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Tholu Bommalata: A Brief Glance


Tholu bommalata (also spelled: tolu bommalata, or tholu bommalattam) literally means the dance (attam, ata) of the leather (tholu) puppets (bommalu). Tholu bommalata is the shadow theatre tradition of Telugu speaking areas of south India, i.e., Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and part of Karnataka.



In the olden days shows were performed during the nine nights of the Shivratri Festival. Every night the performances could last up to eight hours; nowadays shorter shows of one to two hours are performed and are not restricted to religious contexts.



Epic stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata with comic skits and intermissions.


Performing space

Historically the stage was built in the open space in rural villages or in temple precincts; nowadays it is performed in festivals, fairs, and theatres.



A white screen raised on a platform. The screen sometimes is slightly bent towards to the audience to better accommodate large puppets and ease the puppeteer’s manipulation work. The screen can reach the impressive size of eight by two and a half metres; nowadays smaller screens of three to four meters by two are more common.



Silhouettes made of coloured leather. The material is obtained from goat, deer or buffalo hide.


Accompanying musical instruments

Tablas, mridangam, muddala (percussions), harmonium, cymbals, shanka (conch), mukhaveena (wind instrument). Anklets with stings of bells and wooden planks concur in creating scene sounds.



Traditionally from Aare communities. Troupes are family groups.