Modernity amidst tradition

Modernity amidst tradition

Little girls decked up like the Devi, the aroma of sundal and the visit to temples — Dasara comes with an enormous amount of festive fervour and displaying dolls is an integral part of the festival. It is an age-old custom that has evolved over the years. 

Dolls signify an aesthetic appeal. The visually-appealing acrylic paints, colourful costumes on small curios and intricate sculptures are the main attraction. Anupama Hoskere, the director of Dhaatu, a non-profit organisation, describes this as the rasa aspect.

 The steps on which the dolls are kept escalate in many homes with pretty decoration like lights and lava lamps to add colour to the display. 

The flux in the display also signifies a dynamic tradition. Dolls are kept in either five, seven or nine steps, where the Pattada Gombe and Dasavatara are contrasted with dolls of figurines from Egyptian desert, sphinxes, pyramids and crystals, wrestling matches  and market spaces. Despite the festival being innate to an Indian myth, such practices transcend cultures, epics and history.  

Bhagalakshmi, the owner of ‘Dasara Dolls’ at Basavanagudi, near Gandhi Bazaar, says that she has about 15,000 dolls on display which comprise deities and social practices. “Children are generally interested in playgrounds and parks, marriage and engagement sets rather than  the idols,”  she says.  

Anupama, who has about 5,000 dolls, made of wood, brass, stone or paper mache on display, says that such contrasts in display represent the different layers of culture and tradition.

The doll display in Banashankari consists of depictions from Ashtapadikas, Puranas, the 72 scenes of Ramayanas, Krishna Leela and Garuda Janana. It is a display to depict valour and strength. The highlight of the display is 25 dolls, depicting ‘Krishna Leela’.

She says, “There is no hard-and-fast rule on the display. There are different ways of representing life and perceptions. Our tradition and culture is forever evolving and our dolls are merely a representation of how we perceive life, be it putting up a pattada gombe that symbolises creation, depicting Ramayana’s Sundarakanda to showcase human potential or a Durga to showcase Shakthi.”

The cultural aspect of the social celebration heightens with the reliving of childhood memories. The display at different homes is mainly through dolls that have passed on as an inheritance, to fester an important ritual of the house. The traditional, timeless dolls such as Chettiyar’s shop’,  Marapaachi, and Dashavatara continue to stay, with modern twists. 

Uma, a resident of HSR Layout, has made three steps consisting of the idols of gods and goddesses. These are at least half-a- decade-old and maintained carefully over the years by wrapping them in newspaper and twine.

Krishnan Kandadai has a display of more than 750 dolls which spans across 17 steps, of mythological stories, saints and religious texts. 

“It’s a way to remember the heroes of the past and instill Indian cultural stories among children. Dasara also signifies families coming together to carefully keep the dolls in place and decorate the house.”  

Whether the heroes of the past are represented through pop culture figurines, the underlying message of such a ritual is to glorify the goddesses and celebrate good over evil.

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