Shadow puppetry

Art was born out of human need to communicate. Various art forms like painting, dance, music and puppetry were prevalent and powerful media of expression. Puppetry being a significant one among them has been pre-dominant for long and overtime it has evolved into many forms. One such form is shadow puppetry. As the name reveals, in shadow puppetry, the messengers are shadows. Unlike the usual form of puppetry, which was prevalent in Rajasthan, shadow puppetry was prevalent in many states of south India. Also shadow puppets are not as whole and colorful as the usual ones; instead they are paper-cut with their joints such that they can be freely operated by threads.

A shadow puppet theatre consists of a white screen on which the shadows of the puppets are projected using lamps. Wonderful effects can be generated by moving the light source and the puppets. The color of the light source was used to enhance the act. For instance, red color was flashed for war scenes. The interesting part is yet to come. One must remember that all this happened centuries ago. So, they couldn’t have switched on and off multi-colored laser lights for such effects. Where else did they bring color from? How could they have colored their light? This is where beauty surfaces. They had actually flashed white light through colored cloth for obtaining colored light. Not just light but this art form faced many other challenges. In shadow puppetry only the profile of the puppet is visible. To overcome this limitation shadow puppetry was excessively dramatized. They are elegantly sculpted and take as many as 3000 cuts. Beauty of this art form lies in the method adopted for differentiating characters. In shadow puppetry this is achieved using their character wise features. For instance, a peacock feather stuck to the hair implies Lord Krishna, a ten headed image meant Ravana and a woman seated on a lotus flower meant Goddess Lakshmi.

Even though shadow puppetry is different from the usual puppet shows, its use and importance in the society is same as that of the traditional one. Puppet shows were a medium of communication. To know more about traditional puppetry and its importance click here! Shadow puppeteers of India still follow Indian tradition and customs in their acts. Being one among the dying arts, shadow puppetry is prevalent in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu .

Sahana Shankar

Content intern at The Fishbowl Network
Hey, This is Sahana.. I am now doing my B.tech in civil engineering at NIT Trichy.. I enjoy books and music.. I also like creative writing and do a lot of playing with words! I would encourage reviews and comments..

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  1. […] Puppetry is one among the traditional art forms of India. Weaved to life by the hands of a puppeteer, a puppet recites a long told epic. The artist moves in the shadows, but speaks out loud through his puppets. It is through the puppeteer that the breath of life is breathed into a puppet. When it comes to puppets like bunraku puppets, which are big wood carved dolls, it requires as much as three puppeteers to handle one puppet. The head puppeteer handles the head, the face and the right hand of the puppet while a second puppeteer operates the left hand and a third one takes care of the legs. Harmonious working of puppeteers is required for the natural movement of the puppet. A puppeteer’s hands are like the spine of a puppet.  This expressive art later developed into many different forms. Puppetry forms like shadow puppetry and hand puppetry are some examples. To know more on shadow puppetry click here! […]