Just a couple of days are left for Navarathri, and it is time to go shopping for ‘bommais’ (dolls) for kolus in the city.
The colourful display of dolls requires a lot of thought, time, and effort. The kolu is rarely the same each year. Effort is made to bring in some novel elements — people look for new figurines and sets to enhance its appeal. Shops that sell dolls too try to outdo each other to cater to this desire for innovative ideas and themes.
Rajeswari Krishnadas, who runs a bommai shop at West Fort, has some interesting dolls this year.
The Brahmotsavam held at the Tirupati temple, in which the Ezhunnelippu of the ‘Perumal’ is on different ‘vehicles’, is depicted in a set of dolls.
There is a Kathakali set too, complete with instrumentalists.
Papier mache dolls
A golden Padmanabhaswamy made from papier mache can be picked up for Rs. 3,500, says Krishnadas, Rajeswari’s husband.
One set shows the construction of the Ramasethu and others have Krishna and a friend enjoying a meal in the forests and Arjuna discussing the battle with Krishna.
To appeal to children’s sense of wonder and quirkiness, they have a vegetable wedding set in which two veggies get married in the presence of guests.
There is one of Ganapathi enjoying the slide, and that depicting mice dancing as Ganesha plays the music. One depicts Yashodha playing with Lord Krishna, and another has people eating lunch on plantain leaves.
The dolls here are sourced from Panruti in Tamil Nadu and are superior because of the clay found there, the couple say.
The Tirupati Balaji seated on a swing and one set showing Balaji atop the Thirumala hillock with Hanuman and Garudan and devotees offering prayers are among the interesting bommais at a stall run by Sundar at West Fort.
A set of Thiruvannamalai, Shiva dancing the Tandava with others gods in attendance, a Kailasam set, Krishna adorning Radha’s hair, a Gundotharan music set depicting playing of instruments in Shivaloka, Ghatotkachan eating a sumptuous meal at a wedding, and Ramanujar taking a class are other bommais that Sundar has stocked.
There is one that depicts the friendship between Kuchelan and Krishnan also.
Sundar says sets vary each year and may come back in fashion after some time.
Single dolls have many takers, he says, pointing to Lakshmi-Haigreeva, Kalikambal, and Panduranga, and Kanappan Nayanar dolls.
Clay dolls are the most common, but papier mache ones too are becoming popular, says Sundar who sources his dolls from Madurai.
A set of Chhota Bheem and his companions and a school set, though not new, still find buyers.
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