The festival of dolls

The festival of dolls

It’s Dasara time once again and various communities in the City are celebrating the festival in their own style. In South, the festivity starts with the arrangement of dolls
popularly known as Bombe Habba, Bombe Koorisodu or Bommala Kolu. Passed on from one generation to another, the festival is accompanied by pujas, storytelling and of course, food.

But the highlight still remains the display of dolls made from cloth, clay, wood and even Plaster of Paris. Every year, families open their trunks filled with the dolls, arrange them and invite relatives and friends to view this arrangement.

Says Santoshi, a home-maker, “Bombe Habba can be celebrated only if the dolls are handed over by the elders of the family. The first pair of dolls is received on the wedding day from one’s mother or mother-in-law and from then on, the collection of dolls starts.

Every year, after Amavasya, the arrangement begins and guests are invited to view them for ten days,” she adds.

The festival is also a way of showing one’s talent.

Krishnan and his family have been displaying his collection of dolls for close to 17 years at their home. “More than the religious aspect, this festival is about social gathering where women get to display their talent by not only arranging the dolls but also making them. Now, it has become a family affair as well, where everyone in the family takes part in the festivities,” says Krishnan, who has an impressive collection of 600 dolls.

Many even keep specific themes for the arrangement, like the dashavathara of
Lord Vishnu, the various activities of a market, festivals of India and even more
modern ones like ‘The Little Mermaid’, Olympics etc.

An elaborate rangoli is made in front of the arrangement. Every year, people keep adding to their collection to bring in variety.

Mythily Ramesh, a professional, has been following the tradition for the last eight years. Her entire collection of dolls have been hand-made by her mother and mother-in-law. Some of the dolls in her collection are more than 40 years old. Despite being a working woman, Mythily makes sure she finds time to arrange the dolls every Dasara.

“I love celebrating this festival because it gives me immense satisfaction when the arrangements come out well. The entire family pitches and works for two to three days to make this happen,” she says.

Hema Rajaram, a home maker, took five days to create a special doll house for Dasara this year. “I have

always been interested in craft and have been keeping the arrangements for last
20 years. This year, I added a doll house to my collection. It’s a three-bedroom house and I have created everything that goes into the house using thermocol, waste materials and even parts of an X Box.

I feel that making something yourself adds more value to the festival as well,” she says.  
Many also incorporate things that they see on an everyday basis. Seetha, a
software engineer, has made a replica of the Lalbagh with the glass house, rose garden and the band stand.

“With time, this festival has gone beyond the toys and the displays,” says Seetha, who also has dolls that are over 100 years old.

During this festival, it is a tradition to give haldi-kumkum to women who come to see the arrangement. But Mythily has added another gift. “I also give a plant
signifying prosperity and growth. This year, I am giving the karpooravalli plant (
) known for its medicinal properties,” she adds.

For Anandi, who has been keeping the dolls with her mother for close to 11 years now, this entire process is a great way of bonding with family and also with those who come to visit.

“Nowadays, not many youngsters are interested in tradition as it is time-consuming. But I enjoy the festive atmosphere of people coming home and singing songs and appreciating the arrangement itself,” says Anandi, a student.

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