String Puppets of Karnataka


String puppetry shows in Karnataka are based on the popular local folk-drama called yakshagana; the doll-show or puppet-show is called as bombeyatta. The Sanskrit yaksh-yakshini are known as jakka-jakkini in Kannada. The puppets are shaped out of light wood capable of being worked into smooth surfaces. The face, with the headgear, the neck, and the hands and feet are artistically carved. The wooden frame of each puppet has joints at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. The neck is inserted loosely into the chest and tied with a twine a couple of times to allow easy all-round movements. The puppets range in height from an average of 22 inches to 28 inches. The female characters have elaborate hair styles decorated with imitation of local flowers and jewellery made of wood that is carved and painted or covered with tinsel and beads. The headgear of the maleshas is an elaborate turban shaped like the golden-hued ketaki, a highly scented flower with a multi-sheath pod and the forehead is adorned with a jewel. The female puppet wears the traditional sari and blouse and the male wears the dhoti and a red kurta. The figures are covered with jewellery. Lord Krishna is made to wear a golden-yellow cloth and is armed with chakra and a bow and arrow. The most striking is the bannada vesha or demon-villain. The kireeta or crown is unusually .big in size and the back has a circular and coloured ponytail. The total height of the figure, including headgear, is 32 inches.

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