- Earliest reference to the art of puppetry is found in Tamil classic Silappadikaaram written around the 1st or 2nd cen BC.
- Stories adapted from puranic literature, local myths and legends usually form the content of traditional puppet theatre in India.
Types of Puppet
- They flourish in Rajasthan, Odisha, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
- Rajasthan: Here they are known as Kathaputli. They are carved from a single piece of wood and wear medieval Rajasthani style of dress.
- Odisha: Here they are known as Kundhei. They have no legs with long flowing skirts. Their costumes resemble to those worn by actors of the Jatra traditional theatre.
- Karnataka: Here they are known as Gombeyatta. They are styled and designed like the characters of Yakshagana, the traditional theater form of the region.
- Tamil Nadu: Here they are known as Bommalattam. They combine the techniques of both rod and string puppets. The Bommalattam puppets are the heaviest and most articulate of all traditional Indian marionettes. A puppet may be upto 4.5 feet and weigh 10 kgs.
- They are flat figures, cut out of leather and treated to make it translucent. They are pressed against the screen with a strong source of light behind it. Shadow puppets tradition survives in Odisha, Kerela, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
- Karnataka: The shadow theatre of Karnataka is called Togalu Gombeyatta.
- Andhra Pradesh: Here it is known as Tholu Bommalata. The puppets are large in sizes. The themes of the play are derived from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas.
- Odisha: Here it is known as Ravanachhaya.
- They are an extension of Glove puppet but supported by rods from below. This form is mostly found in West Bengal and Odisha.
- West Bengal: Here it is known as Putul Nautch. They are costumed like the actors of Jatra, a traditional theatre forms prevalent in the state.
- Bihar: Here it is known as Yampuri.
- They are known as hand, sleeve or palm puppets. The tradition of glove puppets is popular in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Kerela. In Uttar Pradesh, glove puppet plays usually present social themes, whereas in Odisha plays are based on stories of Radha and Krishna and the main instrument is Dholak.
- Kerela: Here it is known as Pavakoothu. It came into existence during 18th century due to the influence of Kathakali. The theme of the plays is either Ramayana or Mahabharata.