Kaohsiung Museum of shadow puppet
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The culture and religion of India have had a great impact on the development of puppet plays, especially those in Southeast Asia. The two famous epics “The Mahabharata” and “The Ramayana” have become well-known to the world through puppetry and the prevalence of Hinduism. There are four traditional puppet plays in India: string, rod, glove, and shadow plays.

String puppetry is basically seen in the states of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu. Performers make most of the puppets with carved wooden heads and stuffed cloth. Some puppets are made with complete hands and feet, but some are without feet. The puppets mainly come in yellow and white, and animal puppets like horses and camels are usually made with stuffed cloth. Karnataka features larger puppets with heights up to 35 inches, while Rajasthan uses smaller ones ranging from 11 to 21 inches.  

Stick puppetry is very popular in the states of West Bengal, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh. Among them, plays from West Bengal are the most famous. Usually made without feet, puppets are manipulated by performers beneath with a long supporting rod along with thin strings to control hand movements.

Glove puppetry does not enjoy as much popularity as other types of puppet plays. Performers are primarily from the poor class and make the puppets on their own. Glove puppetry is also called Kundhei Nata in Orissa. Troupes presenting the famous love story of “Krishna and Radha” usually consist of two performers, one who manipulates the puppets while the other plays the drums and sings.

Shadow plays with their own respective characteristics can be found in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. They are often performed on festive or joyous occasions and the two famous epics “The Mahabharata” and “The Ramayana” are the most common. Before the play, performers have to worship the god of puppetry, Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity and the son of Shiva to receive his blessing. Sarawati and Brahma are also worshiped for good luck. Made of sheepskin or deerskin, the puppets are carved similarly to temple statues where the plays are performed.

Features of Shadow Puppets Flash

Map of Southeast Asia
Asian shadow puppets have a long tradition. They originated from China and India.
Map of India
Puppets around the world include shadow puppet, hand puppet, marionette, and rod puppet. Asian shadow puppets have a long history and they originated from India and China. Indian shadow puppets spread eastward, influencing such countries as Sri Lanka in South Asia, and Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in Southeast Asia.
Indian shadow puppets
First, let’s find out the common features of Asian shadow puppets. Because of the differences in the design of the stage and the method of manipulation, the styles of the puppets and the structure of the handle also differ. Indian shadow puppet theater uses handles made of bamboo canes and puppet head and body come in one piece. That’s why only hands and feet move. They can be manipulated to make smaller actions compared with greater flexibility of the Chinese and Taiwanese shadow puppets in this regard.
Ganesha and Bramha Hanuman
The rise of Hinduism led to the progress of the art of shadow puppets, which were used to transmit the two Indian epics: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. During performances on festivities and celebrations, an offering is first made to Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, considered as the patron of shadow puppet theater. Similarly, offerings are also made to the goddesses Saraswati and Bramha.

No. 42, Gangshan S. Rd.,Gangshan District,
Kaohsiung City 82060, Taiwan(Museum Hours)
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