Dasara goes dull without dolls


My friend RG called to invite me for the ‘gombe mane’ exhibition at Mysore and I jumped at the chance. Dasara and festival of dolls are synonymous and what better way to relive the past than visit the forgotten art of dolls’ display. Except in a few homes, hardly do we see the kind of passion that is needed to painstakingly arrange them. It is sad to see that Channapatna dolls have disappeared simply because the persons who made them are no more and the gen.next was hardly interested in continuing the tradition.

Not long ago the dolls’ display was in vogue in most of the houses in Mysore because of the strong influence of the Maharajas and one particular home where I looked forward to visiting was that of philosophy professor M Yamunacharya. His wife Rajamma and daughter-in-law Vaidehi would decorate the dolls with great love and attention to details. Every year the theme would be different and they would offer sweets to those who visited them.

In recent years it is in my friend Vaidyanathan’s house where the tradition is kept alive. Here dolls over 100-years old are on display. What was heart-warming to hear from him was that it was his son, a techie, who had taken interest in arranging them.

RG’s ‘gombe mane,’ was teeming with customers, a majority of them from traditional homes buying dolls sourced from different parts of the country. The research that had gone into getting some of these dolls made was really appreciable. As RG’s brother Rajesh said, “an old lady who came to visit the exhibition was overjoyed because she had collected over a thousand dolls spread over a period of 40 years but she could get more variety in just a few hours.”

The artistes themselves who make these dolls have a peculiar mindset. Here was one Mahalingappa, a Chamarajendra Technical Institute artiste who used to make lovely wooden animal toys of extremely good quality. Unfortunately, he never nurtured anyone to carry on the tradition and the art of making animated elephants, giraffes, zebras, horses, cows etc died with him. Swine flu might be striking terrors in the heart of the people because of the casualties, but the lacquered pig faced pepper-and-salt containers from Channapatna at one time were sold like hot cakes.

After all this, I have to confess that I do not possess a single doll of that era to show my love for dolls except showing my appreciation.   

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