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Tolubommalata is a puppet tradition found in the Telugu speaking areas of South India i.e. Andhra Pradesh and parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It has a long history, dating back at least 700 years, but little is known of its form or its practitioners prior to the late 1950s, when scholars first began to scrutinize it and publish their findings. It is often referred to as a shadow puppet tradition but it actually does not make use of shadows in the manner of the shadow puppet traditions found in Southeast Asia.

The puppets, often life-size or larger, are made from the dried skins of goats. The skins, once dried, are translucent. This permits light to pass through the puppets. As a result, when the puppets are placed upon a white screen and a light is placed behind them, the light passes through the puppets and they appear in full color on the screen, an illumination rather than a shadow. The popular themes in a Tolubommalata performance is Lanka Dahanamu (the Burning of Lanka) and other episodes from Ramayana.  Most of the Tolubommalata puppeteers are Marathi speakers, indicating a profound influence of Marathi theatrical genres upon south Indian and Telugu performing traditions. Tolubommalata had been performed at marriages and at temples during Shivaratri and other festivals.


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