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Leather Puppetry - TVAMI

Leather Puppetry

“The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it.”-Joseph Campbell.

Art and Craftwork have been a medium throughout the history to convey and communicate emotions. Art form being an integral part of culture has educated us with timeless traditions and history. The Leather Puppets have been a part of entertainment not only for the rustic people but also for the urbanites. The mythological stories and the traditions they display are a form of cultural expression.

In the darkness of night, a play of light on a translucent screen accompanied with poetry recitation brings out the unexpected alluring beauty of these puppets. Ranging from Ramayana leather puppets to lampshades and elephant puppets, all these are a part of cultural heritage accompanied by new and contemporary designs.


The Leather Puppetry is a traditional art of oral history recitation, which originated during 17th century in the village of Nimmmalakunta in Andhra Pradesh. It is widely known as Tolu Bommalu or Tolu Bommalatta in Telugu. Started with just a medium of entertainment for local people, this art-form later developed as a prominent shrine, used to convey epics from Hindu mythology and folklore. The shadow puppetry is still prevalent in Andhra Pradesh.


The puppets are made from the integument of Goats and Sheep. The untainted skin is soaked in pits of lime water for two weeks. After being drenched, the surface is then cleaned with a knife to get a smooth sheeny surface. Again, the skin is soaked in a solution of water and kadaka powder for ten days. The light-brown hide is then is decorated with beautiful paintings following by an outlined-border, which adds life to the characters. Lastly, the eyes of the puppets are painted to give them an exuberant look. Majorly, Vegetable dyes are used as colors, which make puppets bright and gleaming.

What makes it special?

Vividly painted leather puppets used in puppet shows narrate a sequence of epics, educating people and making them aware of their traditions. Puppets shows are a part of cultural heritage and, are organized by merging many art forms such as painting, engraving, poetry, oral recitation, dance and music, acting and storytelling through puppets. When held in front of a light source, these puppets create dynamic-animated effects, which is a traditional way of narrating episodes of divinity from Hindu epics.

Being an interior decor with appealing shadow effects, the new age leather lampshades are a beautiful creation of this traditional art. This art is also used to make trendy jewelries.

The future

The art of making puppetry dates back to centuries and is now being carried forward by descendants of artisans. The prevalence of this art is now dwindled due to the advent of various technological forms of entertainment. As urbanization took over, the art is on the wane. With fewer people interested in puppets, the artisans have creativity diversified this art form by giving it a modern touch. The art form is now used to make fashionable jewels, accessories and home decors.

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