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Tholu Bommalata - The Puppeteers of Andhra Pradesh

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Tholu means leather in Telugu and bommalu means dolls. This form of art is believed to have originated in 200 BC during the rule of the Satavahana dynasty. Leather puppets are the hallmark of Andhra Pradesh art and crafts. This form of craft is inextricably linked to the state’s traditional folk and cultural expression, called Tholu Bommalata. Also known as Leather puppetry, this form of shadow-puppet theatre is popular in several regions of Andhra Pradesh.

Tholu Bommalata

(Source: Artist Kanday Anjanapp)

These puppets are painted with local made natural colours according to the nature of the roles. The colours are also prepared by the artists on their own. They design the curvatures and paint them. After that they are preserved very safely and securely for the use of anytime and anywhere. The artists have their own narrative explaining the origin of their art form, as is common in all oral traditions, and often trace their lineage back to a super-devotee mentioned in the scriptures.

(Source: Artist Kanday Anjanapp)

Tholu Bommalata performances often weave bits of popular culture and current affairs into the narrative to keep things fresh. This professional art is being made by the Artists using traditional tools with skilled workmanship by designing the pictures and designs on the leather and then dying with beautiful colours. The carving, holing and crafting as well as designing on leather give looks like living things.

Andhra puppets are characterised by wide circular eyes, with most of characters drawn in profile. The colour scheme, style and decorative elements of the former are heavily influenced by the aesthetics of the 16th-century Lepakshi temple in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. However, once a thriving art form that kept alive mythological stories, it is on the verge of disappearing. This ancient folk art once flourished in the state, where puppeteers would narrate stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata with the help of their translucent leather puppets.

 Tholu bommalata

Tholu bommalata

(Source: Artist Kanday Anjanapp)

~Written by Khushi Daryani 

 

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