Krishnan Kutty Ramachandra Pulavar’s family has been preserving and following ancient tradi- tions for 12 generations. Their family tradition is passing on Tholpava Koothu, the unique temple shadow play of the Indian state of Kerala. The compound word tol-pava-koothu means: leather- doll-play, a traditional, ritual art form.
The shadow play is built around verses from the Tamil epic, Kamba Ramayana. “The performanc- es are in Tamil dialect with a large number of Sanskrit and Malayalam words. The puppets are made of deer leather, the screen is lit using coconut oil lamps. The performance has special musical accompaniment with drums, symbols and bagpipes. The Tholpavakooothu performances are held in specially built theatres, Koothu madams, next to Baghawati temples from January to May. Performances start at 10 at night and last till dawn.
While these performances mean simple entertainment for the average audience, believers regard it as religious sacrifice. They make offerings during certain episodes of the story, for the puppeteer to pray for them, for their well-being, harvest, wealth, good marriage...
Padmashri Ramachandra Pulavar - Born on 25 May 1960 in Shoranur, Kerala, Shri K.K Ramachandra Pulavar belongs to a family of traditional puppeteers. As the eighth generation puppeteer in his family, he was initiated into the art of Tolpavakoothu - the shadow puppet theatre of Kerala - by his father, the renowned Tolpavakoothu artist, K.L. Krishnan Kutty Pulavar.
Today, Ramachandra Pulavar performs the ritualistic art form Tolpavakoothu in around 40 temples all over Palakkad, Trichur and Mallapuram district. Acquiring high proficiency in the art, Shri K.K Ramachandra Pulavar has been training teachers at CCRT workshops for the past 10 years and has been giving regular demonstrations in schools. He has performed extensively in India, and has given performances in Russia, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Greece, Singapore, Japan, Holland, Poland, Israel, Thailand, Muscat and China. His troupe, Krishnan Kutty Pulavar Memorial Tolpavakoothu and Puppet Centre founded by his father, Krishnan Kutty Pulavar, is the major troupe in Kerala to preserve the art form and train the new generation artists.
The troupe has started to explore the aesthetics of the art form outside its ritualistic context by introducing new plays like Jesus Christ, and new characters based on contemporary issues. Shri K.K Ramachandra Pulavar has received a Junior Fellowship in 1991 and a Senior Fellowship in 2004 from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and has authoured a book titled Tolpavakoothu in Malayalam.
For his outstanding service in the field of puppetry, Shri K.K. Ramachandra Pulavar has received many honours such as the Lifetime Achievement and Excellence Award Dakshina Chithra Virudhu from the Madras Craft Foundation in 2008; the Thailand Government Puraskar in 2011; the Dr B.R. Ambedkar Kerala State Award in 2011;