Puppetry in education-opening a new horizon toward application of Puppetry. She has many awards, honours and titles to her credit. She was elected Vice- President of UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette) in 1964 and again in 1976 and 1980. For her distinction work in the field of Puppet Theatre and her contribution to its enrichment, Smt. Meher Rustom Contractor received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Puppetry for 1983. She has trained many aspirants in this art form, Sri. Dadi Padumjee the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award winner in 1992 is one her student.

Humour & Comedy in Puppetry

Humour is a great boon to mankind. Humour as an essential genre is adapted in theatres across the sphere varying in cultural identity. In the traditional Indian dramas and plays-‘Vidhushaka’ plays the role of humour or comedy. Sometimes, the Sutradhara plays it to to add up satirical comedy in the play. Puppets as a comic buffoonery and clown looks behave a bit exaggerated, degradation of human and animal behaviour, creating humour situations or circumstances within the play. The role of humour in puppet plays is quite significant. The adoption or space for humour tract is to edutainment. Comedy character puppets differentiate between ethical and unethical, good or bad, just or unjust social norms and behaviour. With regard to Indian traditional puppetry retains a visual social relationship between the audience and the puppeteers as performers. 

 In Tolu Bommalata ‘Bangarakka’ plays quite bawdy character who is identified very well as one among the audience.‘Bangarakka’ along with her counterparts ‘Ketigadu’, ‘Juttupoligadu’ and ‘Poigadu’ together perform instant verbal slapstick comedy sequences. They crack wise to naughty jokes, break social norms, enact naughty gestures and of course satire too. They together perform the in the language of the commons and pass on running commentary on the society, culture and the weaknesses of the people. When only one male comic jester character appears it is named as “Killekyatha” in ‘Togalu Gombeatta’ of Karanataka. The shadow puppeteer caste name in Telugu speaking states and Karnataka is Killekyatha. 

The practice of puppeteers putting a bunch of their hair to the comic puppet character is visible even today in Karnataka. This is the belief of the puppeteers building long lasting relationship with the comic puppet character which bears the name of their caste. Again, when the humour puppet characters make an appearance, humour or witty scene expectation of the audience is quite natural. The element of the comic scene sequence is use of everyday language, specific voice of the comic character to be maintained all through, specific movement of the character and bizarre gestures that provoke laughter. 

In the traditional glove puppetry of Tamil Nadu ‘Komali’- the clown is the character similar to the looks of ‘Punch and Judy’ of English puppet theatre. Well, they also established a relationship between a clown and a fool. During the Dravidar Kazhagam movement founded by E. V. Ramasamy, fondly called Thanthai Periyar in Tamil Nadu to attain an independent nation for Dravidians called Dravida Nadu, ‘Komali’ puppet character was widely welcomed to share and comment on behalf of the audience. The beauty of the comic puppet character is that they freely establish relationship with epic characters too during the play.

Puppetry In Education:

The significance of traditional Indian puppetry was much beyond mere entertainment. Traditional puppetry acted as counseling cell, grievance cell, and a cell for social interaction. However, it did play the role of ‘Edutainment’ in the society, it was not used in total in the field of education. Puppetry in education is still at its infancy in India. Thanks to the efforts by the Meher Rustom contractor, use of puppets in education is of course mushrooming. It is widely used in western countries. A ‘Puppet’ is a movable doll or a toy or a thing that a puppeteer manipulates and brings to life. 

Puppetry encompasses the essential elements of all art forms such as –drama / theatre, sketching, drawing, sculpting, carving, molding, painting, storytelling, story board, scripting, literature, dress designing, music, dance, that facilitates students to build up creative aptitude. Studies reveal that between the age of 3-6 years a child develops physically, rationally, emotionally and also socially. The physical and mental abilities progress at a high rate during this stage. A child gains independence and self control. As the child grows quite sure to encounter ‘Stigma, bullying and discrimination’ issues in the fields of education-schools, colleges and higher education levels. Knowing or unknowingly, it is visibly practiced by children in the schools and colleges. 

The scope for puppets’ entry to address sensitive issues is very encouraging. It is more safe to convey or address any kind of sensitive matter related to the children through puppets. Puppets with the body movements provide a visual notion of expressing emotions and thoughts through the movement of hands and head backed by expressive voice of the puppeteer. According to the research studies, Puppets help teachers improve ‘student-teacher’ relationship in the classroom. This further builds up healthy interaction. A puppet as a helpful tool creates a comfortable atmosphere as part of classroom management. The potential of puppets lies in strengthening creativity. According to Jean Piaget’s theory, puppet plays help with cognitive and creative skills in young minds by forcing them to use one’s imagination. 

Puppets are effective language teachers. As puppet language is unique, and it helps both teachers and students to learn from each other clearing the blocks between them. Hence, young learners are less inhibited and do not hesitate to express or comment freely with the help of puppets. This further update to work cooperatively with peer groups. Thus, puppets build confidence in young learners, strengthen communication skills, aids in developing artistic skills, and promotes healthy social relationship.

Time for Puppet making:

Things You’ll Need:

Colour chart paper-A4 size. Can also use newspaper initially to teach young learners.
Crayons, sketch pens, Glue stick or glue.
Pair of scissors (young learners to use scissors under the supervision of adult/s).


  1. Fold a piece of coloured chart paper into 3 equal sections fold lengthwise.
  2. Glue the top flap of the section to secure the folds in place.
  3. Turn around the horizontal rectangular fold into vertical.
  4. Now, fold the rectangle into half by bringing two short edges together.
  5. Turn over the top flap down to align with the centre fold. Repeat the same on the other side. The folds are opened it looks like alphabet ‘M’ or ‘W’.
  6. Glue the two outer folds the centre on the either sides. This will look like two open pouches.
  7. The open pouches are for inserting fingers and to make the puppet ‘TALK’.
  8. Lastly, with the help of crayons, sketch pen or coloured pens draw the character you like-dog, cat, elephant, flower, and so on.
Your puppet is ready!!!

Artists, Art lovers, Parents, Teachers, anyone passionate towards traditional and folk arts are welcome to contribute articles for Puthalika Patrika Puppetry News Magazine

For enquiries about Storytelling, storytelling with puppets, Puppet shows, puppet making workshop and customized puppet making contact:

Sphoorthi Theatre –STEPARC info@sphoorthitheatre.com, sphoorthi@sphoorthitheatre.com



Saturday, 2 November 2019

Hidden Creavity in Kids needs just a friendly tap to explore

Today's blog post is after watching a toddler who is up with new games and new exploration. The observation made me to come out with a post on Art and Craft activity that would be useful to many.

Numerous arts and craft projects can connect kids and cherish their inventiveness. The toddlers 3 plus age are at run to explore everything around them. By now they also start WH questioning every action-what? Where? How, When? Who?

Engaging kids with art and crafts help in the body and social development.

Firstly,  Develop fine Motor skills:

Most arts and craft projects involve moving the hands and fingers. These movements involve fine motor skills, improve the muscle movement, and also control over movements. The skill gradually increases in defining the fineness of the activity. Over a period of time Arts and crafts activities increase liveliness in kids and with practice, manual dexterity will improve over time.
Any art or craft work is involvement of eye coordination too. It is hand-eye coordination. Starting at an early age will only make it much better. The more the children practice, the better their hand-eye coordination.

Boost up Self Esteem:

Art and craft activities create a sense of achievement or accomplishment inside kids and give a boost up to their self-esteem Teaching a kid to create something or assigning an activity to complete is the sign or indication to the teachers and parents that now the toddlers are in able to follow the instructions well and are in control.

Promotes Self Expression:

 Craft activity engagement further persuades and promotes children to express themselves. It excavates the hidden feelings and emotions in the children more so in introverted children. The enjoyment in an activity makes the child to learn to sit in a place and concentrate.

Teaches Socializing:

Interacting with other children,  parents, elders, or in neighbourbood firstly make them feel comfortable to interact about their interest. With the same zeal or spirit, the kids learn to converse, explain, socialize, and build friendships. When parents or relatives or grandparents or teachers  join the kids in their art and craft projects, it helps in strengthening their relationship.

Scope for innovation and creativity:

This is the proper platform for the kids to explore and create new things. It makes them think differently in an innovative way. This promotes the ability to solve problems and think of alternatives. In short, arts and crafts will make your kids more resourceful and multitalented.

Develops decision-making skills:

 Facing artistic challenges and overcoming, the challenges help kids in making decisions.  Correct or incorrect decision is not the question to be thought of here, it is the ability to take decisions. Once the decision is taken, if it is a correct decision, the child’s decision-making strategy improves. The decision-making ability improves the child’s ability to face other problems.

Improves Memory:

Apart from the knowledge of new shapes and colors, children also learn about patterns, figures, operation, based work, and visualization. Mechanical operated enables to visualize complex design and simplifying the same.

The child named Shreyas who resides in my neighborhood  is 3 years 1 month younger. He is fond of slides and enjoys sliding in the parks. However, building a slide other than building blocks or so is something beyond his limits. However, he did build one with throwaway matchboxes and soapboxes by gluing a sheet of a paper across which acts as a slide as well as over bridge road and so on. The bountiful of enjoyment is immeasurable.

This has made him learn the complex concept like distance, height and position.

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