A Very Happy Navratri
Navratri, literally meaning nine nights. It is one of the popular Hindu festivals celebrated all over India, regional festivities being quite diverse. In South India, no Navratri celebration at home, is complete without the grand display of dolls, known as ‘Bommala Kollu.’
My friend invited me for this occasion recently .
A lot of enthusiasm, planning, taking out the packed boxes from the attic, arranging the display and then re -packing of these traditional wooden dolls sets off the festive spirit, as children and the women engage themselves. Markets in South Indian cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru come alive with colour and enthusiasm as cardboard boxes are opened out on roadside stalls, shops or temple premises. A general frenzy, chaotic buzz and enthusiasm filled with colour and artistic talent is heightened as Navratri approaches. Wooden dolls from Kondapalli, the hub of creation are most sought after.
Around the 16th century, some ‘kalakaar’ artists from Rajasthan are said to have migrated to Kondapalli in Andhra Pradesh. Since then they have made such brightly coloured, eco-friendly wooden toys made from ‘Eru’ wood and using only natural dyes for colouring. Today, low-cost enamel paint is widely used instead of natural colouring.
What is the symbolic meaning behind the arrangement? The nine steps symbolize the nine days and nine incarnations or Goddess Durga, who is symbolic of female energy, triumph of good over evil and slaying the demon Mahishasura (negative forces within).
The lowermost steps symbolize human life in action, people doing their karmic activities, seeking knowledge as they lead lives (dolls depicting scenes of farms, wooden huts, women pounding rice, planting and gathering vegetables. Progressively the steps project higher attainment of knowledge (dolls of noble kings and queens, Buddha, Rama, and other saints). On the topmost step is placed the Supreme Godhead or Truth (dolls or thematic statues made from Plaster of Paris or paper machie of Dasha Avataram or the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu).
The spinning or dancing doll is another favourite is many households, gifted to the girl child as her earliest doll.
A dying art and tradition it is today, as the world of plastic and technology prevail! Simple long-lasting and eco-friendly dolls, once treasured as a plaything, have become collectibles, if at all.
The palanquin wedding doll set is often gifted to newly wed daughters as a symbolic tradition of life. Also banks, corporates and interested people are making efforts to gift these toys, ensuring the livelihood and empowerment of the ‘kalakaar’ artist.
On your part – think tradition, eco-friendly and Art. Gift children such unique hand made toys. Colour, Art and beauty of the Kondapalli dolls is sure a pleaser to the senses.