meaning 'leather puppet play', Tholppavakkoothu is a ritual art performed
during the annual festivals in the Kaali temples of
Palakkad district. The text of the play
is based on the Kamba Ramayana, narrated in a diction that is a mixture of
Malayalam and Tamil dialectical
The play covers the whole gamut of events from Lord Rama's birth to his coronation as the King of Ayodhya. The show is enacted on the 'Koothumadom', a specially constructed oblong playhouse.
The puppets are fashioned out of the hides of buffaloes and deer, the former for evil characters and latter for noble ones. Each puppet has an average height of 80 cms and is cut out in different postures.
The puppets are arranged behind a long white curtain, which is stretched across the Koothumadom. Behind this, on a split bamboo pole, is placed a row of wick lamps inside coconut halves.
The light from these lamps cast the glowing silhouettes of the puppets on the white curtain. The chief puppeteer is known as 'Pulavan'. At present, this ritual art is confined to Ottappalam and Kavalappara in Palakkad district.