Traditional glove puppet theatre from Karnataka in south-west India. In the city of Bangalore there are certain beggars known for their skills as puppeteers. They ply their trade in the streets, markets and the environs of temples, holding a chinni patti, “little doll”, made of wood and rice straw in one hand, and a pair of kartal (small cymbals) in the other. They sing about the daily adventures of tradesmen who have been fooled, of worthies taken for a ride, and of cuckolded husbands.
On the Malabar coast, men whose ancestry is traced back to the aborigines of the Karnataka social system use similar dolls that share the same name, chinni patti, to celebrate magical practices and tribal rituals, for example the cult of bhuta, those agrarian divinities who are hidden among the rice fields.
Today, performers of chinni patti are recognized in their communities and sometimes nationally for their contribution to the art of puppetry.