Pavaikuthu

Definition

Theater

  • (Tamil: Figure-of-a-Shadow Play) A type of shadow-puppet theaterfrom the southern Indian state of Kerala. Also called tholpavaikuthu,the genre is based on stories from the Kambar Ramayana, a 9th-centuryTamil version of the Ramayana. The puppets, which are made of antelopeskin, range from 4 to 36 inches high and are held against the screenby a bamboo strip. The main characters have movable heads, arms, andhands.

    Performances are given in Tamil although the audiences ofthe region speak Malayalam. The plays are usually presented in a templecompound as an entertainment for Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction.The manipulators, who are hidden by a black curtain, operate the puppetsin the light from a row of coconut-oil lamps set in coconut halves.

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