Puppets - Leather Work

The leather puppets of Andhra Pradesh trace their origins back to around 200 B.C. They were used for shadow plays that travelled the countryside.
A special orchestra accomp-anied the puppeteers and the movements of the puppets were synchronised to the sounds of the music. Leather puppets are made out of the hide of goat, deer or buffalo. The hide is treated with indigenous herbs and oiled and pounded until it is translucent. Parts of the body are drawn on the hide and then cut out and joined together by a thick knotted string. The skin is painted with bright colours using vegetable dyes. Bamboo sticks and Palm leaf stems are used as rods for the central support. The female puppet has extra joints at the head and waist for extra mobility for dancing. Holes are punched in different patterns to denote jewellery and costumes.
The piercing, the colouring, the dress - all have special meanings and are still done according to tradition. The costumes and jewellery are based on Yakshagana and Kuchipudi traditions. Along with making leather puppets, the craftsmen have diverted their craft into making lampshades and decorative items.