The tradition of shadow puppet theatre in India is very old and thrives only in the states of Odisha,Andhra Pradesh, Karnatak, Tamilnadu, Kerala and Maharastra. Each states has its peculiar design, style, colour-scheme and manipulation techniques.
The shadow puppet theatre of Odisha is known as Ravan Chhaya .The theme of Ravan Chhaya, literally,’ the Shadow of Ravan’ is the story of Rama. It is named after Ravan as it is believed that Rama, a divine and illuminated being, does not cast a shadow. Ravan is a strongly etched puppet character in the performance, that follows the Odia version called Vichitra Ramayan by Vishvanath Khuntia a seventeenth century music making poet. Ravan Chhaya is also known as Ramalila or Rama Natak.
Ravan Chhaya was popular all across Angul and Dhenkanal districts of Odisha in the late nineteenth century, but at present it is practiced only in Odash village of Angul district.
Ravan Chhaya Natya Sansada, one of the premier shadow puppetry institution of Odisha was established in the year 1982 by late guru Kathinanda Das.
The Sansada, a registered cultural society has devoted itself for the preservation, propagation and promotion of the rare traditional art. It maintains a full repertory group of performances and imparts training to youngsters in puppet making, designing, manipulation techniques and music. It has put up a number of shows all over the country in cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahemadabad, Luckhnow,Pondicherry, Guwahati, Shillong, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack where performances have been highly acclaimed. Under the auspices of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi the artistes of the Sansada have performed in South Korea, Malayasia, Thailand and Reunion Island (France).
The repertory group now presents with two sets of puppets, the first which are designed and cut according to the traditional style and the second with the puppets designed and cut according to the model of traditional Patta painting of Puri. Besides the Vichitra Ramayan, the group has adopted new themes like Pranaya ballari, Living in the Bad Company, Kanchi Abhiyan, Karna badha, Sarbadharma Samanyaya, Menace of Wine addiction, AIDS consciousness, Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi, Non Cooperation Movement and Civil-disobedience movement for presentation.
The Sansada has successfully organized Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India sponsored 1st Odisha Putul Nacha Mahotsav-2014 at Odash and has brought the four types of puppet tradition found in Odisha under an umbrella.