Shadow Puppetry in a Traditional Stage

Sree Bhadrakali temple, Paalapetty

A unique ritual art which is performed in some Bhdrakali temples on the banks of River Nila (Bharathapuzha) is shadow puppetry, locally known as Tholpavakoothu. One such temple is Sree Bhadrakali temple at Paalapetty, a place near the coastal area of Malappuram district, Kerala.  This year, the ceremonial start of the puppetry performance was on 14th March and will continue till 25 March, for a total of 12 days.  According to tradition, the puppetry should be performed for minimum ten days, and to end on Tuesday or Friday. So this year it is 12 days.

The story of the epic Ramayan is performed here as shadow puppetry using leather puppets during mid night and continues to 4-5 hours. The stage is specially made for this. In this temple, the stage is
Tholpavakoothu
quite old. The stage, locally known as ‘Koothu Maadam’, is a permanent structure, which is about 30 ft length and a height of about 12 ft. The platform is about 5ft high. The screen will be of about 24ft length and 2.5 ft height. The roof of the stage is in traditional construction with wooden frames and slanted tiled.
Koothu Madam
There is enough space behind the screen for the puppeteers and other supporting drummers for performance. The shadows are created by lighting 21 oil lamps in a row, behind the perforated leather puppets. Animated movements are given by expert puppeteers from behind the screen.
Koothu Maadam
Thalappoli procession is held on all these days just prior to the puppet play. In this ritual offer, ladies carry oil lamp and other holy materials like flowers, grains etc in a plate and offer to the Goddess in a procession, which is usually accompanied by oracle, percussion music etc.

Koothu Maadam
The main puppeteer is Mr. Pushparajan from  Koonathara,near Shoranur in Palakkad district. As per the available data, Shadow puppetry is performed as ritual in over a hundred temples, across River Nila covering the areas in Malappuram, Palakkad and Thrissur districts.
            
Paalapetty Sree Bhagavathi Kshethram is situated at Paalapetty, near the NH 17road, between Ponnani and Chavakkad in Malappuram district, Kerala, India. 
Shadow Puppetry in a Traditional Stage Shadow Puppetry in a Traditional Stage Reviewed by Welcome Kerala on 10:28:00 Rating: 5

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