Togalu Gombeyaata

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Leather puppets demonstrating the war between the Pandava, Arjuna and his son Babruvahana Leather puppets of Karnataka.jpg
Leather puppets demonstrating the war between the Pandava, Arjuna and his son Babruvahana

Togalu Gombeyaata is a puppet show unique to the state of Karnataka, India. Togalu Gombeyaata translates to a play of leather dolls in the native language of Kannada. [1] It is a form of shadow puppetry. Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat has undertaken research on this art and has a good collection of leather puppets.

Karnataka State in southern India

Karnataka is a state in the south western region of India. It was formed on 1 November 1956, with the passage of the States Reorganisation Act. Originally known as the State of Mysore, it was renamed Karnataka in 1973. The state corresponds to the Carnatic region. The capital and largest city is Bangalore (Bengaluru).

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Kannada Dravidian language of India

Kannada is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Kannada people in India, mainly in the state of Karnataka, and by significant linguistic minorities in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and abroad. The language has roughly 43.7 million native speakers, who are called Kannadigas. Kannada is also spoken as a second and third language by over 12.9 million non-Kannada speakers living in Karnataka, which adds up to 56.6 million speakers. It is one of the scheduled languages of India and the official and administrative language of the state of Karnataka.


Making of the puppet

The puppets used in Togalu Gombeyaata are made of leather. Goat hide and deer skin are generally used for making these puppets since they have the characteristic of transparency and can easily absorb colours. The raw hide is treated with salt and caustic soda to remove hair and other impurities and then dried. Then colours are applied on the leather using locally available vegetable dyes. Red, blue, green and black colours are usually used. [2] The hide is then cut into appropriate shapes which are joined together using strings and small sticks. For puppets representing human and animal figures, the head and limbs are joined in such a way that they can be moved easily. [3] The maximum size of the puppet is 4 x 3 feet and the minimum is 6 x 3 inches. [2] The puppets are usually characters from the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. But with the advent of new era, personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi are also created using puppets. [4]

<i>Ramayana</i> great Hindu epic

Ramayana is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Mahābhārata. Along with the Mahābhārata, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

<i>Mahabharata</i> one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India

The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. Along with the Rāmāyaṇa, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

Mahatma Gandhi Pre-eminent leader of Indian nationalism during British-ruled India

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahātmā was applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa – is now used worldwide. In India, he was also called Bapu, a term that he preferred and Gandhi ji, and is known as the Father of the Nation.

Stage and settings

A stage is set up using bamboo stems and woollen blankets. A white semi-transparent cloth is strung across and serves as a screen on which the images of the puppets are projected. The puppets are strung across a rope behind the screen and a bright oil lamp placed behind the puppets project their images on to the screen. The puppeteers sit behind the screen and manipulate the puppets based on the scene being played. [3] However, innovation has entered this art with the usage of steel frames for stage, loud speakers to render voices and an arc-lamp instead of the oil lamp. [4]


The performance usually starts with an invocation to the Hindu God Ganesha and to the Hindu Goddess of learning Saraswati. The scenes enacted are usually those belonging to the Hindu epics, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. The puppeteers also provide voice to the puppets and an accompanying music is provided using a mukha-veena (veena played using mouth) or a harmonium. The puppets are controlled using sticks and strings. The performances usually commence at night and continue till dawn.

Ganesha Hindu God of new beginnings, success, and wisdom

Ganesha, also known as Ganapati, Vinayaka, Pillaiyar and Binayak, is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bali (Indonesia), Bangladesh and Nepal. Hindu denominations worship him regardless of affiliations. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains and Buddhists.

Saraswati Hindu goddess of arts, music and knowledge

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom, and learning. She is a part of the trinity (Tridevi) of Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. All the three forms help the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to create, maintain, and regenerate-recycle the Universe, respectively.

Veena A stringed Indian musical instrument

The veena, comprises a family of chordophone instruments of the Indian subcontinent. Ancient musical instruments evolved into many variations, such as lutes, zithers and arched harps. The many regional designs have different names such as the Rudra veena, the Saraswati veena, the Vichitra veena and others.

See also

Andhra Pradesh State in southern India

Andhra Pradesh is one of the 29 states of India. Situated in the south-east of the country, it is the seventh-largest state in India, covering an area of 162,970 km2 (62,920 sq mi). As per the 2011 census, it is the tenth most populous state, with 49,386,799 inhabitants. The largest city in Andhra Pradesh is Visakhapatnam. Telugu, one of the classical languages of India, is the major and official language of Andhra Pradesh.


  1. A description of Togalu Gombeyaata is provided by Staff Correspondent (2005-01-03). "Create atmosphere to develop rural theatre". Online Edition of The Hindu, dated 2005-01-03. Chennai, India: 2005, The Hindu. Retrieved 2005-01-03.
  2. 1 2 A description of Togalu Gombeyaata is provided by "Shadow Puppets". Online Webpage of 2001 Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-04-29.
  3. 1 2 A detailed description of leather puppets is provided by K.L. Kamat. "Leather Puppets of India". Online Webpage of Kamat's Potpourri. 1996-2007 Kamat's Potpourri. Retrieved 2007-04-29.
  4. 1 2 Changes in the art of Togalu Gombeyaata are mentioned by K.L. Kamat. "Kamat Goes to a Puppet Show". Online Webpage of Kamat's Potpourri. 1996-2007 Kamat's Potpourri. Retrieved 2007-04-29.

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