Raja Harishchandra

late 20th century - early 21st century

This shadow puppet of Raja Harishchandra is from Tholu Bommalaata, puppet tradition of Andhra Pradesh in India. Here, ‘tholu’ means leather, ‘bommalu,’ puppets; and ‘aata’ dance.

King Harishchandra is shown carrying a bow and a pack of arrows with a dagger on his waistband. Raja Harishchandra appears in ancient texts such as Markandeya Purana, Mahabharata and Devi Bhagavata. King Harishchandra is regarded as the King who followed the Dharma with honesty, courage and numerous brave sacrifices. In the Mahabharata, his story was told to Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava, which helped him travel the path of righteousness.

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.


Raja Harishchandra
late 20th century - early 21st century
Sindhe Chithambara Rao
Tholu Bommalaata
Vegetable and poster colour on animal hide
H: 127 cm x W: 39.5 cm
Accession No.