Tholu Bommalaata

Dance of the Shadow Puppets

A Tholu Bommalaata performer pours their whole person into not telling, but showing you a story. Their hands cut, cure and craft the leather puppets. Their strong voices send the epics soaring into the night air. Every muscle in their body, from the arms working the figures to the toes beating out a rhythm on the wooden boards, is engaged in the art of creating an ephemeral moment of enchantment. When good triumphs over evil, the puppets go back into dented steel trunks and the sun comes up, you’ll wonder if you dreamt the whole thing. Maybe you did. But you’re not the only dreamer. The art of shadow puppetry has been with us in some form of the other since the 1st Century BC. Come with Sarmaya into the homes and imaginations of the Sindhes in Dharmavaram, who are traditional Tholu Bommalaata artists plying the craft for generations in this land. Watch our film on S Chithambara Rao and his family to find out what it takes to turn shadows into stories

Comic Relief

To balance the solemnity of narrating episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Tholu artists like to bring in some laughs with the help of these trusty sidekicks

A Play of Shadows

Witness a magical storytelling performance of Tholubommalaata and let your imagination take flight as the evening light suffuses the stage and the colourful leather puppets are seized with a fierce energy

Tholu Bommalaata

The Sarmaya guide to the shadow puppetry traditions that peaked during the reign of the Vijayanagara empire in southern India