Kid-size snacks, king-size thrills

Habba and bagina, a two-fold treat for children



 



Children would walk in, look at the dolls arranged in their aesthetic best and after the initial appreciation, wait anxiously to see what they would get in the bombe-bagina (special snacks for kids). It was the festival of dolls in the true sense of the word. Dasara or Navaratri is also called Bombe-habba.
Dasara is the perfect time for children to have a blast. In fact, Bombe habba divided the academic year into two halves. Students would finish their Chikka pareekse (the mid-term examinations) and get one month off for Dasara. No school and no studies. All the holiday homework could wait till the last few days.

Bombe Bagina consists of all kinds of sweet and spicy snacks, the only difference being that it is all made in small sizes. Says Bhageerathi (85), an expert doll maker, who has displayed dolls for more than six decades with undying enthusiasm, “Hundreds of children used to come to see the dolls, and we could not send them away without giving something. Hence the concept of making tiny-sized eatables. Miniature chakkuli, kodubale, puri unde, kobbari mithai, mysore pak, besan ladu, tengol, chikki, ellunde, sajjappa, kajjaya and a dozen other eatables were prepared days , sometimes weeks in advance, to give away to children who came to visit the dolls. It was a thrill to see how excited the children were to see the goodies and the small toys that were given. Adults took great pride in making them too.”

Every household in Mysore puts up a fantastic display of dolls. Arranged in steps, with the Raja and Rani at the centre, it was a symbolic display of king’s court. In olden times, people would specially get the chandanada gombe - sandalwood dolls - from Tirupati. They were also called Pattada Bombe. The king and queen would be dressed in grand attire, complete with golden robes, sari, jewellery, crown and hold the court. The rest of the dolls depicted daily life - from bangle seller to monkey trainer, to teacher at school to girls playing hopscotch. There was no limit to that.
Naturally children went from house to house, eager to see who had made the best arrangement and what was new.

Bhageerathi says, “Those were the days of no television and video games. Children enjoyed playing outdoors or housie-housie. Naturally they made the best of Dasara. They would collect in groups and go from house to house asking ‘ree gombe kursiddira?’ The doors were wide open for all children to walk in, not necessarily known children. And children walked miles to compare and boast of the number of houses they had visited and which house had the best display.”
And who gave the best Bombe-Bagina. 

It is generally believed that worshipping of dolls during Navaratri started in 16th century, when the Vijayanagar dynasty rules. In the beginning, dolls were arranged only in the palace at a place specially constructed for the purpose called the bombe-totti. Eventually, palace officials started following the tradition at their homes and by the 18th century, every household took pride in putting up a fantastic display of dolls.

Girls were given pattada bombe to be taken to the husbands’ houses, and they would continue the tradition there.

Kumari worship
In Devi Mahatme, the old story about the heroics of Devi, it is  said that in Dasara, the text should be recited for 9 days in Navaratri and 9 Suvasinis (married women) and nine Kumaris (young girls who have not yet attained puberty) have to be invited and offered several things as symbols of worship.
They are made to sit on wooden mane (plank) or carpets. They are offered kumkum, haldi, flowers, coconut, bangles, betel leaf and nut, skirt and blouse lengths, toys and various snacks.

With the two-minute wonders and zillion ready-to-eat snacks flooding the supermarkets, bombe bagina may seem an unnecessary hassle for children, as well as their mothers. But nothing can replace the specially home-made sweets and savouries in kid size that give king-size thrills. 

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