A PUPPET SHOW WITH A DIFFERENCE
THOL PAVA KOOTHU is an ancient form of art in Kerala Temples (THOL
= Leather; PAVA = PUPPET or DOLL; KOOTHU = SHOW)
This show is conducted as a ritual in the Bhagavathy temples of
Malabar for centuries. This play with shadows remind of the old
black and white films.
Animal leather is cleaned, dried, flat and
cut in the shape of story characters, Human, Bovine or Aquatic.
Being a shadow play, suitable holes are made for light effect from
Stories from Hindu Epic like Ramayana are
played in this. According to Hindu mythology this show was designed
by Lord Shiva to please godess Badrakali. The latter was engaged
in a battle with demon Darika during the time of RAMA RAVANA battle
and felt sorry for not being able to witness the great battle. Lord
Shiva redressed her grievance by showing the Rama-Ravana battle
through THOL PAVA KOOTHU.
A white cloth about 20 feet long is fixed
tightly without wrinkles as the screen. Below this a black cloth
about 40 feet is also fitted tightly. This is done in special stage
made for the show called KOOTHU MADAM. Specific dimensions are there
for all these.
The white cloth depicts Earth and Heaven
and the black PATHALAM the abode of Demons.
An arecanut tree log is fixed horizontaly
in the required height behind the white screen. Depression are made
in this log where coconut broken pieces with oil and cloth wicks
are kept ready to be lightened.
Several religious rites are there to start
the show. The KOMARAM of the temple who is supposed to represent
the godess of the temple blesses the site of the show and gives
an order to start the show. The artist offers prayers to God and
lights the lamps behind the screen.
The artist who is an experienced master
sings the story in the show with drum beats. He moves the leather
made PAVAS in the required action and the shadow in the screen moves
like performing artists. The viewers enjoy the drama in the shadows
of the puppets.
Though this was confined to temples and
epics, efforts are on to show modern episodes and stories of great
men. Story of our father of the nation Mahathmaji is getting ready
says a report.
Puppet shows similar to THOL PAVA KOOTHU
of Kerala are there in checkoslovakia, Sicily and Japan. Probably
there may be differences but they are contemporaries.