The Art of Being a Puppeteer in India – Career Scope & Opportunities

The puppet traditions of India are richly diverse and historical. Puppetry is an intricate and colorful folk art that has been handed down the generations. Puppetry takes many forms in the process of animating objects through human agency. As objects deciphering meanings within a narrative structure and as characters brought alive through artistic brilliance, puppets— within a system of language—operate as agencies of revelation. Puppet theatre has been in existence in India for thousands of years to entertain and teach people about Hindu religious heroes.

Archaeologists at Harappa and Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley discovered parts of clay dolls with holes for strings, supporting the theory that puppet theatre existed more than 5,000 years ago. Perhaps the origins of puppetry can be dated back to the prehistoric period when Man, living in caves, was enamoured of the dancing shadows cast on the walls by his cooking fires, perceiving himself and his fellow beings, with all their gestures and attempts at communication, replicated visually upon the cave walls. This seems to be the genesis of Man’s efforts to recreate his own likeness.

Puppets have featured in major religious festivals like Shivratri at the Srisailam Temple of Andhra Pradesh as indigenous entertainment. Tolpava Koothu, a puppet play of Kerala, is performed as part of the annual festival in temples of Bhagavati or Bhadrakali in Palghat, Kerala.  Apart from providing entertainment, puppet shows disseminate important ethical lessons, especially through the portrayal of conflict between good and evil and the ultimate victory of the former. While anyone can move a puppet, it needs a skilled puppeteer to lend life to it.

In India, puppetry is a living tradition and 18 different forms of puppetry exist, belonging to 11 states. There are mainly four genres of puppetry commonly found—shadow puppets, rod puppets, string puppets and glove puppets. In India, these are the following puppet traditions belonging to various states:

  1. Kathputli—Rajasthani String Puppets
  2. Bahulya – Maharashtra’s String Puppets
  3. Pavakathakali – Kerala’s Glove Puppets
  4. Ravanachhaya – Odisha’s Shadow Puppets 
  5. Those Bommalata – Andhra Pradesh’s Shadow Puppets 
  6. Putul Nautch – West Bengal’s Rod Puppets  
  7. Bommalattam – Tamilnadu’s String Puppets
  8. Gombeyatta – Karnataka ‘s String Puppets  
  9. Yampuri – Bihar’s Rod Puppets  

What does a puppeteer do?

Making humour a serious business is a tough act. Each act of a puppeteer should be unique, according to the event.  You can choose characters based on the events. A customised character needs solid scripting before it comes alive through the puppeteer on stage. Further, Puppet-Making is a full time job besides performance. If a client wants super customisation with customised script and customised character and has a budget and an adequate time-frame, then you should create the puppet character from scratch.

Skills required: 

You need to first create a character. The process of creating a character is complex. First and foremost we see what character are we looking at. Then either collect references in the form of cartoons or try and sketch the character. After you select the material that can be used to give the desired flexibility to the character. Make the character and work on the costumes and then experiment with the voice. Keen observation and interest to research is also mandatory for this profession.

Courses in Puppetry:

  • Certificate programme in puppetry (4 months – Theatre and drama enthusiasts can broaden their spectrum of practice through this course)

Colleges offering Puppetry:

  • University of Mumbai


Currently, puppetry is not a full-time profession. Those taking it up do it out of passion, besides a full-time career. However, one can earn depending on the client and event.

(Edvantage Point is India’s go-to platform for education-related products and services. We are into admissions management for schools, career advice and counselling services for students as well as recruitment services).

About EdvantagePoint

India's largest school discovery portal

View all posts by EdvantagePoint →