Make your own Indian Shadow puppets

We had a really satisfying Sunday. Zeph’s topic at school this term is India and making a Bollywood Movie. As well as the usual literacy and numeracy homework he has to research and hand in a piece of work once a week about some aspect of India. So far we’ve found out a lot about sitars and Ravi Shankar, looked through lots of recipe books, made a comic book about Ganesha and got a couple of books of folktales out from the library.

This is the kind of homework I prefer where he’s free to pick and follow any ideas he has. I think it’s really valuable in enabling him to learn how to pull down information for himself and am willing to help turn his ideas into reality. Although I’m resisting quite strongly the idea of cooking an Indian meal for everyone in his class. I found some recipes for Indian sweets and have suggested a boxful as an alternative. He’s thinking about it…

This week he suggested making our own Shadow Puppet theatre after reading about it in one of the books we borrowed. He did suggest it from the end of the bed at about 7am on Sunday morning so my first response wasn’t as enthusiastic as it might have been.

A bit of negotiation bought Steve and I a lie in as he took his sister downstairs for a first breakfast of cereal and cartoons and by the time we’d finished a more substantial second family breakfast I felt a lot more cheerful about the whole thing.

There is a rich and fantastic tradition of shadow puppetry in India which has lots of regional variations. The majority use the medium to tell stories rooted in religious traditions and the puppets are made from a variety of materials including tin and leather but are usually two-dimensional, often with the head and body as one fixed piece with jointed arms or legs. They’re often full size and always very intricate and highly decorated.

We used; A shoebox, greaseproof papera torchstiff black paperscissors, split pins, plasticine, lollysticks, sellotape and a tapestry needle.

First we cut the bottom of the shoebox out leaving about a 1cm rim. We then sellotaped a square of greaseproof paper over the bottom – trying to keep it taut as possible.


Then we drew out the shapes we wanted on the paper and cut them out.

Some of them had arms attached by splitpins so they could be moved.

We added perforations with the needle to give shape and definition and to add decoration.

Some of us made out own splinter theatre space for purely cat shows…

Then we stuck lollysticks onto the backs and pushed the ends into lumps of plasticine so they could stand up.

Here is Ganesha (mine) and Brahma (Zeph’s) on his lotus flower.

And lit up from behind with a torch. 

This is my favourite puppet though, the King Cobra that Zeph made. He put a split pin just where the hood begins so it can sway menacingly. I love the detail from his careful pinpricks.



6 responses to “Make your own Indian Shadow puppets

  1. Extremely cool project! Love the perforated detail! King Cobra is our favourite! Great job Mr. Zeph! 🙂

  2. This blog post receives a 2 thumbs up from over here.

  3. I really love this, what a great project, we might have to progress to shadow puppets from our puppet theatre. I moved to wordpress and lost you for a bit, but stumbled on you again today, sorry it’s been a while. You’ve been busy!

    • Lovely to see you. I was thinking how clean and bright your new pages look today. Loved the look of that wonderful puppet show you reviewed. I wish we lived a bit closer to more theatre..

      It was such a joyful project as well, really effortless. Zeph was inspired by how illuminating the shapes made them so striking. Of course today we’re doing spellings – not so much fun 😦

  4. Very good. I like ‘freestyle’ homework too. 🙂

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