Dolls for all Reasons

Last Updated 15 October 2010, 13:48 IST

Festivals are part of the cultural memory of our country. They herald a season of joyous celebration and bring in a change in the mood of people. Festivals play an important role in knitting communities and families together. Festivals, in fact, provide an opportunity to socialise with relatives and neighbours.

Compared to other countries, India celebrates more  festivals than can be counted.Festivals begin with the Makara Sankranthi in the month of January and end with celebration of Deepavali in the month of October or November. Actually,  the traditional calendar year begins with the Ugaadi festival every year and  the year is called a Samvathsara.    |

Navratri is one of the major  festivals celebrated in Ashvayuja Maasa and is celebrated continuously for 10 days. This festival is also called Dasara. It is celebrated throughout the country and is celebrated in different manner in different parts of the country. According to mythology, a demon called Mahishasura sat in penance to please Lord Brahma and secured a boon to ensure that he can be killed only by a woman, thinking that a feminine force  can never kill him. He started harassing the weak and  let loose a reign of terror and became a grave threat to peace on earth.

 When all the angels prayed for relief, Goddess Chamundeswari descended on earth. A fierce battle raged between  Mahishasura and the goddess Chamundeswari  and it went on for nine days.

On each day, the goddess assumed a  different form. The nine different forms of the goddess are known as Brahmani, Kaumaari, Vaishnavi, Varaahi, Indraani, Maheswari, Durga, Kaali and Chandike. Ultimately, Goddess Chamundeswari killed Mahishasura on the ninth day and the tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadashami.

In South India, the most attractive and enchanting part of this festival is the exhibition of a variety of colourful dolls in each household. Women exhibit great enthusiasm in collecting the dolls and arranging them in decorated wooden racks.

Dolls made out of clay, plastic, wood  and cloth occupy a vast area of the drawing room. It is a delight for the children to watch the arrangement of dolls in
each house.

On Durgastami, little girls are invited and they are given attractive gifts. On Mahanavami day, the entire house is cleaned. The vehicles are given a clean wash. The household articles like scissors, knives and other utilities are worshipped. Even the computers get their share of vermilion powder.

The idea is to celebrate the feminine power and whether it is the humble doll display at a home or the world famous Dasara procession in the historic city of Mysore, one can never forget that Navratri is about celebrating the feminine energy. 

Even in Mysore, as royal elephants march from the palace, accompanied by a host of folk dancers and the royal music band, the main elephant carries in the golden howdah, the idol of goddess Chamundeswari in it.

Countless people including foreigners congregate to watch the grand celebrate the festivities. In humbler surroundings, the festival is an opportunity for the women  to showcase their creative talents and create innovative   ways to display their collection of dolls against innovative backdrops.

Hand made finery, passionately collected pieces of  pottery, huts, miniature trees, wells,  fruits, vegetables, baskets, garlands, flowers, lights, lamps and more are used to create scenes from rural India or settings straight from the imagination. The dolls are also symbols of the girl child who must be celebrated in our country. It is indeed amazing that even traditions in their purest form, are beyond gender politics and are infact progressive.

Several cultural associations organise  contests to encourage women to exhibit their collection of dolls thematically and elegantly.  The festival also gives opportunity to families to display culinary flourishes during the nine day long festival. Delicious sweets and other dishes are prepared to make the festival an enjoyable experience.

Most importantly however, the dolls remind us that the world would not be complete without the fragrance of feminine energy around us and what it can create. 

(Published 15 October 2010, 13:48 IST)

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