It is believed that the man who first incorporated verses from the Ramayana in to the literary composition of this art form was Chinnathampi Vadhyar, who belonged to Puthur village of Palghat. He came from a scholars family, who had studied the Ramayana in depth. Curious to go deeper into it, he decided to pay a visit to a Brahmin’s house, to listen to its recitation. But instead he was told that he has no right to listen to the reading of the Puranas and the scriptures. Insulted by this treatment, he resolved to present the Ramayana in such a way that even ordinary people would enjoy it. He found Tholpava Koothu to be the best medium.
The art form is usually staged late in the evening. As per the local belief, this ritual art form is watched by the goddess, who in turn blesses the community.
But I heard that shadow puppetry is declining in demand. Is it true?
In Tamil Nadu this art form is in declining stage. In some part of Thanjavur it acts as a street play but on the whole the state is seeing less of demand of this art. Irony is while the younger generation in India is not realising its worth, it has become a hot topic of research for many foreign universities. Professors and students from California University, often visit India to learn indepth about Tholpava Koothu. This subject has lot of aspects for Research, which helps us to improvise and enrich our cultural & social traditions.
What is the kind of training which goes behind to prepare a puppeteer perform TholpavaKoothu?
Scholarship in Ramayana is not the only qualification for a Tholpava Koothu performer. He has to be well versed in puranas and shastras and also be competent enough to speak fluently on the topic. Pulavar is the honorable title id given to scholar-cum-performer who has in depth knowledge of Tholpava Koothu. To become a puppet show man one has to study for 15 years under a scholar. Also, in the earlier time women never participated but with time they have started to involve in this art form actively.