Arjuna on Ratha

late 20th century

This shadow puppet of Arjuna on his chariot is from Tholu Bommalaata, a puppet tradition from Andhra Pradesh in India. Here, tholu means leather, bommalu means puppets and aata means dance.

Arjuna is the main character in the Mahabharata alongside Krishna. He is one of the Pandava brothers, who win against the Kauravas. Considered a great warrior, Arjuna on the left is depicted on his ratha (chariot) ready for the Kurukshetra war. His chariot was given to him by lord Agni and was called Kapi Dhwaja. The main text used to perform the Mahabharata stories in Tholu Bommalaata is Vemulapati Bharatham.

One of the versatile proponents of this Tholu Bommalaata is Sindhe Chithambara Rao. He is a National award-winning puppeteer who lives in the village of Dharmavaram in Andhra Pradesh. Chithambara Rao’s great-grandfather, Nayanappa Rao, was the first puppeteer in the family. He migrated from Solapur district in Maharashtra to Kolar district in Karnataka and developed his puppetry skills by building relationships with the local puppeteers. From the age of 8, Chithambara Rao trained under his father in the art of shadow puppetry, carefully observing his father, elder sister and brother synchronise the puppets with their storytelling melodies. Today, Chithambara Rao’s troupe Chaya Nataka Brundam has performed in cultural forums across India, Europe, South America, Egypt, and Oman.

To read more about Tholu Bommalaata, click here.


Arjuna on Ratha
late 20th century
Sindhe Chithambara Rao
Tholu Bommalaata
Vegetable and Poster colour on animal hide
H: 104 cm x W: 64.5 cm
Accession No.