In old days, Myanmar artists made Myanmar style figures with movable limbs i.e. arms, legs, head etc. and tried to move these moving parts by playing/controlling strings connected to these movable parts so as the actions look like as human being. At that time, the people who played the puppet show made puppets themselves.
When they carved the boy parts, the body part of male and female is carved as it is in the real appearance. The puppets were well dressed as the people were used to wear.
The wood used for typical puppets was different depending on the characters / figures. Clog wood (Ya Ma Nay) for human characters including horse and Nat, Millingtonia Hortensis wood (Aye Ka Yit) for king, hermit and ministers, Anthocephalus Cadamba (Ma U) or Albiziz Stipulata (Pan Mair Sar) for other characters.
In 1821, Bombax Malabaricum wood (Let Pan) or Garcinia Elliptica wood (Tha Nat) was used instead of Millingtonia Hortensis wood (Aye Ka Yit), Anthocephalus Cadamba wood (Ma U) or Albiziz Stipulata (Pan Mair Sar).
Basic characters were primarily counted as 18 characters in a band. These are shown in below:
1. Demon/Ogre (Belu) 2. Alchemist (ZawGyi) 3. Dragon (Naga) 4. Garuda (Galon)
5. Brama (Byarmar)
6. Horse (Myin) 7. White elephant (Sin Phyu) 8. Black elephant (Sin Net)
9. Monkey (Myauk) 10. Tiger (Kyar) 11. Parrot (Kyet To Yway)
12. Spirit Medium (Nat Ka Daw) 13. Prince (Min Thar) 14. Princess (Min Tha Mee)
15. King (Bu Rin) 16. Minister (Wun) 17. Brahmin astrologer / Villain (Ponna)
18. Hermit (Rathay)
In 1776 AD, the number of characters in a band increased to 28 characters. The changes were:
(demon lived in the forest and royal demon) 2
Sprit (Nat) instead of Garuda (Galon) 1
Old Lady (Ah may O) 1
Comedian (Lu shwin taw) 2
Female Dancer (Ah pyo taw) 1
Senior Prince (Min thar Gyi) 2
Minister (Wun) 4
As artists were performing plays the number of characters / figures were not enough to meet the characters required for play, the characters increased to 36 and 42 respectively.
To be able to move puppets in various actions, total of seventeen strings were attached to the parts of a typical puppet and the other ends of some strings are tied at a wooden handle and some are looped. The presenter has to use both hands to play puppets by holding wooden handle and by pulling respective strings.
- Right head string
- Left head string
- Nape string
- Right shoulder string
- Left shoulder string
- Right elbow string
- Left elbow string
- Right hand string
- Left hand string
- Right side of waist string
- Left side of waist string
- Right knee string
- Left knee string
- Right heel string
- Left heel string
- Right foot string
- Left foot string
Myanmar puppets are available in two classes i.e. puppets for decoration, it has lesser strings and playable puppets ( for puppet show ). The sizes of the puppets for decoration are ranged from 25 cm to 82 cm in height. But, the size of the puppet for puppet show is normally in the height of about 55 cm so as the presenter can handle comfortably. However, larger sizes are also available.