Current Affairs
Daily Bits

Tholpavakoothu, the traditional puppetry of Kerala

  • Posted By
  • Categories
    History & Culture
  • Published
    19th Feb, 2021


Padma Shri awardee Ramachandra Pulavar’s innovative ideas, such as cultural organisations, educational institutions and even puppet festivals across the world, have brought international recognition to Tholpavakoothu, the traditional puppetry of Kerala.

About Tholpavakoothu


  • Tholpavakoothuis a form of shadow puppetry, which is practiced in 
  • It is performed using leather puppets.
  • This is performed as a ritual dedicated to Bhadrakali.
  • The art is performed in Devi temples in specially built theatres called koothumadam
  • This art form is especially popular in the Palakkad, Thrissur and Malappuram districts of Kerala.


  • The performance is accompanied by the recitation of slokasand the performers are required to learn over 3000 of these before they perform.
  • A full Tholpavakoothu performance stages all the episodes of the Kamba Ramayana.
  • The stage has a screen, a piece of white cloth, behind which the puppets are held.
  • The lighting is provided by 21 lamps lit in coconuthalves or earthen lamps placed behind the puppets, causing their shadows to fall on the screen.
  • Instruments used: chenda, maddalam, ezhupara, ilathalam, conchand cherukuzhal.
  • The lead puppeteeris called a pulavar.
  • The puppets used in Tholpavakoothu used to be made out of deer skin but are now typically made from goat skin.
  • The puppets are painted in vegetable dyes, as these dyes last long.