Hi! I am an artisan/manufacturer of leather puppets and lamp shades. I was born in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh in a family of traditional leather puppeteers.
Leather Craft Skills
I was initiated into the art of making leather puppets at the young age of 13 by my father. I have also taken formal training in this craft under the program organized by District Industrial Center at Anantapur in 1976-77.
Apart from leather puppets, I also make various products like lamp shades, hangings, paintings, clocks, etc. In my products, I often depict scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
I also organize shows called “Tholu Bommalata” with my troupe in India and abroad. In these shows, we depict scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Leather Craft Process
Leather puppetry is a hundred years old craft. Usually in this craft, puppets of Hindu deities up to 7 feet are made based on mythology. Goatskin is used to make them. It is brought from a local butcher. Goatskin is washed thoroughly and dried. Then the designs are made. Certain specific colors are used for jewelry and clothing, etc. Subtle and detailed designs are perforated into the skin. The eyes are made last as it symbolizes bringing life to the puppet. Old traditional tools such as chisels, knives, and scissors are used for cutting. All parts of the puppet’s body like knees, elbows, etc. are cut separately and then attached with thick knotted string. This allows for easy movement of the puppets.
Traditional puppets are now used as wall hangings in homes and offices. Products like lamp shades are a major innovation in this craft.
I have expertise in making leather lamp shades.
I have 40 years of experience in this craft.
Participation in Exhibitions
I have participated in many exhibitions in India and abroad. In addition, I have done shows and showcased my products in many countries like New York, Germany, France, Austria, and Brazil. In Germany, I held a one-hour show every day for 45 days in a row with members of my troupe and the audience loved it.
I was awarded the National Award in 1988. In 2006, I received the Shilp Guru Award for my contribution to the leather puppet craft. Recently in November 2021, I have been honored with India’s most prestigious award “Padam Shri Award.”
Training Programmes Conducted
Earlier “Tholu Bommalata”, puppet shows were often organized, but people have lost interest in them. So today’s young artists are showing interest in selling puppets more than organizing puppet shows. So keeping this in mind, I started educating the craftsmen of my community. I inspired them to take this art to the next level and create contemporary products like leather paintings, lampshades, and room partitions. I also gave them proper training so that they can invent new products and earn good remuneration for their art. I have trained 100 artisans in the skill-up graduation program organized by DCH. I have also trained 5 artisans in the “Guru Shishya Parampara Programme” organized by DCH. I have taught this art abroad also.
I am 72 years old but my age is not an obstacle in my art. I still want to train as many craftsmen as possible in the leather puppet craft. Also, I want more and more women to come forward and show their creativity in this field as well.