Sakhi Kandhei of Odisha preserved in Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Pune

Sakhi kandhei (Also sakhi kundhei, sakhi nata) is a string puppetry show popular in the Indian state of Odisha,[1][2] especially in the Kendrapara district of Odisha. This form of art is still performed by local artists in and around Palakana, a small village in Kendrapara. Puppeteers generally form groups and travel from village to village for performing shows. Wooden dolls are tied to strings which are controlled by pulling and releasing the strings. Different expression by pulling the strings narrate tales from the Puranas and modern social life.[3] A group of artists perform music and give background voice for the narration of stories.[4][5][6][7]

Considering sakhi kandhei a dying art form, Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi is taking steps to popularize and revive it.[8] A handful of puppeteers have taken initiatives to revive this art form.[9]

I carve out wooden puppets on orders received from puppet show operators. The dolls made by me fetch money, in addition to what I earn by staging the shows.

— Fakir Singh, puppeteer from Palakana


Wooden puppets are used in Sakhi kandhei which have three pieces; head and the two hands with the wrists with hole in them to insert fingers. The three pieces are joined together and long sleeved dresses are used to cover the bodies. Strings are attached to the thumb, limbs and other body parts which are pulled and released to give rhythmic gesture based on the story's narratives.[10][11]

It’s a tough battle to keep the art alive when more attractive means of entertainment are bombarded round the clock on the electronic media. So, the question is how long these handful of artistes will be able to carry on the ancient traditional art to future generations.

— Basudeb Das, Puppetry researcher[4][5][6][7]


  1. ^ Communication and the Traditional Media: Papers and Proceedings of Seminar. Indian Institute of Mass Communication. 1981.
  2. ^ Mukherjee, Anusua (25 November 2017). "Puppetry in Odisha: who is pulling the strings?". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  3. ^ Cultural Heritage of Orissa: Justice Sri Harihar Mahapatra Felicitation Volume. Institute of Oriental and Orissan Studies. 1993.
  4. ^ a b "String puppetry – A dying art form". The Indian Express. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b "A dying art form". 26 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  6. ^ a b "String puppetry – A dying art form". OTV. 25 February 2014. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  7. ^ a b "String puppetry: A dying art form". The Jagran. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  8. ^ Singha, Minati (25 March 2011). "Dying art forms find a stage in city". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  9. ^ "String puppetry – A dying art form". Press Trust of India. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  10. ^ Kala Vikash Kendra, Cuttack (1985). Journal.
  11. ^ Sunil Kothari; Ranjita Karlekar (1989). Damaru, Essays on the Theatre & Theatre Crafts of Eastern India. Council and the Centre.

See also