Tollu Bommalu



  • A popular form of shadow-puppet theater in the southern Indianstate of Andhra Pradesh. According to tradition it began in 200 BC,but evidence only dates back to the 16th century. Stories are takenfrom the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Puranas.The leather puppets have movable parts; they are translucent and dyedwith black, red, and green pigments. More than one figure may be usedfor the same character.

    The puppeteers use thorns to pin the figures onto a whitescreen stretched between two poles. The chief manipulator wears aset of bells on one ankle to jingle during dance sequences. The improviseddialogue is interspersed with songs from classical and folk traditionsas well as from Indian films.

    Performances last from four to eight hours; the chief divisionsare the introduction of characters, songs sung in homage to Hindudeities, a comic interlude between the drunken Katikayata and hisfat wife Bangavaka, and the main drama.