Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dolls - The Tradition Endures

First it was recession, then price rise and the last straw seemed to be the global pandemic H1N1 - with all these the world seems to be in the dumps, everything looks gloomy and gray. Just when it felt like hopelessness finally spread its dark hood on us, bang! Festivals are around the corner to warm up our hearts and minds.

Yes, the season of great Indian festivals is knocking on our doors with its first offering - Navaratri or Dasara. Aptly Dasara denotes the triumph of good over evil, in the current scenario - victory of hope over hopelessness. All across the country this festival is celebrated over 10 days and nine nights. These celebrations differ from place to place with every geographical region celebrating different aspects of life. Durga Puja, Ram leela, Garba, Dandiya Raas, Golu, Gombe Habba, Danteshwari Utsava, Kullu Dasara, Sringeri Navaratri Utsava, Madikeri Dasara, etc., are various celebrations of the festival in different geographic entities of the country.

Gombe Habba or the festival of dolls is unique to south India, especially Mysore, Tanjavur and Madurai in Tamilnadu and several places in Andhra Pradesh. Notable is the fact that doll festival was largely celebrated in cities which were the seats of royalty, this association of the doll festival with royal cities reflects the princely tastes of its inhabitants.

The Gombe Habba at Mysore reached its zenith during the rule of last four kings of Wodeyar dynasty. Mysore was a huge producer of dolls in variety of media including clay, ivory, wood, china clay, glass, etc. The end of royalty put an abrupt stop to many craft forms which also included doll-making. The result - Mysoreans gradually scaled down the celebrations of this hoary tradition. Well, all hope is not lost.

Mysore based Ramsons Kala Pratishtana started 'Bombe Mane' a unique exhibition of dolls in Dasara of 2005. The main intention behind this exhibition was to bring the dolls from across the country and make available to Mysoreans at affordable prices and thus be proactive in the resurgence of Bombe Habba in Mysore. The intention has been successfully realised. The exhibition has become one stop shop for all the doll requirements of doll lovers. Apart from Mysoreans, hundreds of doll lovers flock from across the state to be at Bombe Mane every Dasara.

Right from dolls of every possible medium to its accessories, doll houses, miniature kitchen utensils, faux fruits-vegetables, doll house furniture, miniature replicas of Mysore palace and other architectural features of the city, doll ornaments, apparel, etc., are available under one roof.

The exhibition features a special display of dolls based on a theme which changes every year. Last year a mini replica of the old wooden palace stood as the back drop to the dolls of musicians and courtiers of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar's court. Another scene depicted Krishna, Radha and their friends celebrating Navaratri in Vrindavana.

This year's feature is indeed special. Beautiful painted wooden dolls have been created of the Dasara procession. In front of a scaled down version of an imposing Amba Vilas palace, majestic elephants carrying howdahs, attendants and soldiers carrying assortment of regal standards while durbaris in court regalia walk the procession from a respectable distance. It is certain to take your breathe away with its sheer magnificence and beauty.

Bombe Mane has its usual fare of stunning potpourri of dolls from Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa. Along with the regular ones, dolls created with the design inputs from Ramsons Kala Pratishtana are in much demand because of the local flavour attached to it.

The fairy land of dolls, Bombe Mane, has descended at Pratima Gallery, in front of Zoo, Mysore, from 11-28 September 2009. A sea of charming dolls, toys and accessories are flaunting their finest. Come, get charmed this Dasara and take back a slice of your childhood with you.


Anuradha Shankar said...

This was just great!!! hey, so post some close up pics of the dolls for those of us who cant possibly come to Mysore during Dusshera....

this was also very informative... i had no idea bommai kolus were kept in mysore and andhra too...

H.S. Dharmendra said...

@ Anu: Hi thanks for dropping by. I will surely post the detail photographs of dolls. Yes, gombe habba is huge in Mysore, especially. Nowadays Mysoreans are very enthusiastic to keep this tradition alive. Our Bombe Mane exhibition is a proof of the growing popularity.