Dolls are objects, crafted out of diverse material, having human features. They are a child's inanimate but silent companions with their ears and arms ever open. Dolls become an extension of a child’s personality. It also becomes a confidante in whom a child, sometimes even a grown up, shares his/her wildest fantasy and deepest secrets. Thus dolls become medium which absorb our varied emotions. In Thailand each child is given a tiny, adorable doll called 'Worry Doll' which is said to take away worries of a child, overnight! A local legend says that if you whisper your worry to that doll and tuck it under your pillow before going to bed, by morning your worries will have disappeared, taken away by these precious dolls.
In south India, a bride brings a pair of dolls (male and female) as part of her bridal trousseau to her new home. These dolls will be her closest friends until she settles there and gains an emotional foothold in the new family. She keeps these dolls with the ones brought from her mother-in-law as a bride. Whenever she goes to a pilgrimage she buys local dolls and adds to the collection. As a tradition, this collection is topped up every year with new dolls.
Dasara or Navaratri begins on the first day of the lunar month of Ashwayuja (September-October); it is celebrated throughout India in different flavours. In south India though, the festival revolves around the worship of the divine feminine that manifests as Prakruti or matter.
Our physical, intellectual and emotional body is limited in its capacity. We have crafted various tools through which we can expand our capacities. These tools are material objects shaped out of matter and are thus considered as manifestations of Devi. Hence, during Dasara, we worship Devi in all her material splendour like food (in the form of seedlings), like tools, weapons, vehicles and money on the day of Ayudha puja, and like learning aides (in the form of books, pens, musical instruments, etc.) on the day of Saraswati puja.
Dolls are worshipped for the same reason on all ten days of gombe habba (doll festival). A vantage place in the house is cleaned and cleared; an altar of five, seven or nine steps is built using wooden planks and draped over with white sheets of fabric. Dolls of every medium, colour, style and religion finds a place on this gombe mettilu (doll altar). King and queen dolls sit at the summit with others sitting elsewhere. Grocer and his wife, dancing girls, boys with pet dogs, cricket players, holy men, national heroes, animals, birds, kitchen utensils, men and women of various professions, etc., are all seated on the steps of the altar. Once ready, the gombe mettilu seems to mimic the society complete with its layers of hierarchical setup.
Mysuru boasts of this rich tradition of dolls which can be traced back to the Vijayanagar Empire. Ramsons feels privileged to be a part of this hoary tradition; since last four decades the shop was locally known as 'gombe angadi' (doll shop) which becomes true during each Dasara. Thousands of dolls travel from every nook and corner of the country to be at Ramsons on Dasara and vie for the attention of doll lovers of Mysuru. They compete among each other to be favoured by doll lovers.
Courtiers, musicians and the famed hale paiki (royal guards with twirled mustache) who adorned the court of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III have been resurrected as dolls in all their splendour in this year's Bombe Mane. They will take you 150 years back in time when Mysuru was witnessing a quiet renaissance in the fields of music, dance, literature, art, craft and culture.
Thousands of dolls speak thousands of tales. Come; listen to these silent tales of beauty and innocence at Ramsons.