8 Popular storytelling crafts of India

Phad Painting

Phad is a type of scroll painting that narrates elaborate stories of local deities and gods. Considered as traveling temples, priest-singers of the Rabari tribe would carry them along to sing, dance and perform.

Origin: Shahpura in Rajasthan

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The scroll painting would unfold after sunset for performance, and in local dialect ‘phad’ means ‘fold’, this might be the reason for the origin of its name. Two-string instrument, ‘Ravanhatta’ is used in the performance.

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Kavad refers to a portable wooden shrine that unfolds to reveal an intricately painted panel, each representing a different episode or scene from a story.

Origin: Bassi village in Rajasthan

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While narration the panels are only revealed one by one. It usually depicts stories of gods, goddesses, animals and legendary figures.

Tholu Bommalata

Tholu Bommalata is a traditional form of leather puppetry performed by skilled artisans called “Sutradhars.” The sutradhars skillfully manipulates the puppets using rods and strings.

Origin: Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh

Stories they depict often revolved around Hindu mythology, giving importance to Ramayana and Mahabharata along with moral, social and cultural reflections along with rhythmic music.


Popular for its painting style, they also sometimes take form as visual storytelling scrolls called pata, which are paper scrolls mounted on cloth.

Origin: Odisha and West Bengal

These are performed by first unfurling the scroll according to the scene, which is accompanied by the song that carries the story depicted in the pata.

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Cheriyal scroll painting

Cheriyal scroll painting, also known as Nakashi art, depicts various mythological stories, folk tales and cultural narratives.

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Origin: Cheriyal, Telangana

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During performance, the painters called Nakashis, accompany the scrolls with storytelling and live narration. They unfold the scroll section wise, guiding the audience throughout the narration.

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Thangka Paintings

Thangka paintings have been used as a storytelling art form in Tibetan Buddhist culture. They typically depict deities, mandalas and sacred scenes from Buddhist teachings.

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Origin: Leh in Ladakh

They serve as a visual guide for the storytelling process, enabling the audience to visualize the teachings and narratives when a knowledgeable practitioner gives his teachings.


Kondapalli Toys

Kondapalli toys are wooden toys made by the traditional craftsmen called the Arya kshatriyas, they have chosen sculpting wooden toys as their profession since a very long time.

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Origin: Kondapalli in Andhra Pradesh

The craftsmen of Kondapalli are well-versed on the subjects of Indian mythologies, and themes from Dashavatara, Hitopadesha and the life of Lord Krishna are depicted using toys.


Tholppavakkoothu literal meaning leather puppet play, is a ritual art performed during the annual festivals in kaali temples of palakkad district.

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Origin: Palakkad in Kerala

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This shadow puppetry is based on the Kamba Ramayana, narrated in a mix of Tamil and Malayalam dialectical variations. They use traditional lamps as light sources to create a very enchanting experience.


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