Decked with tradition

Dasara, the popular Hindu festival  is celebrated with much enthusiasm across the Southern states in a unique way.

It is specially loved, not just because it symbolises the triumph of good over evil, but also because it has a host of charming rituals and traditions that accompany the
celebrations. One of the most interesting and entertaining parts of the ten day festival is the  Bombe Mane or House of dolls sometimes called Bommai Kollu or doll steps that are created in homes across the City.

Doll making was a much patronised craft form during the time of the Wodeyars and Karnataka was known for the wide varieties of dolls and figures made from clay, ivory, wood, china and glass. Today, many families across Bangalore take tremendous pride in creating their customised doll displays that are unusual and creative.

 “The traditional Bommai Kollu consists of a tiered step like arrangement in odd
numbers on which the dolls are artistically arranged. There are no limitations on the kind of displayed dolls which may range from gods and goddesses and classical dancers to Barbies and mythological figures,” says Smitha Srinath, an avid Dasara doll enthusiast who has been steadily expanding her displays for over 18 years now. Her home is filled with tiny real life scenarios like beauty pageants, railway stations, provision stores
and home interiors artistically displayed along with  religious figurines.

This year the central theme of her display is the big Mysore procession and Dasara celebrations. The Chamundi Hills are created in the background, complete with vehicles climbing up the winding roads, a Nandi bull and a fierce figure of the demon Mahishasura.
The piece de resistance is the royal Dasara procession itself. The model of the old Mysore city, the finely decorated elephants, soldiers and royal entourage along with the townspeople, their homes and shops all scaled down to size and painstakingly
detailed.

“I start working on the theme in June and my entire family is highly involved. We collect dolls through the year keeping this display in mind,” she says. Her Shetty Angadi is an old time favourite with visitors with its quaint little coconuts and onions in little burlap sacks, rows of condiments and the typical pot bellied trader.

Shridar Ramu and his enthusiastic family work on their doll display almost through the year virtually converting their entire home into a doll museum for ten days. “My mother Pankajam creates the dolls from scratch, we come up with the theme and the whole family is intensely involved in its planning and execution. We get as creative as possible,  adding new displays each year and refreshing the old ones. This year we have created a full-fledged railway station, an airport with all the designated areas, an array of dancers from different states as well as the traditional step display of religious figures,” he says.

His son Sachin proudly displays a roller-coaster in his room which is also part of the collection while daughter Samhita adds the minute details that lend colour and
interest and character to the whole arrangement.

“My mother works for an entire year making the dolls from scratch. She spends hours researching the dancers’ costumes and consulting with specialists to make them as authentic as possible. Each model takes several hours of painstaking work but it’s a labour of love and a great tradition to share with family and friends,” he smiles.
Guests troop into homes that have these beautiful intricate dolls on display admiring the handiwork and intense labour that have gone into their making.

It is a time not only to celebrate religious customs behind these wonderful traditions but also creativity and artistry within the home itself.

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