Puppeteers of Andhra bring a dying art to Bengaluru

Puppeteers of Andhra bring a dying art to Bengaluru

Submitted by Editor on Sun, 2017-02-12 10:02 Bengaluru: Puppetry has been one of the casualties of today’s fast-paced, gadget-crazed world. And it comes as no surprise that puppetmakers are on the verge of extinction everywhere. Andhra’s 'Tholu Bommalata' (Leather puppet dance), with a history that goes back to the Vijayanagar dynasty, has also suffered a similar fate."This art existed even before the times of King Krishnadevaraya,” says S. Sriramulu, a native of Andhra Pradesh who makes leather puppets.Sriramulu is in Bengaluru to exhibit his puppets at Chitrakala Parishat in the city. “Earlier, puppets were made out of deer skin but now due to forest regulations, it is done so out of goat skin," says Sriramulu.Sriramulu says they make puppets out of two types of leather. "We get two types of leather. One is processed at home. The other is the factory method. The manufacturers get the skin from the butchers. The factory produced skin is more polished while home produced skin costs less,” he says.The main manufacturing units are located in Nimmalakunta, Bagepalli, Kadapatra, Dharmavaram and other places in Andhra Pradesh  and Ballari in Karnataka.Sriramulu says people hardly know about the art which thrived during the time of Vijayanagar dynasty. “This art was used to tell stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata during Krishnadevaraya’s time,” he says. “Earlier, people would puppets of gods and Goddesses and tell mythological stories, but these days we hardly hear or see such things. Hence we have now started making designer lamps out of leather, wall hangings and even jewellery as well,” says Sriramulu.A lot of time is spent on designs; patience being the key to create a exquisite design. "There are different kinds of designs. Traditional design, Delhi Sultanate design. A lot of time goes into the making of Delhi Sultanate design as it has four to five designs in it and consists of a lot of free-hand drawing. Traditional designs include animals, gods, goddess, human faces," says Sriramulu.As expected, finance is a big stumbling block as it is hard to raise money from making puppets. "With the advent of modern entertainment, graphic designs, web design and others, folk puppetry has declined,” rues Sriramulu. “Many of my friends gave up the profession and found some other job. We are here to keep this art alive. Usually these puppets get sold in exhibition. Festivals like Krishna Janmashtami, Rama Navami, Deepavali and Ganesh Chaturthi help us to sell our products," he says.