Indian Puppet Shadow Show

Yesterday I got the chance to see an Indian shadow puppet show – Togalu Gombeyaata. I was very curious to see how it is after seeing performances of wayang kulit, the traditional Indonesian shadow puppet. The first difference which I could see was that the puppets were human-sized and there were more puppeteers manipulating them.

In Togalu Gombeyaata, the performance usually starts with an invocation to the Hindu God Ganesha and to the Hindu Goddess of learning Saraswati. It has colourful figures marked on leather sheets and made transparent in an age-old traditional technique with the use of natural colours.

The puppeteer sits behind the curtain and manipulates the figures in such a way that a light mounted on the other side casts the shadow of the figures on the curtain and the puppets appear on the screen. The art can be traced back to thousands of years and has remained a legacy in South Indian states.

The scenes enacted are usually those belonging to the Hindu epics, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. The puppeteers also provide voice to the puppets and an accompanying music is provided using a mukha-veena (veena played using mouth) or a harmonium. The puppets are controlled using sticks and strings. The performances usually commence at night and continue till dawn.

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Categories: Performances, Surakarta

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