A Select Bibliography on Shadow Puppetry

Compiled by Shobana Radhakrishna Revised and edited by Asha Gupta 1998



Shadow puppets are flat figures. They are cut out of leather, which has been treated to make it translucent. Shadow puppets are pressed against the screen with a strong source of light behind it. The manipulation between the light and the screen make silhouette or colour shadow and viewers sit in front of the screen.

India has a varied tradition on shadow puppets. Although written records are scare, it is clear that by the time of the composition of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, there was a form of theatrical performance, known as the “Chhaya Nataka”.
The traditional shadow puppet theatre is chiefly concentrated in the States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Orissa. Further there is a very interesting form prevelent in Goa is called the “Chitrakathi”. The typical form from Karnataka is Togalugombeatta. It is associated with the Killekyata community.The Andhra shadow puppet theatre is Tolubommalattam. The highly sophisticated form of the shadow puppet theatre from Kerala is Tolpavakoothu. It is performed annually at the Bhagavati or Bhadrakali temples of Palghat. The themes of the plays in Tolpavakoothu are based on the Kamban Ramayana. Ravanchhaya is the theatre of Orissa.
The origin of shadow puppets is debatable though many scholars are of opinion that it originated in India and spread to South East Asia through Indonesia on one hand and also towards west India.

Indonesia is the home of some of the most sophisticated form of shadow theatre, called, Wayang Kulit or Wayang Purrwa. The themes revolve round the epics of the Ramayana or the Mahabharata and also legends of Indonesia, known as the Panji stories.The Malaysian shadow theatre owes its origin to Java. However, it has also some similarities with Thailand. The shadow theatre in Malaysia is divided into two forms the Wayang Siam and the Wayang Djawa.

The traditions of shadow puppetry of Cambodia and Thailand have very strong affinities. In Cambodia, it is called Nang Sbek and in Thailand, Nang Yai.

Turkey was the home of a very distinct form of shadow theatre. This has been known from the 13th Century. Some Scholars believe that puppetry came to Turkey from Egypt and, perhaps, also Indonesia. The Chief character of Turkish puppetry is Karagoz and the form is also known by this character.

The Turkish shadow theatre was brought to Greece during the Ottoman Empire. There is similarity between the Greek puppets and the Turkish puppets. Both have the character karagoz as their chief protagonist. He is called Karagiosis in Greek. China has a very rich tradition of shadow puppetry. There are several styles and schools both in the North-East and the North-West China.

The bibliography on Puppets and in particular on shadow Puppets is long overdue. A full bibliography on it has not been published thus far and the bibliographies added to available studies on this Shadow Pupetry are not exhaustive. The present attempt has been a selective compilation of 919 entries from different sources in around Delhi and does not claim to be exhaustive on everything that has been written on Shadow Puppets.
In fact this undertaking was first taken up by Smt. Shobana Radhakrishna, Research Asstt. of Janpada Sampada and later enriched by Ms. Sampa Ghosh and finally Compiled and Edited by Smt. Asha Gupta, Bibliographer.

The current arrangement of the text is made alphabetical under country besides an Author and Country Index to facilitates the scholars. We welcome suggestions for improvement.

New Delhi



December 4, 1998. Academic Director



The Select Bibliography on shadow puppetry attempts to look at all print and non-print material related to shadow puppets as practised anywhere in the world, based on the following primary and secondary sources :-

  1. Books in print.
  2. Ephemeral material in print — Periodicals, Journals, Bulletins, Articles, Papers, Pamphlets, News paper articles and Clippings, Calender etc.
  3. Audio material — Transcript of Radio-talk and audio cassettes.
  4. Visual material — Colour and b/w slides (available in India)

The above material has been documented largely from the Indian sources. The language of the material has been specifically mentioned, wherever not mentioned, the language is English.Separately, a compendium has been drawn on the following :-

  1. Museums mainly on shadow puppets in the world.
  2. List of major puppeteers and puppet groups in Indian and abroad.

The exhaustivity of the Bibliography is strectched between the years 1880 to 1996.The Bibliography should be viewed as an on-going effort as it has to be updated on a continual basis.The material has been arranged alphabetically; first country-wise and then author-wise.As and when new source material comes to light, the same may be added to the Bibliography to make the scene more rich and comprehensive.



B.C.L British Council Library
C.C.R.T. Centre for Cultural Resource and Training, New Delhi.
I.C.C.R. Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi.
IGNCA Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi.
M.M.B. Max Mueller Bhawan Library, New Delhi.
National Library, Calcutta.
S.D. Mr. Suresh Duta, Director,    [Private Collection]

Calcutta Puppet Theatre,

Bijan Setu, Room No. 20,

Calcutta -700 019

S.G. Ms. Sampa Ghosh,      [Private Collection]

C-563, Sarita Vihar,

New Delhi -110 044

S.N.A. Sangeet Natak Akademi Library, New Delhi