India | Orissa

Ravana Chhaya

Ravana Chhaya is a shadow puppetry performed in the Dhenkanal District of Orissa. The word ‘chhaya’ means shadow. The episodes used in this play are derived from the literary work ‘Bichitra Ramayana,’ which is an Oriya interpretation of the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana.’ Although the play depicts the greatness of Lord Ram, the play is named after the demon king Ravana due to the belief that the lord cannot cast a shadow due to his divine nature.

The puppets are made from deerskin. They range from 4 inches to 24 inches in height. A standard width of 18 inch and thickness of 3 mm is maintained for all puppets. No joints are provided. A spilt bamboo-stick runs through center of the puppet providing a handle for the puppeteer. An individual show consists of a total of 300 to 350 puppets, out of which the puppet depicting Ravana is the largest.

The stage, having a dimension of 8 x 5 feet, is erected in a field or street. The screen has a dimension of 8 x 4 feet. Straw mats are attached to the bottom of the screen to hide the puppeteers situated behind it. A puppeteer handles two puppets at a time. Composite sets are provided for some scenes. The background illumination is provided by earthen lamps situated 36 inches behind the screen.

The performers of this play consist of total 8 persons, which include 4 musicians. The main singer is called ‘gayak’. He also handles the delivery of the dialogues. Traditional musical instruments like ‘khanjari’ (a type of tambourine), ‘ramtali’ (wooden castanets) and ‘kubuji’ (brass cymbal) are used to provide the music. Every show starts with an appearance of a barber puppet and his grandson.

Updated on 5th October, 2014
District: Dhenkanal


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