Ravan chhaya: Shadow puppetry

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Shadow play which is also known as shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment which uses flat articulated cut-out figures (shadow puppets) which are held between a source of light and a translucent screen or scrim.

Shadow puppetry is considered the oldest form of puppetry in the world. It began 1,000’s of years ago in China and India. In China the shadow plays are often folk-tales and legends of the past, many based on Chinese opera themes.

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In Indonesia shadow plays are an integral part of traditional culture.

WHAT EXACTLY ARE SHADOW PUPPETS?

Have you ever used just your hand, a light and a wall to make a shadow figure? Perhaps it was a dog or maybe a rabbit? If so, you’ve already had some experience with shadow puppets!

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Shadow puppetry— also called shadow play — got its start thousands of years ago in China and India. This unique form of storytelling is the oldest type of puppetry in the world.

Shadow puppets are figures that are placed between a light and a screen. Moving them creates the illusion of moving images on the screen. An experienced puppeteer can make figures appear to walk, talk, fight and dance.

RAVAN CHHAYA: SHADOW PUPPETRY

 Ravana Chhaya literally means ‘the shadow of Ravana and is named after the eponymous evil king of Ramayana. The lyrics for the performance are taken from the Vichitra Ramayana by the Oriya poet khuntia.

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It has been named after the villain of the Ramayana has been ascribed variously to the influence of the jains and the Tamils both of whom view Ravana with greater sympathy than other Hindus.

Alternately it has been suggested that it was not named after Rama as he is an incarnation of the god Vishnu and it would have been inauspicious to refer to him as a shadow.

ABOUT THE PUPPETS USED IN RAVAN CHHAYA:

• Puppets used in Ravana Chhaya are made of deerskin, range from 6 inches to 2 feet in height and are mounted on bamboo poles. A complete performance requires as many as 700 puppets with multiple puppets being used to depict a diversity of moods for individual characters.

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• The puppets are not coloured, have no joints and have perforations that outline their figures and costumes. The puppeteer manipulates the puppets using a split bamboo stick that runs down the middle of the puppet.

• Another feature of the puppets is that the puppet form of Ravana is much larger than that of Rama with greater dramatic impact and casts an impressive shadow on the screen.

THE SHADOW PUPPET THEATRE :

The tradition of shadow puppet theatre in India is very old and thrives only in the states of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka,  Tamilnadu, Kerala and Maharastra. Each states has its peculiar design, style, colour-scheme and manipulation techniques.

The shadow puppet theatre of Odisha is known as Ravan Chhaya .The theme of Ravan Chhaya, literally means :the Shadow of Ravan’ is the story of Rama. It is named after Ravan as it is believed that Rama, a divine and illuminated being, does not cast a shadow.

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As you can see, Ravan is a strongly etched puppet character in the performance, that follows the Odia version called Vichitra Ramayan by Vishvanath Khuntia a seventeenth century music making poet. Ravan Chhaya is also known as Ramalila or Rama Natak.

Ravan Chhaya was popular all across Angul and Dhenkanal districts of Odisha in the late nineteenth century, but at present it is practiced only in Odash village of Angul district.
Ravan Chhaya Natya Sansada, one of the premier shadow puppetry institution of Odisha was established in the year 1982 by late guru Kathinanda Das.

CONCLUSION:

As we finish with this article, it seems to be perfectly clear that Ravan chhaya: shadow puppetry is an extremely creative and a fun form of art.

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There are films that might leave you mesmerised but a shadow puppetry of ravan chhaya will leave you speechless as it is a very detailed art with a great story based puppetry on ravan. I’ll be sure to make myself some time and grab myself a seat in the theatre to watch puppets come alive and I would totally recommend you all to do the same as well.