The shadow form of puppetry locally called Tholu Bommalata,
meaning dance of leather puppets (tholu – leather,
bommalata – puppet dance) is widely practiced in the state
of Andhra Pradesh.
The puppets are brightly coloured and are made out of goat
skin. These leather puppets are about 5-6 ft. in height and
have joints at shoulders, elbows, knees and sometimes also
the waist, neck and ankles. Traditionally, vegetable dyes
are used for colouring the puppets. However, now-a-days
chemical dyes which are easily available are also used for
colouring the puppets. Perforations are made wherever
required on the puppet figure and eyes are painted last. A
slim bamboo stick is tied to the puppet which keeps it
vertically straight. The puppets are pressed slightly
against white screen and manipulated. The audience see the
shadow or image. The themes of the play are based on
episodes from Ramayana, Mahabaratha or Krishna legend.
The shadow puppeteers of Andhra Pradesh are spread all over
the state. A co-operative puppet-making training centre in
Anantapur district helps to promote this art form. There
are number of families who have also opted for alternate
livelihoods like production of decorative lampshades, wall
hangings etc. made of leather which brings in good revenue
in the national and international market.
The string form is called Koyyabommalata. This form is
practiced by few families.