Stoliarova E. V. Traditional and modern versions of “Ramayana” in Indian theatre of flat leather puppets “tolpava koothu”
Ekaterina V. STOLIAROVA — Researcher, The State Museum of the History of Religion (Russia, Saint-Petersburg)
ABSTRACT. There are three types of puppet theatre practiced in the Indian state of Kerala: a glove puppet theatre “pava kathakali”, a marionette theatre “nul pava ko- othu” and a flat leather puppet theater “tolpava koothu”. The article discusses the tra- ditional theatre “tolpava koothu” and the various versions of performances performed by artists. Performances are based on the South Indian version of the epic poem “Ramayana” written by the poet Kamban and dedicated to the goddess Bhadrakali. Pup- pet plays are staged on specially designed scenes in front of the temples and tell about the life of the Prince Rama from his birth to the coronation. Flat theatrical puppets are made of animal skin and animated by bamboo or reed sticks. A screen is a tightly stretched white fabric, illuminated by the oil lamps produced from the halves of coconuts. During performances, puppets sit, stand, move, or fight , while additional ma- terials are used to depict nature, battle scenes, etc. The performance is accompanied by playing musical instruments: drums, cymbals, pipes, sinks. The variety of puppet theatre I address in the article has a direct connection with the religious ritual, there- fore the main version of the play “Ramayana” is a traditional one, performed during the festival dedicated to the goddess. A short version of this play (in English or Hindi) is an entertaining and informative performance that introduces the Indian epic and the tradition of the “tolpava koothu” theater at the level of the main subjects and characters.
KEYWORDS: tolpava koothu, pulavar, Ramayana, Kerala, koothu madam, Bhadrakali
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