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Rama sits on the throne. Happy ending of the Ramayana after the great battle. Tolpavakuthu figure in the Museu do Oriente, Lisbon .

Tholpavakuthu , also Tholpavakoothu ( Malayalam തോൽപ്പാവക്കൂത്ത്), is a form of shadow play that is cultivated in the southern Indian state of Kerala . The figures are large, mostly immobile, and are cut out of thick, dried animal skins. The performers, who traditionally belong to the Pulavar families, play scenes from the Kambaramayanam , the version of the ancient Indian epic Ramayana written by Kamban in the 12th century , in honor of the Hindu goddess Bhagavati, a form of the great goddess Devi , who also appears as Bhadrakali. At the center of the story is the epic battle and ultimately the victory of the god Rama over the demon king Ravana . According to the legend, the gods introduced Tholpavakuthu as an annual spectacle for Bhadrakali, because she had to help in the destruction of the Asura Darika and therefore could not watch the decisive battle against Ravana.

The performances, which last up to 21 nights in a row, take place in a stage house ( kuthu madam ) on the temple grounds and are part of a religious annual Puram festival. The center of tradition is the Palakkad district and its surroundings.

Tolpavakuthu is a vanishing tradition that is the only one of the various South Indian shadow play forms that is not primarily intended to entertain, but is performed as a regional religious cult. The sacred stage, which is only used for shadow play, is a special feature that cannot be found anywhere else. The word tholpavakuthu is composed of thol ("leather", "skin"), pava ("doll") and kuthu ("drama", "performance").

Origin and research history

Lying Vishnu as Narayana , guarded by the world serpent Shesha , while creating the world. Tholpavakuthu figure in the Museu do Oriente , Lisbon

According to ML Varadpande, one of the oldest literary sources in which puppet and shadow theater are mentioned is the Indian epic Mahabharata , which began in the 4th century BC. Was fixed in writing. He sees an early development from masked human actors in magical rituals to the use of dolls that are held in front of the head with one hand instead of a mask. A possible reference to puppet theater or, depending on the interpretation of the Sanskrit word rupparupakam, to shadow theater is contained in the one from the time of the earliest Buddhists and around 80 BC. Written Buddhist scripture Therigatha . From around 1900 to the 1930s, European scholars controversially discussed the question of whether there was an ancient Indian shadow play at all. The Indian Sanskritologist Surendranath Dasgupta (1887–1952) rejected the existence of an Indian shadow play even for the high Middle Ages and denied the otherwise widespread thesis that the Indian shadow play spread to Indonesia in the first centuries after Christianity , where the wayang kulit is still performed today . The question also included who was meant by the shaubhika , who in Patanjali's work Mahabhashya (around 250–120 BC) are named as professional actors in a drama. Heinrich Lüders (1916) advocated the much-cited thesis that the word shaubhika meant actors who showed shadow figures and explained them to the audience.

The Sitabenga Cave ("place of residence of Sita ") in the district of Surguja in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh is considered by some to be the oldest Indian theater stage, which was built around the 2nd century BC. Performances took place at religious festivals. This should be clear from a rock inscription, but not what kind of performances were. Because of the small number of around 30 seats in the cave, which could not have provided enough space for a theater stage with actors, Georg Jacob (1931) suspects a shadow play stage here, the projection surface of which was a curtain at the entrance that was illuminated by daylight. Jacob reinforced this thesis by Heinrich Lüders ( Indian Caves as Pleasure Places, in: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländische Gesellschaft , 58, 1904, p. 867f) put forward translation of the compound word lenashobhika in an inscription from Mathura as "cave shadow player ". Varadpande (1987) makes the thesis a certainty, but Fan Pen Chen (2003) considers it to be an overinterpretation. Harry Falk (1991) in his translation of the cave inscription rejects the earlier assumptions that it might have been a kind of Greek theater, but ignores the subject of the shadow theater.

Several medieval Sanskrit dramas have chaya-nataka , "shadow play", in the title. Again the interpretations are controversial: Chayanataka is understood literally or as a “shadow”, “outline” of a drama, meant as an adaptation of an older drama. A piece known as chayanataka is Dutangada , which a certain Subhata wrote in the 13th century and which contains an excerpt from the Ramayana legends. The main scene with a magical transformation is a characteristic of shadow plays. The play Dharmabhyudaya (called Chayanataka Prabhanda ) by Meghabrabhacharya from this period contains stage directions that make it appear as shadow theater, from which Varadpande draws the conclusion that shadow theater and puppetry have existed side by side since ancient Indian times and have spread from India to Southeast Asia. Three shadow plays are known from Vyasa Ramadeva, who lived in the 15th century, one of which is based on the legends of Rama and the monkey prince Hanuman and two stories deal with the Pandava brothers from the epic Mahabharata .

The experts who denied the existence of an ancient Indian shadow play at the beginning of the 20th century also knew nothing of the shadow play demonstrations that were held in relative secrecy in southern India during their time. They also missed the fact that the Italian explorer Pietro della Valle (1586–1652) had described a shadow play in Karnataka in a multi-volume travelogue published in Italian, French and German in the 1650s and 1660s . On November 22nd, 1627, at a Hindu temple in the capital Ikkeri of what was then the principality of Bidanur (now in the Shimoga district ), he observed how painted paper figures with horsemen, elephants and people fighting with each other appeared behind a white paper screen. One source for a shadow play on the Deccan highlands in the first half of the 19th century is Jaffur Shureef (Jaf'ar Sharif, 1832). He is writing about a shadow play performance, this time in an Islamic context and at a time when the Arab shadow play was only sporadically and cultivated as crude popular entertainment in the Orient. The performance took place in the Islamic calendar month of Muharram on the occasion of the Shiite festival of sacrifice Ashura , which commemorates the death of Imam Husain . That night, a large crowd of spectators gathered in the street around a shadow theater showing scenes of battle. Towards the end of the 19th century, some official reports from the British colonial authorities gave brief details of shadow play.

As recently as the 1930s, European researchers had little knowledge of the Asian shadow games. Contributions by Georg Jacob in 1931 and 1935 ( The discovery of the southern Indian shadow theater by Prof. Spies, in: Zeitschrift der Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft , Vol. 14, 1935, pp. 387–390) was followed by a supplement to the Otto Spies mentioned ( Das Indian Schattentheater , in: Theater der Welt, No. 1, 1938, pp. 1–3). The Second World War prevented further investigations and so only a few noteworthy articles on Indian shadow play appeared during this period, including one by the Dutch ethnomusicologist Arnold Adriaan Bake, who on the fringes of his topic contains some statements on shadow play in Kerala ( The Javanese Shadow Play , in: The Modern Review , Kolkata 1942, pp. 317-320). K. Bharatha Iyer ( The Shadow Play in Malabar, in: Bulletin of the Rama Varma Research Institute , Vol. 11, Part 1, Trichur 1943) and HJ Cousins ​​( Dance Drama and Shadow Play , in: Stella Kramrisch, JH Cousins, R. Poduval (ed.): The Arts and Crafts of Travancore. London 1948, pp. 177f). In the 1960s, some Indian authors mostly dealt with the Indian shadow play in magazine articles, including A. Chandra Sekhar ( Leather Puppet Dolls , in: Census of India , Vol. 2 (Andhra Pradesh) 1961, pp. 15-31). Valentina Stache-Rosen (1976) gave a summary of the Indian shadow play, while Niels Roed Sörensen dealt with the Tholu Bommalata from Andhra Pradesh in 1974 ( Shadow Theater in Andhra Pradesh - Tolo Bommalu Kattu, in: Journal of the Sangeet Natak Academi, no. 33, New Delhi 1974, pp. 14-39).

An Indian contribution from 1980 on Kerala comes from D. Boopathy ( Pavakoothu - the shadow play of Kerala , in: Bulletin of the Institute of traditional Culture, Madras 1980, pp. 63-72). Friedrich Seltmann wrote detailed monographs on several Indian shadow plays in the 1970s and 1980s. His study on Kerala, published in 1986, is based on field research in 1962, 1964, 1976 to 1978 and 1982. A special issue of the Journal of Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1990 dealt with The Traditional Puppet Theater of Kerala (No. 98). Gopalan Venu wrote the article Tolpava Koothu - Shadow Puppets of Kerala . Stuart Blackburn (1996) translated some essential excerpts from the dialogues spoken and sung at the performances.

The age of the Tholpavakuthu can only be estimated. Figures of the Bhattas appear in the piece. These form a Brahmin sub-caste of traveling singers that became historically tangible in Tamil Nadu from the 14th century. The shadow play is likely to have originated later. There are different ancestral lines of shadow players, which can be added to 16 generations, which makes a beginning at the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century possible. The ancestry of individual families does not go back that far. In a family surveyed in the late 1980s, eight generations have been known by name since the end of the 18th century, starting with the legendary founder Cinna Tampi Pulavar.


Nocturnal ritual at the Puram of the Peruvanam Temple in Cherpu Village, Thrissur District .

The Tholpavakuthu in Kerala has remained to this day what the shadow play was, according to popular belief, from its ancient Indian beginnings: a festival for the gods. Over time, certain forms of shadow play, like other types of theater, emancipated themselves from their religious context and took up more elements of entertainment, so that many can also be performed outside of temples in villages and on event stages. The Sanskrit word sutradhara refers to the director of a folk theater, the reciter or singer of religious or moral, epic dialogues who has appeared as a narrator during the plot of the game since the ancient Sanskrit dramas. He is the first person to take the stage in a drama. Literally translated, sutradhara means “thread puller”, corresponding to the Greek neurospasta and referring to the divine ruler of the world as a whole and, on a small scale , to the marionette - or other puppeteer. The sutradhara holds the strings in hand in all forms of theater in the figurative sense.

There are four types of puppetry in India. Hand puppets are mainly widespread in Kerala ( Pavakathakali , " Puppen- Kathakali ", imitation of the dance style, also Pava kuthu ), in Odisha ( Sakhi kundhei nacha ) and in West Bengal ( Bener putul nach ). Stick figures occur in northeast India, including in Odisha ( Kathi Kundhei nach ). There are puppets in Assam ( Putala to ), in a belt from West Bengal ( Tarer putul ) to Rajasthan ( Kathputli ) in northern India and to Tamil Nadu ( Bommalatam ) in the south.

The regional Indian shadow plays can be distinguished according to the very different types of figures. One group uses figures made of thick, darkly painted animal skin, the effect of which is based on the black and white contrast of the outline and the cut-out pattern. With a few exceptions, they have no moving parts. These include the shadow plays of Kerala and Odisha ( Ravanacharya ). The second group has figures made of a thin, translucent skin, which is painted in multiple colors and additionally provided with hole patterns. The figures in this group can be very large and have several movable arms, legs and heads, as in the Tholu bommalata from Andhra Pradesh , the Togalu gombeyaata from Karnataka and the Chamadyache bahulya of the Thakar caste group near Sawantwadi in the south of Maharashtra . A mixed form of the two forms forms the third group, in which movable and immobile figures as well as large scenic representations occur. These include the Tolpavaikuthu in southern Tamil Nadu and figures that are used in the border area between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

In northern and central India there was probably shadow theater in the past, but it no longer occurs there. A verse from Culavamsa, a Buddhist chronicle of Sri Lanka written in Pali around 1200 , seems to give an indication of the existence of shadow plays, which are no longer known on the island. The great variety of Indian shadow plays contrasts with some uniform styles elsewhere in Asia. Besides the Indonesian wayang kulit , the Chinese shadow play is particularly well known. The figures of wayang kulit in Java or those belonging to the series of sagas Serat Menak Sasak on the neighboring island of Lombok are made of thinner parchment and are more finely cut out than those in Kerala. The very large rigid figures of the Indian-influenced Thai nang-yai and the Cambodian sbek thom are similar to those of Kerala, while in southern Thailand the nang talung is a younger form with smaller figures. As in Tholpavakuthu, the figures of the nang talung and the Malaysian wayang siam usually only have one movable arm. The detailed knowledge of the different forms of shadow play in India brought new arguments for their presumed spread to Indonesia. One difference to the Indonesian shadow play is the figure of the patron god Ganesha , to whom a sacrifice appears, at the beginning of a performance in the middle of the screen . In wayang kulit , the opening figure plate gunungan in the middle of the screen has a different meaning. Only in some cases is a relationship recognizable through a Ganesha representation within the gunungan .

A Malayalam name for shadow play that occurs in the 19th century is olapavakuthu , where ola is translated as "palm leaf". A “palm leaf puppet game” probably existed earlier (at the beginning of the 20th century) than self-made children's toys. In addition, a distinction was made in Kerala between the figures pavakuthu , with which shadow plays were performed, and simpler olapavakuthu made of leaves, which served the same purpose. The earlier existence of shadow play figures made of palm leaves in Kerala is made plausible by the same ones that once existed in Java. Friedrich Seltmann (1972) mentions a set of 70 palm leaf figures owned by a family in Malang . Tholpavakuthu ("leather / skin puppet game") refers to today's shadow play with figures made of skin.

Ramachandra Pulavar with a shadow puppet in Pattathanam, a district of Kollam

The shadow play performances of Kerala only take place in the temples of the Palakkad district, there mainly in the sub-district ( taluk ) of the city of Ottapalam and in some temples in the neighboring districts of Malappuram and Thrissur . Until the beginning of the 20th century, there were still shadow plays in southern Kerala; the Maharajah of Travancore had a shadow play performed at his birthday party in the mid-1940s. The shadow players belong to the subcaste of the Chettiar (also Cetti), as a caste of traders spread throughout southern India is called. The large group of Chettiar, derived from Sanskrit shreshthi , "traders", are the equivalent of the North Indian Bania caste. In Tamil Nadu, they include the money lenders, known as Nattukottai Chettiar (also Nagarathar). In the Palakkat district, the center of the shadow play tradition, the Moothan merchant caste (also Muttan Chettiyar) are active as shadow players. The Chettiyar living in Chettinad play an important role in the religious cult as pilgrims to Varanasi and other holy places in northern India. They bring bottled holy water ( koti tirtha ) to the Ramanathaswami temple in the southern Indian city of Rameswaram on their pilgrimage to temples in northern India and on the way back they take water that they have drawn from the Ganges at Hardwar or Prayagraj back home with them, where it is used in temple ceremonies. This water transport through the Gangayatri ("Pilgrims to the Ganges") is thematized in the shadow play of Kerala by a figure of the same name.

The grouping of the numerous sub-boxes is sometimes contradicting; the Chettiyar probably belong to the larger group of the Vellala, a Shudra caste widespread in Tamil Nadu, some of which have given themselves the honorary title of Pillai. Another group belonging to the Vellala is called Mudaliar. Both are titles that Palakkat's shadow players also have. The ancestors of the shadow players probably migrated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Century or a little earlier from their previous home on the Kaveri River to the south. The shadow players of all three classifications - Chettiyar, Pillai and Mudaliar - bear the family name Pulavar, which they themselves adopted, as did the Tamil sub-castes Occan and Panicavan. Pulavar used to be the title of a poet and scholar: "Pulavar literature" stands for the Tamil, courtly poetry of the 19th century. Today Pulavar is understood more as a professional title for puppeteers and still by poets and composers. The puppeteers, who call themselves Pulavar, belong to different caste groups.

Performance practice

The performances of the Tholpavakuthu last at least 7 days, often, 10, 14, ideally 21 or in a case 27 consecutive nights. The content of the Ramayana is shown in full or in excerpts in more or less broadly laid out scenes . 21 nights of around nine hours each are enough to deal with all six books of the Ramayana, with seven nights there is enough time for a detailed description of the events of the last book and a summary of the content of the other books. Shadow games with a purely entertaining character are usually (considerably) shorter. The religious shadow plays are part of the events during the Puram annual festivals in spring in honor of the goddesses Bhadrakali and Bhagavati in certain temples . The duration of the shadow plays is adapted to the respective temple festival. Smaller temples with insufficient financial means do not hold the Puram festival annually, but every two or three years. Although the quality of the performances has long been declining, shadow plays were performed in over 100 temples in 2012.

Shadow puppets

Ravana, back with holding rod. Museu do Oriente, Lisbon

Items used for religious ceremonies should be made from a material considered sacred. For shadow puppets ( menthol pava ) in Kerala this is traditionally the spotted fur of the axis deer ( pullover to menthol ), which is relatively thin and is used for small figures. A medium thick fur ( kela man tol ), probably from the Sambar , is required for larger figures. A distinction is made here between the particularly thick fur ( kalai man thol ) of another wild animal. Wild animal skins were expensive in Indian markets and are no longer available today, which is why they are mostly replaced by goat skin. The skins are watered, dried in the sun and then freed from the hair with an iron scraper. The production is not connected with rituals like elsewhere.

The figures are on average 35 to 60 centimeters tall, but remain well below the absolute record of Andhra Pradesh, where the figures reach a maximum of 180 centimeters. The size of the figures is graded according to their importance. The demon king Ravana can be up to 80 centimeters high and 62 centimeters wide. Its opponents on the side of the gods such as Rama and the monkey king Hanuman are similar in size . A figure of Brahma measures 54 centimeters in height and 39 centimeters in width. Despite his admiration, the god of luck Ganesha is quite small at around 30 centimeters. Female figures are smaller than males. Fringe figures and animals are even smaller, about a 17 centimeter high and 20 centimeter wide dog.

The outlines are cut out, the inner shapes are cut out ( rupam kottuka , "cut out patterns"). To stabilize the figures, they need a vertical holding rod made of split bamboo, to which, if necessary, rods are either tied at right angles with cords or wire or another rod is fixed in parallel. Moving parts that appear in a few figures are manufactured separately. If a figure has a movable arm or, even more rarely, movable legs, these are tied to the joints with strips of skin. With the exception of some animal figures, heads are immobile.

The painting, like the size of the figures, is based on the information in old manuscripts and is strictly defined except for a few freely designable details. The types of characters (characters, roles: Sanskrit and Malayalam vesam ) can be recognized by their postures and their color: holy wise men ( rishis ) are white, demons ( rakshasas ), the god of death Yama , the terrifying goddess Kali , ape-like forest dwellers ( vanara ) and elephants are black, other demons and monkeys are dark blue, again other monkeys and the hero Lakshmana are red. With the exception of female demons, normal women are yellow, only Sita and other important women are pink. Other colors appear on details and sometimes in exchange, some figures remain unpainted. Instead of the earlier nuanced mineral and vegetable colors, brightly colored oil colors have been popular since the 1960s, which are so thick that they sometimes clog the fine perforations. This can affect the shadows cast by the figures.

The perforations in particular ensure the lively alternation of light and shadow, while the color is of secondary importance. As with shadow play figures in general, the faces are usually shown in profile, but both eyes can often be seen in profile. The outer eye is then half cut. A special feature are the frontal faces of the demons belonging to Ravana's environment, which have broad, round noses.

In the course of the 20th century, the shadow play tradition steadily declined; this also reduced the set of figures from once more than 200 parts, which is part of the performance of the entire Ramayana. About 100 figures can be classified according to their character traits. The main ones are:

Sita in the Tholu bommalata of Andhra Pradesh: thin, translucent skin. The color effect is essential. Museu do Oriente , Lisbon
Sita in Tholpavakuthu : thick, opaque, monochrome skin. Back with holding rod and fine perforations, where the light-shadow effect is important. Museu do Oriente , Lisbon
  • Sphere of the gods: seated Ganesha with four arms; Brahma with four heads; the lying Vishnu with four arms; Garuda , Vishnu's mount; the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, the brahmin Parashurama with a battle ax; Shiva on his mount, the bull Nandi ; the king of the vultures Jatayu and several heavenly apsaras .
  • Saints and people: Bhatta, also Kerala Iyers, Brahmins who immigrated from Tamil Nadu to Kerala in the past centuries , divided into four types; two rishis , holy men; Vasishtha , a particularly famous Rishi, frontal figure with long hair; Sannyasin , mendicant monk who embodies the transformed Ravana; Shatananda, a priest of King Janaka who married Rama and Sita , and Rshyashringa, a holy hermit living in the forest with a horn (Sanskrit shringa )
  • Rama, Sita and their surroundings: Rama, son of King Dasharatha and his wife Kausalya; Dasharatha, king of the kingdom of Kosala , who sits on the lion throne ( simhasana ) in the capital Ayodhya ; Kausalya, Kaikeya and Sumitra: the first, second and third wife of Dasharatha; Bharata, son of the second wife and half-brother of Rama; Lakshmana , son of the third wife; Sita, the earthly incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi , raised by her foster father, King Janaka ; Janaka, ruler of the kingdom of Videha with the capital Mithila , Kushadhvaja, uncle of Sita and younger brother of Janaka, his daughter Urmila marries Lakshmana; Guha, a ferryman with a movable arm who puts Rama, Sita and Lakshmana across the Ganges , and as a further supporting character Manthara, the cunning servant of Kaikeyi, who persuades her mistress that the royal throne was not due to Rama, but to her son Bharata, and Rama should to be sent into exile. She has a posable arm, cane, humpback, and protruding breasts.
  • Ravana and his demons: Ravana , the demon king of Lanka; Kumbhakarna and Vibhisana, two brothers of Ravana, the latter later changes to the side of Rama; Mandodari , the wife of Ravana, portrayed as beautiful or as demon-ugly; her three sons Meghanada, Atikaya and Akshakumara; Prahasta, the commander in chief of Ravana's army; Tataka, Ravana's great aunt and wife of the demon Sunda; Maricha, Tataka's son, turns into a golden stag and is killed by Rama while hunting; Senapati, a commander in Ravana's army, sits on a horse with two articulated arms; Shurpanakha , the sister of Ravana; Khara , the twin brother of Shurpanakha; Trishiras, another son of Ravana, killed by Rama's arrow; Shuka, sent by Ravana as a messenger and spy, equipped with sword and shield; Sarana, another messenger and spy who explores the strength of Rama's army: like Shuka, he can transform himself into an animal for camouflage and is equipped with a trident ( trishula ); Bhutam , a demon with an animal face; female demons: Trijata, as the old lady-in-waiting Sita, guards during her captivity at Ravana, in one version the daughter of king Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana; Ayomukhi, wants to start a love affair with Lakshmana, but he cuts off her ears, nose and breasts and disappears.
  • Monkeys allied with Rama: Hanuman , faithful helper of Rama; Bali, also Vali, fearless, brave monkey king in the kingdom of Kishkindha and older brother of Sugriva, killed by Rama with the arrow; Sugriva, succeeds as king after the death of Bali; Nila, monkey leader in Rama's army, leads the search for Sita; Nala, in command of the army building the bridge to Lanka ( Sri Lanka ); Gavaksha and Kumuda, two monkey generals who are supported by other helpful monkeys, the vanaras (forest dwellers); Jambavat , the king of the bears, is also considered a monkey and minister in Sugriva's service.
  • Other people, animals and trees: servant or generally a female figure ( stri pava ); Elephant ( ana ); Elephant wearing a canopy ( ambari ); Horse ( kutira ); Horse with rider; Man from the people with a cap and a movable arm; Death dog (dog, patti ); Bird of death (crow, kakka ); Tiger ( kaduva ); Bear ( karadi ), axis deer ( pulli man ) and tree ( maram ).
  • Scenes and props: ocean ( samudram ), rectangular shape with animals belonging to the water area; Pond ( poyka ), corresponds to the ocean, in addition with water plants; Ferryman Guha's ferry boat, in which Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are seated; Gate tower of a temple ( gopuram ); Temple chariot ( ratham ); Ornamental arch ( torana ) and the crown ( makutam ) of Rama. There are also some parts that are not made of animal skin, including weapons used by the heroes.


Stage house ( kuthu madam ) in Mathur Bhagavati Temple in Kalikavu village, Palakkad district

Hindu temple complexes in Kerala ( kshetram ) consist of several buildings and parts of buildings traditionally made of brick and wood in a walled courtyard, the simple basic structure of which follows strictly religious rules. In the central shrine ( kovil, srikovil ), typically circular with a conical roof, the main deity resides in the sanctuary ( garbhagriha ). If this is Bhagavati, Bhadrakali is often worshiped in a subsidiary temple. The standard of a large facility includes a gate tower ( gopuram ), a vestibule ( mandapa ), administrative building, a free-standing rectangular altar ( belikkal ), a flagpole ( dwajasthamba , generally stambha ), a house for the elephants used in ceremonies ( anakottil ), the most of the time serves as a stay for pilgrims. Outside the walled temple area there is another sacred area with a pond for cleansing rituals and in the northeast a sacred grove ( kavu ). Another name for temple is ambalam . The word composition kuthambalam ("temple for acting") means a mostly rectangular building that is used to perform the religious dance dramas Kutiyattam or Mutiyettu and is usually located on the left side in front of the temple entrance.

The stage for the shadow play shows is housed in a building on the outer site at a certain distance from the temple wall. At the beginning of the 1980s, around 60 temples in the Palakkat district and the surrounding area still had a stage ( kuthu madam ). It is a narrow, single-storey brick building with walls on three sides, which are closed except for a few air slots, and an open long side, over which a two meter high and at least five to six meter long canvas can be stretched. A typical stage is around eleven meters long and almost four meters wide. A hipped roof protrudes far beyond the masonry on all sides and is supported on the open front by three or four wooden posts (mostly made of teak). These rest on an approximately 1.5 meter high, brick parapet ( ranga pitha ). The inside floor is at the height of the parapet and is covered with mats. To get up there, a bamboo ladder is leaned against the right-hand side when viewed from the inside. On the right the shadow player is the "good" side of the gods, on the left is the "bad" side of the demons. The figures appear from their sides accordingly.

The spectators take their seats outside. During the performance, the parapet below the screen is hung with a dark blue or black cloth, as a symbol of the underworld ( patala ), in which Nagas , Asuras and a number of lower spirits live. In the three-part Hindu worldview, depicted with the bright canvas, the earth (personified in the earth goddess Prithivi ) and the sky ( svarga ) extend above it .

The stage house is considered less sacred than the actual temple building. According to religious regulations, the open side must face the front entrance of the main shrine; in the case of two adjacent shrines of equal importance, the front of the stage house must point towards the middle between the two. Since impure things ( ashuddham ) take place during the performances , including the drastically depicted battle and the death of heroes and demons, the distance to the temple wall of 101 feet must be precisely maintained. This magic number is converted to about 33.5 meters. A sacred stage especially for shadow play performances is only found in Kerala worldwide. If no stage is available, a hut-like temporary facility will be built on the temple grounds.

Board with 21 oil lamps behind the canvas

Immediately behind the canvas, using the traditional method, a horizontal board is hung at half height on two ropes attached to the roof beams, on which 21 oil lamps ( vilakku ) provide lighting in an even arrangement . They consist of freshly opened coconut halves filled with coconut oil or of clay bowls, over the edge of which a thick wick made of strips of fabric protrudes. Electric light bulbs are the modern, cheap option. The playing figures that are not required are stored in a bamboo basket on the middle rear wall.

To accompany the opening ritual, a music ensemble plays elathalam in front of the stage with three tubular drums and a pair of cymbals . The leading big drum chenda is struck with two sticks on the upper skin. It is accompanied by a smaller para ( ezhupara ) and a similar idvara , which are struck on both skins. The idvara is about 30 centimeters long with a diameter of 23 centimeters. All three drums are made of jackfruit wood, covered with calf skin and carried on a strap over the left shoulder. Para and idvara belong specifically to this shadow theater and are mainly used during the performance in the battle scenes and for the march of the heroes. Larger ensembles or special occasions include the double-cone drum madhalam , a cone oboe kuzhal (similar to the mukhavina ), the curved natural trumpet kombu , a snail horn ( shankha ) and the small hand gong chengila . The figures are held on wooden sticks. Small cymbals ( cilappu ) are attached to some , which sound as soon as the figures are moved. During dance scenes, the presenter shakes the cilappu violently between his fingers. The musicians do not belong to the Pulavar families, but to other castes.

Course of the performance

Movement of the figures
Viewer side

The shadow players speak a mixture of Malayalam and Tamil with a few sentences in Sanskrit. The Ramayana myth is reproduced in the poet Kamban's version known as Kambaramayanam . The Kambaramayanam , probably written in the 12th century, consists of around 10,500 verses of four lines each. It's only half the length of the Ramayana Valmikis , so it's better for a dramatic presentation. The stage version created from the Kambaramayanam ( adal parru , from adal , "dance", "drama" and parru , "takeover", "adaptation") contains about 3200 verses, which have been handed down in several copies as palm leaf manuscripts ; one of the copies, which is dated around 1908 or in the year 1848, contains 292 palm leaves. According to Stuart Blackburn (1996) the shadow players recite a maximum of 2000 verses, of which they reproduce around 70 percent of the verses with a maximum of two words deviating from the palm leaf text, in another 10 percent one of the four lines does not match and the remaining 20 percent do not belong to the written repertoire. If at some points in the Kambaramayanam an episode is summarized in several verses, the shadow players often only recite the first verse true to the text and reproduce the rest in abbreviated form in their own words.

With a 21-night performance, the contents of the Kambaramayanam collected in the six books (1) Balakandam, (2) Ayodhyakandam, (3) Aranyakandam , (4) Kishkindhakandam, (5) Sundarakandam and (6) Yuddhakandam will be divided as follows: Book 1 is performed in the first three nights, books 2 to 5 each cover two and a half nights and book 6 covers the last eight nights. The performances begin around 10 p.m., last up to nine hours and end with final ritual acts in the early morning. The content is divided into 21 scenic blocks, which contain 151 main scenes. This central part of the shadow play is accompanied by more or less fully executed ritual acts, depending on the duration of the temple festival. These are sometimes practiced without an audience on the opening day and on the last night.

Preparatory actions, which take place outside the stage in the courtyard of the temple, initially serve to pay homage to the goddess Bhagavati and sometimes also to the goddess Bhadrakali. The oracle priest of the temple ( veliccappatu , also velicchappadu , meaning: medium that has intuitive revelation) lights a hanging lamp ( tukku vilakku ) on the lamp in front of the shrine of the Bhagavati , which belongs to the stage. The lamp is later hung on the roof overhang in front of the canvas ( kuta ). The priest brings the goddess' blessing to the Pulavar shadow players and their game. Afterwards the shadow players and the musicians go in a solemn procession from the outer wall of the temple area to the stage house. In front of the stage, the players sing honorable chants to Ganesha , Nataraja , Parvati , Sarasvati , Vishnu and other gods and are accompanied by the entire music ensemble. At the same time, some essential characters are positioned behind the stretched canvas. The entire stage structure can be adorned with flower garlands.

Tholpavakuthu is primarily a religious ritual, so the interaction with an audience, which is essential for a drama, is not required. Ritual acts in the stage can practically only be observed by the actors themselves and a limited group of people close to them. It is not common for large crowds to watch the shadow play attentively all night. Either there are attention-grabbing, parallel activities on the temple grounds or, in the case of smaller temples, there is largely nocturnal quiet on the square in front of the stage and spectators only come to the beginning or the end of the performance. This is what sets Tholpavakuthu apart from other ritual theaters in India. One spectator is at least mentally present for the actors: the goddess Bhadrakali.


Ganesha in the Museu do Oriente , Lisbon

The prelude ( purva ranga ) has been one of the obligatory rituals at the beginning of every drama or dance drama since the ancient Indian Sanskrit theater. This is laid down in Bharata's work Natyashastra, which was written around the turn of the ages. In the shadow play in Kerala, the purva ranga is made up of a sequence of sacred acts, all of which have the aim of appealing to the gods.

After the hymns have been sung, the senior shadow player ( mutu- pulavar, Sanskrit mutu "old", from which "great wisdom") lights some wicks on the hanging lamp, which is then extinguished and waved the burning wicks three times in the direction of the audience and the Temple. The ceremony is called diparadhana (worship of a deity through a waving oil lamp). Then he transfers the fire to the oil lamps behind the canvas. Next, consecration acts ( ranga puja ) for the stage house and the objects in it follow , in which all actors gathered in the house sing invocation syllables and hymns behind the curtain. After the invocation syllables have been sung three times, interrupted by loud drum beats, the figures placed on the screen are set aside. A purva ranga always includes the following invocation of Ganesha, represented by his shadow play figure leaning against the blue curtain. It is accompanied by two Bhatta figures and offerings (coconuts, bananas, betel leaves and nuts, incense sticks) are placed on a mat in front of it . The general invocation prayer ( mangalacarana ) is followed by hymns which are addressed directly to Ganesha, Bhadrakali, Vishnu, Rama and other incarnations of Vishnu. The rundleibige Ganesha needed more victims food (rice, fruits and sweets, a payasam called sweet rice pudding, Sambrani called benzoin ), holy water ( tirtham ) and two metal floor lamps ( nila vilakku ). A rough list includes 20 different gifts. The senior shadow player shakes the hand bell ( ghanta ) and speaks a mantra for the presence of the gods and against the influence of the demons. Further blessings are addressed to the actors and important guests. Young shadow play students can be included in the troupe on this occasion. The senior sings the closing anthem of the foreplay, which among other things includes the shadow players' wish to be able to recite the verses during the performance, and the others repeat it. Meanwhile, the senior walks from one oil lamp to the next and lights a small beacon in the manner of sparklers above each one.

Enter the Bhattas and Pulavars

Bhatta, shortened from Sanskrit bharata , is the name of a subcaste of the Brahmins in Kerala who immigrated from Tamil Nadu and who appeared in Kerala as reciters and epic singers ( granthika ) probably from the 10th century . Brahmins of this professional group have the suffix Bhatta, which since the 20th century as a designation of a subcaste includes all Brahmins in Kerala who do not belong to the Nambudiri .

In the shadow play there are still four Bhatta figures with different names, of which mostly only Mutta and Gangayadi are used. The performance of the Bhattas used to offer the shadow players the opportunity to teach the audience about religious, philosophical and other topics in a fixed formal framework in free dialogues. This requires professional shadow actors with an appropriate education, which is rarely given by today's part-time demonstrators. In order to indicate dance movements, the figures must be constantly shaken together with noisy chains of bells , which dancers usually wear on their ankles ( salangai , corresponding to Hindi ghungru ). Instead of the earlier discussions about the introduction of the topic, it is explained that the Bhattas are on a pilgrimage and that they have now come to the Palakkat district.

The appearance of Ganesha and the senior bhatta is soon followed by the secondary bhatta. They invoke the victory of Rama, who embodies good, over Ravana, evil personified. In the following dialogue, the two Bhattas ask the audience whether everyone is there to watch the performance. The question is an old and widespread ritual and is asked just as much in some genres of songs by singers in Africa as it is by the performers of the puppet theater to children. With the repeated invocation "Hari Govinda" Krishna is honored, pointed out to its meaning and then explained in stanzas. The following, sung stanzas are dedicated to Ganesha: The first quatrain ( stotra ) is performed in almost pure Sanskrit, the second quatrain in Tamil. Other quatrains include Subramanya , Kamakshi , Mahisasuramardini (goddess Kali as a buffalo killer) and Bhagavati. The Bhattas want to know what the meaning of the Bhagavati is and give an answer in which they tell something about the history of the temple in which the shadow play is performed. The Bhattas say goodbye and disappear from the screen.

It is unusual that the same Bhatta figures are used again for the following appearance of the Pulavars. Following the logic of other shadow play traditions, if the shadow actors wanted to show themselves, their own ancestors would have to appear as characters on the stage. The ancestors and producers of the shadow actors in other traditions, such as the figure of the Killekyata in the Togalu gombeyaata of Karnataka, are generally endowed with physical infirmities and are characterized as jokers with a tendency to sexual overweight. This is related to ancient fertility cults outside of India. As non-Hindus, the figures would not fit into the environment of a Brahmin temple, which is why the Brahmanic Bhatta figures take on the role of Pulavar.

The appearing Bhatta figures alias Pulavars turn to their ancestors and teachers in an act of worship ( guru vandanam ). The Pulavars are grateful that their predecessors passed on the shadow player profession. In particular, the ancestors are listed in a genealogical series back to the oldest gurus and asked for their blessings.

The figures disappear from the canvas for a brief moment, then they return in their actual capacity as bhattas and again declaim their well-known "Hari Govinda". Long blessings to several dignitaries, praise to Ganesha and other gods follow. In this context, the basis of the Ramayana text used for the shadow play is explained: The Bhattas say that the Ramayana in the version of Shambu (surname Shivas) consists of 100,000 verses ( shlokas ), in the anonymous version Mahanataka (also Hanumanataka , because attributed to the mythical Hanuman) of 60,000 verses, in the Valmikis version of 24,000 and that the Kambaramayanam consists of 12,026 verses. From this, the Bhatta figures say the Pulavars have adopted 1200 verses for their game. In rhyming Tamil verses ( ahaval , blank verse ) the Bhattas give the content of the events from the Ramayana presented below . The shadow actors thank all the members of the family by name who served them a festive meal that day - may Bhagavati and Rama bless them - and take the figures off the scene. The real piece begins.

Epic plot

Fight scene in which arrows fly.

At 21 nights, the sixth book Yuddhakandam is spread out over eight nights; a 14-night performance summarizes the contents of the first five books on the first night. The closing scenes of the first night belong in this case to the beginning of the sixth book: Rama stands on a hill and describes Lakshmana what he sees in the hostile land of Lanka. His opponent Ravana stands on a gopuram in the north of Lanka and discovers the army camp of Ramas.

Crucial fights are dramatically staged. In the final battle between Rama and Ravana, which is waged by both sides with a large number of miracle weapons, the already dead Ravana grows again and again. Rama asks the sun god Surya for help, who recommends that he first destroy the vessel with immortalizing elixir of life ( amrita kalasha ) hidden in Ravana's abdomen and then shoot it in his chest. When Rama breaks the vessel, a coconut is hit on the ground behind the stage and a shot is fired outside. When Ravana is finally dead, a red liquid splatters the canvas.

Another essential scene follows in which Sita, who was held by Ravana and now liberated, proves her innocence through a divine judgment. Lakshmana has set up and lit a pyre, in the flames of which Sita throws herself. If this scene is portrayed and not just reported, the shadow players throw flammable material into the oil lamps, causing sparks to rise. The fire god Agni appears from the stake and with him his wife Svahadevi, who takes Sati and carries away unharmed.

After the angry Rama is finally appeased, Sita, Rama and their allies rush back through the air to Ayodhya, where the coronation ceremonies are being prepared for Rama. The details at the reception at home are only told. Instead there is an interruption and behind the screen there is a puja for Ganesha and all other gods. The figure of Ganesha, flanked by two Bhatta figures, leans against the blue cloth on the outside, recognizable to the audience.

The final event is the coronation ceremony ( pattabhishekam , from Sanskrit patta , “ forehead band”, meaning “crown”, and abhisheka , “ritual act”). Since all bad guys have been destroyed, the figures no longer have to be arranged in good = right and bad = left. Rama sits in the middle on his throne and the entire width of the screen is filled with the most important figures (gods and heroes). Immediately next to Rama are Sita, Lakshmana (younger brother and closest companion of Rama), Bharata (half brother of Rama), Shatrughna (Rama's youngest brother) and Vibhishana (younger brother of Ravana, but of noble character). Hanuman and the other leaders of the monkey army are also gathered. All figures are decorated with wreaths of flowers or flowers on the forehead. The captain performs a cleaning ceremony in front of the characters, during which he sprinkles them with holy water and lets the handbells ring continuously. Elaborate acts of sacrifice follow. The senior player gives some of the sacrificial food ( prasadam ) placed in front of the figures as a blessing to the participants and speaks a supplication ( prarthanam ) for the rest of those present . Finally, all participants kneel in front of the shadow figures in the stage, fold their hands in honor and touch the floor ( namaskaram ).

The ceremonial event is the final act and at the same time, in its symbolic content, the coronation of Rama and symbolizes his connection with Sita. The game guide interrupts the process and reads out the carefully registered names of all visitors who have given gifts (today practically the entrance fee) for the temple. Two female Apsara shadow figures perform a dance in honor of Rama and Sita. The performance ends with a farewell prayer, the captain cuts up the screen and the performers take the strips home as a present.

Ritual context

Srikovil , main shrine surrounded by the oracle priest. Kachankurichi Temple in Kollengode Village, Palakkad District

The shadow play of Kerala differs fundamentally from all other shadow play traditions through its integration into a religious cult. In Tholpavakuthu there are two joker characters who rush around helplessly in the turmoil or make faxes, but their physical characteristics and actions are relatively inconspicuous. This is in contrast to the often deformed comic characters with an oversized phallus in other shadow plays, which are usually at the center of the action as a grotesque couple. These include Killekyata in Karnataka, Kethigadu in Andhra Pradesh, Semar in wayang kulit in Java, Twalèn in Bali , Pak Dogoh in Malaysia and Karagöz in Turkey. The sexual allusions in the other Indian shadow play figures probably go back to pre-Hindu fertility cults. These characters, which were once also present in the shadow play of Kerala, were lost with the inclusion in the Brahmanic cult, the Bhatta figures only took on their narrative role.

The relationship with the Bhadrakali cult results from a legend related to the creation of the goddess Bhadrakali. Lankalakshmi, Shiva's companion, who had been condemned to be the guardian deity of Ravana's realm for breach of duty, had to guard Mount Suvelagiri at the northern end of Lanka in the form of a demon until Hanuman came in search of Sita, killed her and thereby freed her from her curse. When this had actually happened, Lankalakshmi wanted to stay a while on earth in order to experience the further events described in the Ramayana up to the death of Ravana. However, she received a message from the goddess Parashakti ( Mahakali ) that she should immediately go to heaven to help her fight the demon Daruka. When Lankalakshmi refused, the messenger promised her as a reward for her help that the gods would elevate her to goddess Bhagavati and in this capacity she is allowed to see a shadow play in her honor every year, in which she missed the story of Rama, Ravana and Sita is retold.

The Bhagavati temples are administered by Nambudiri Brahmans. The mentioned male oracle priest ( veliccappatu ) or its rarer female counterpart ( nani ) takes on certain cultic tasks during the Puram festival. The oracle-priest represents a cultic link between the temple and the shadow play. He is active every evening of the temple festival after he has previously performed a complicated purification ceremony, clothing and consecration in front of the Bhadrakali shrine. With a white wrap ( mundu ) around his hips and over it a red silk sari ( pudava ) and equipped with his insignia - bronze sword ( palli ), brass belt ( aramani ) and brass ankle rings ( silambi ) - he throws himself in front of the Bhagavati- Shrine on the ground and then begins a dance, accompanied by two drums ( chenda ). With long drooping hair and the sword in his raised right hand, he soon falls into a trance . This condition is noticeable by the violent shaking of his body. During the dance, in which he mostly turns on the spot in a circle, he utters loud screams, which is interpreted as a sign of obsession . Then he ritually walks around the temple with a helper who is carrying an oil lamp, followed by the drummers. He then carries the lamp that has been lit in the temple to the stage.

Possession cults belong in different forms to the worship practice of the Bhadrakali. They are performed by Brahmins and non-Brahmins. Obsessed performers in the cult for Bhadrakali appear in the ritual dance theaters of Mutiyettu , Padayani, and Teyyam ; To worship the male patron god Ayyappan, the ritual theater Ayyappan tiyatta is performed in Kerala , in the southwest of Karnataka the ritual theater Nagamandala is based on an ancient Bhuta cult with which spirits are conjured up. The central part of the Nagamandala is the production of a large floor image ( mandala ) with color pigments. Such a larger than life picture of the Bhadrakali is also painted on the ground in an outbuilding of the temple on the night of the Puram festival. The actors come from the painter caste. As soon as they have completed their work, the oracle priest in a trance and wildly waving his sword performs a dance in which, accompanied by fast drum and cymbal beats, he circles the picture three times. Then he goes back to the shrine of the Bhadrakali, where he gets rid of his ritual objects in a procedure that is the reverse of the dressing ceremony, ties his loose hair back in a bun and walks as he came.

social environment

Excerpt from a demonstration by Ramachandra Pulavar and his troupe in a school in the Pattathanam district of Kollam .

Ideally, shadow players from the Pulavar can recite over 3000 verses by heart, move the figures effectively for a long time, let different characters speak with their voices, improvise funny remarks on current affairs and make the figures themselves. For this they need a well-founded philosophical-historical-literary education. Shadow players of this format have become extremely rare since the middle of the 20th century. The musicians from other castes should master their instruments. Friedrich Seltmann (1972 and 1986) laments the below-average level of craftsmanship in most of the performances, for example when the vocal skills are insufficient to distinguish male and female characters. In 1978 he found eleven shadow actors who had mastered the texts for a 14-day performance; there were around 40 active shadow actors in total.

The Pulavar pass on their shadow play profession to one or more of their sons. Women do not do the job and have nothing to do with the shadow play environment. Due to a lack of young talent, students ( shishya ) from other castes can also be admitted to training. You start training at the age of six or seven. The teacher (in the performing arts sutradhara , generally guru ) previously taught for ten years, since the 1970s the teaching time has been about half. The teaching method is based on imitation and repetition. The pupil sits in the background during performances and takes on more and more demanding sideline activities as their skills grow. At home, with the help of his teacher, he copies the texts and learns them by heart. At the end of his training period he is accepted into the circle of recognized shadow actors in a solemn admission ritual (Sanskrit ashirvada , Malayalam ashirvadam , "blessing"), which takes place during the invocation of the gods at the beginning of a performance. During this ritual, the student has to throw himself on the ground in front of each member of the shadow play troupe (Sanskrit pranamana , "prostration") and give him gifts (flowers, betel nuts, fruits and money). The traditional appreciation that shadow actors enjoy among the rural population - because of their knowledge of religion and mythology and because they are allowed to practice certain sacrificial ceremonies in the temple - contrasts with the poor pay and the low number of jobs. In view of the competition with modern entertainment media, attempts to accommodate the changed viewing habits of the audience through shortened screenings in concert halls (21 nights in 1.5 hours) and the introduction of new topics are not suitable for regaining the lost quality of the shadow play tradition.

The temple festival season in Kerala runs from late January to May. During this time the demonstrators travel around. Because income can only be achieved with the shadow play during this time, the demonstrators pursue a full-time job for the rest of the year and work in the building trade, as a weaver or in agriculture. Private orders from wealthy art patrons are practically no longer available and the temples tend to shorten their annual festival to fewer days than before for cost reasons. Payment is negotiated between the game master and his client. The game master makes arrangements with all employees about the remuneration, which according to the hierarchy decreases from the speakers of the texts, their assistants, other assistants who hold some of the figures, construction workers and down to the bottom the musicians who do not belong to the Pulavar. The commissioning temple administration takes care of the materials (including the up to 16 meter long canvas), offerings and musical instruments. Sometimes, in the weeks before, money is collected for the festival in the surrounding villages. It happens that an extended family pays the costs for a certain day of the temple festival and other families pay additional days until the days required for the temple festival are financially secure. Spectators can purchase a ticket ( natakam ), which is recorded as an offering. Shortly before dawn, especially after the last screening, the names of the donors are read out loud for several hours. Since the blessings of the gods are to be achieved through the donations, the donors include an above-average number of pregnant women, sick people and students taking an exam.


  • R. Bhanumathi: A study on the status of traditional shadow puppetry and puppeteers of South India. (Dissertation) Gandhigram Rural Institute, Deemed University (Tamil Nadu), 2004
  • Stuart Blackburn: Inside the Drama House. Rāma Stories and Shadow Puppets in South India. University of California Press, Berkeley / Los Angeles / London 1996 ( online )
  • Friedrich Seltmann: Shadow play in Kêrala. In: Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Vol. 128, No. 4, 1972, pp. 458–490
  • Friedrich Seltmann: Shadow play in Kerala. Sacred theater in South India. Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden, Stuttgart 1986
  • Valentina Stache-Rosen: Shadow plays and picture presentations in India . In: Journal of the German Oriental Society , Vol. 126, 1976, pp. 136–148 ( at ULB-Sachsen-Anhalt )

Web links

Commons : Tolpavakuthu  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ML Varadpande: History of Indian Theater. Abhinav Publications, New Delhi 1987, pp. 62, 66
  2. Surendranath Dasgupta: A History of Sanskrit Literature: Classical Period. Vol. 1, University of Calcutta, Kolkata 1947, pp. 48f, 501 ( at Internet Archive )
  3. ^ Shadow Play . In: Mohan Lal (Ed.): Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: Sasay to Zorgot. South Asia Books, Columbia (Missouri) 1993, p. 3936
  4. ML Varadpande: History of Indian Theater. Abhinav Publications, New Delhi 1987, p. 74
  5. ^ Fan Pen Chen: Shadow Theaters of the World. In: Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 62, No. 1, 2003, p. 27
  6. Harry Falk: Art poetry in the caves of Rāmgarh . In: Asian Studies: Journal of the Swiss Asian Society, Volume 45, Issue 2, 1991, pp. 257-276, doi : 10.5169 / seals-146919
  7. ML Varadpande: History of Indian Theater. Abhinav Publications, New Delhi 1987, pp. 74f
  8. Georg Jacob Hans Jensen, Hans Losch: The Indian shadow theater. (Georg Jacob, Paul Kahle (Ed.): Das orientalische Schattentheater, Vol. 2) W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1931, p. 6f
  9. Jaffur Shureef: Qanoon-e-Islam or the customs of the Moosulmans of India, compromising a full and exact account of their various rites and ceremonies from the moment of birth till the hour of death. Parbury, Allen & Co., London 1832, p. 182f ( at Internet Archive )
  10. ^ Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 16, 60
  11. Stuart Blackburn, 1996, p. 45
  12. Cf. Padmini Rangarajan: Puppetry: A Child's Play than Serious Art form. In: Artistic Narration. A Journal for Visual Performing Art , Vol. 3, February 2012
  13. R. Bhanumathi, 2004, pp. 7, 10
  14. Cf. Friedrich Seltmann: Shadow and Marionette Play in Savantvadi (South Maharastra). Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden, Stuttgart 1985
  15. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, p. 9
  16. ^ Georg Jacob, Hans Jensen, Hans Losch: Das indische Schattentheater, 1931, p. 11
  17. ^ Fan Pen Chen: Shadow Theaters of the World. In: Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 62, No. 1, 2003, p. 34
  18. Friedrich Seltmann: Comparative components of the shadow play forms of South India, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Bali and Java. In: Tribus. Publications of the Linden Museum, No. 23, Stuttgart 1974, pp. 23–70, here p. 30
  19. ^ Friedrich Seltmann, 1972, pp. 460f
  20. Friedrich Seltmann, 1972, p. 462
  21. Cf. Edgar Thurston: Castes and Tribes of Southern India. Vol. 6, P-S. Government Press, Madras 1909: Pillai , p. 198 and Pulavar , p. 225 ( at Internet Archive )
  22. See Sascha Ebeling: Colonizing the Realm of Words. The Transformation of Tamil Literature in Nineteenth-Century South India. State University of New York Press, New York 2010, ISBN 978-1438431994
  23. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 13-16
  24. ^ Fading away into the shadows. The Hindu, June 15, 2012
  25. ^ Reviving the ancient art of puppetry. Tholpavakoothu is on the verge of extinction.
  26. Valentina Stache-Rosen, 1976, p. 138
  27. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 28-37
  28. ^ William A. Noble: The Architecture and Organization of Kerala Style Hindu Temples. In: Anthropos Vol. 76, H. 1./2, 1981, pp. 1-24, here pp. 7-11
  29. KK Ramachandra Pulavar: Tolpava Koothu - The Shadow Puppet Theater of Kerala.
  30. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 39-44
  31. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, p. 59
  32. Stuart Blackburn, 1996, pp. 38, 132
  33. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 59f
  34. Stuart Blackburn, 1996, pp. 10-12
  35. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 45-51
  36. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 51-55
  37. ^ Tara Kashyap: Immortalizing a dying art . (book review)
  38. ^ Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 55f
  39. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 56-58
  40. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 62-69
  41. ^ Friedrich Seltmann: Shadow play in Mysore and Ândhra Pradeś. In: Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Vol. 127, No. 4, 1971, pp. 452–489, here p. 480
  42. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 37f, 56
  43. ^ Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, p. 79
  44. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, pp. 80-82
  45. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, p. 17
  46. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, p. 19; ders. 1972, p. 463
  47. Enchanting Tholpavakoothu . The Hindu, September 5, 2008; also at the opening of the 16th International Film Festival of Kerala 2012
  48. ^ Shadow of death over Tholpavakoothu . The Hindu, June 23, 2003
  49. ^ Play of light and shadows . The Hindu, July 13, 2007
  50. Friedrich Seltmann, 1986, p. 20