Human race is fascinated with dolls since time immemorial. Every civilization has entertained its young ones with dolls crafted from clay, wood, stone, fabric and metal. A common perception is that dolls are only for children, to play with, but it is not unusual for many adults to get attracted to them.
Dolls evoke varied emotions in different persons. A doll can be a friend, companion, a close confidante, a partner in mischief, a lovable cuddly, a plaything or even an object of reverence. Dolls are also worshiped and it is more so south of Vindhyas where they have an entire ten day festival for themselves.
The tradition of doll festival is mostly found in cities that were once the seat of royalty. The festival is celebrated, usually, by arranging dolls on a stepped platform with a pair of male-female dolls, King and Queen, occupying the topmost step while other dolls are placed on lower steps. This is celebrated with traditional fervour during Dasara as Gombe Habba of Mysuru, Bommai Kolu of Tanjavur and also Hinamatsuri of Japan on March 3rd. In north India, a unique display of dolls of Krishna leela is arranged at houses during Janmashtami.
In days gone by, kids visited houses enquiring 'ree gombe koorsideeraa...?' (hello, have you arranged dolls...?) Inviting oneself, thus, they went in excited, ogled at dolls, praised/criticised aloud, and finally scooted away with gombe baagina (presents of savouries or sweets) given to them. The display changed everyday for novelty. A pair of Keelu Gombe (dolls with joints), would be dressed as Krishna-Radha one day, next day they’d be Lakshmi-Narayana in Vaikuntha, another day they became Krishna-Arjuna in Kurukshetra and so on.
These traditions are no more practiced and over the years the excitement of doll festival has been on the wane owing to non-availability of dolls. Mysuru was once a famous centre of doll making; the tradition is long extinct now. We’ve to keep at least the tradition of doll festival alive. It’s our heritage, our pride.
Arrange dolls, keep Bombe Habba alive.
My previous post on dolls is here.