Chamdyacha Bahuliya is a shadow puppet play native to Maharashtra
. It is mostly performed at Pinguli Village in Sindhudurg District
. The word ‘chamdyacha’ means leather, indicating the material used in the making of the puppets.
The art of chamdyacha bahuliya is practiced by the members of the ‘thakore’ community, whose occupation is mainly fishing and harvesting. Although this community maintains a permanent stage in the village, they also erect temporary stages at various religious places during important occasions.
The standard dimension of the screen used in the puppet play is 4 x 5 x 3 feet. An iron lamp, situated behind the screen, provides the background illumination for the scenes. A group leader and the musicians deliver the dialogues. Percussion instruments like ‘dholak’ and ‘wata’ (a brass instrument) are used to provide the music. The musicians place themselves on both sides of the screen.
The puppets are made from paper-thin leather. No decorative holes are made on the leather, only color is applied. Their dimensions range from 11 x 8.5 cm to 35 x 27 cm. They are decorated in the Paithan style, which features male characters sporting moustaches and beards. The costumes are styled according to the fashion that was prevalent during the Mughal era.
Episodes for the play are derived from the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana.’ At least 65 puppets are required for a show. The puppeteer holds in his left hand a stick on to which the puppet is attached. With his right hand, he manipulates the puppet’s movements. The show starts with a performance of a dancer puppet in the court of Lord Indra (King of Heaven). The dance is accompanied by a musician playing the ‘Pakhwaj’ instrument. A character called ‘Haridas’ then appears to give a brief narration of the play. The actual show then starts.