Hanuman puppet

G. Venu with Hanuman Pavakathakali puppet

Have you ever heard of Pavakathakali? It is the traditional glove-puppet play of Kerala, Southern India. The practice is restricted to several families around the remote village of Paruthippully, who have been the custodians and practitioners of this tradition for several centuries. When I was in India in 2009 I was lucky enough to meet G. Venu and he showed me several of the puppets. In the picture you can see G. Venu and Hanuman.

The tradition became known as Pava (puppet) katha (story) kali (play) in the eighteenth century when Kathakali first came to the Palghat (northern Kerala) region.  The glove-puppets had already been in existence there for about four hundred years, but it was in the eighteenth century that the artistes (Andi Pandaram) adopted the Kathakali costumes for the puppets.

Plays that are commonly performed in the Pavakathakali style are:

  • ‘Kalyan Saughandhikam’
  • ‘Uttara Svayamvaram’
  • ‘Duryodhana Vdaham’
  • ‘Dakshayagam’

To view a section of a performance click here.

There are many other forms of puppetry that have developed from live performances by actors and vica versa.

CHALLENGE: See if you can match the practices with their definitions below:

  1. 1. Wayang Kulit
  2. 2. Pavakathakali
  3. 3. Karagoz
  4. 4. Wayang Golek
  5. 5. Tolpava Koothu
  6. 6. Wayang Gedog


  1. a) Shadow Puppetry from Turkey
  2. b) Shadow Puppetry from Indonesia
  3. c) Shadow Puppetry from Kerala, India
  4. d) Masked Javanese Theatrical Performance
  5. e) Glove Puppetry from Kerala, India
  6. f ) Rod Puppetry from Indonesia

Answers: 1b, 2e, 3a, 4f, 5c, 6d.

Information taken from ‘Puppetry and lesser known dance traditions of Kerala’ G. Venu, 1990. Natana Kairali