Leather puppets occupy a distinct position in the culture of Andhra Pradesh, as it was the leather puppetry which was once one of the major forms of entertainment before the arrival of television. Tholu Bommalata is the Telegu name for Leather Puppetry shows. Marking its initiation in the 3rd century, this art reached its zenith during Vijyanagar Empire. Still now, it is widely prevalent in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The artisans create leather puppets with great artistry giving them a perfect character with beautiful attires and ornaments of vibrant colours. Bamboo sticks are attached to the puppets to lend them stiffness and strings are also attached to the various joints to facilitate their movement control. The shows mainly depict folk and mythological stories of India including Ramayana and Mahabharata. The art however dwindled over time with the advent of other modes of entertainment.
Skin of goats and sheep serves as the main raw material for Leather Crafts of Andhra Pradesh. Sometimes buffalo hides are also used in this exclusive craftwork. The crafting of leather puppets follows a series of procedures which starts by washing and cleaning the animal hide intensively. The skin is soaked in lime water for about 10-15 days, followed by its cleaning with a knife. Local vegetable dye, known as Kadaka Powder, is then used for dyeing which imparts a light brown colour to the leather. Nowadays, chemical dyes are also used for this purpose. Outlining of the borders is the last step in structuring of the puppets. Once structured, these are decorated with immense perfection by rendering beautiful designs and bright hues to these exquisite leather puppets.
Other Leather Artefacts
Apart from leather puppetry, leather lampshades are another manifestation of brilliant leather artistry of Andhra Pradesh. Creation of lampshades requires moulds over which the leather is stitched. Charming designs which often includes mythological figures are drawn on them with the help of pencils. The lampshades are finally painted with vivid colours which impart an elegant and gorgeous look. Besides this, the craftsmen of Andhra Pradesh also create other leather items like lampshades, wall hangings, attractive paintings, purses and many more.
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