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Tholpavakkoothu – UPSC


In a recent development, A robot has brought to life a shadow leather puppet in the renowned temple art of Tholpavakkoothu in Kerala. This traditional art form now incorporates modern technology as the robot animates the intricate leather puppet, adding a new and fascinating dimension to the age-old tradition.


  • Tholpavakkoothu, a traditional temple art form, originates from Palakkad and its nearby regions in Kerala.
  • The art is primarily practiced by Pulavar families in the Shoranur region of Palakkad district.
  • Tholpavakkoothu holds a significant position among Kerala’s ancient art forms, showcasing the harmonious blend of Aryan and Dravidian cultural influences.
  • This ritualistic art is performed exclusively during the annual festivals in the Kaali temples of Palakkad district, adding a sacred dimension to its cultural significance.
  • Tholpavakkoothu goes by different names, such as Nizhalkkoothu and Olakkoothu, showcasing its regional diversity and historical roots.
  • The thematic content of these performances is drawn from the Kamba Ramayana, the Tamil rendition of the epic Ramayana, providing a unique cultural perspective to the storytelling.


  • In Malayalam, Thol means leather, pava means doll and koothu the play. Though the origin of this ritualistic art form is not known exactly, some believe it to be as old as 1200 years.
  • It used to be performed in the Bhadrakali temples of Palakkad, telling tales from the Ramayana.

The Show

  • Imagine a unique form of entertainment taking place on a special stage called “koothumadam” right in the temple courtyard.
  • The performance features mythological characters, and what adds to the spectacle is the use of fire and the lighting of lamps behind the screen.
  • The main puppeteer leading this mesmerizing show is called the ‘Pulavan.’

Musical Instruments Used

  • Ezhupara, Chenda and Maddalam etc.

Regional Names of Shadow Puppetry in India

Andhra PradeshTholu bommalata
KarnatakaTogalu gombeyaata
MaharashtraCharma bahuli natya
Tamil NaduThol bommalata

Read Also: Nagara Architecture of Ayodhya’s Ram Temple – UPSC

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