When dolls take over the streets

Sep 20, 2017

Come Navarathri, the Mada Streets of Mylapore, streets in Triplicane and lanes in West Mambalam will get decked up with colourful dolls. This year too is no different. Vendors have taken over the mada veethis, and residents and commuters are gleefully looking at the dolls, some stopping by to bargain and buy them for the kolu.
Jai Ganesh and his family are from Perungalathur and it’s an annual affair for the family to engage in selling the dolls during the Navarathri season. While they don’t make the dolls, they outsource the figurines from various parts of Tamil Nadu. “We stock dolls that range from Rs 200 to Rs 1,20,000. The GST has an implication on the cost of the dolls and there is a slight increase in prices,” he says. This year he has included pavai bommai vilakku, an episode of Krishna eating butter stealthily while Yashoda watching it, Meenakshi Sundareswarar Kalayanam, and a Christmas set in the stock. “The customers often look for traditional dolls and those having kids at home go for interesting themes, in the kolu,” he says, adding, “This year we are getting a lot of queries for dolls on Jallikattu theme. Seeing the demand, we have given orders to those who make the dolls and the stocks are expected to reach us soon.”

For Asokan, his specialty this year is dolls brought from Delhi. Starting from Rasaleela in Brindavan to artisans and Chotta Beem set, he says is he’s looking forward to a good sale. 

 Ramu from Vijayawada has arrived in the city with 10 people from his village. “We come here annually and display our wares on pushcarts. On an average, we make a sale of four lakh rupees during the season,” he says.

Gopi Kannan of Poompuhar says that the new arrivals in the showroom include MS Subbulakshmi, Abdul Kalam and the Ramayana set depicting the 24-scenes from Ramayana. The showroom also has small jallikattu sets in bronze. The dolls are mostly made of clay, marble dust, papier-mache and bronze.

Some of the fast-moving sets this year include Uri adi set, Karuda Sevai set, Ashtalakshmi set, Dashavatharam, Bramma Urchavam set, Nayanmaargal set, Sathyanarayana set, Karthigai Pengal set, Gopier set, Yashoda Kannan set, Radha Alangara set, Kailasanathar set, Kannappar set, Arupadai Murugar set, Amarnath Lingam set, Alwar set, Vinayagar music set, Gnana Pazham set, Sethupanthanam set, Palani Kavadi set, Komatha set, Mysore Dashara set, Mahabharatha set, Gajenthira Moksham set, Aadhi Sankarar set and Ramar Pattabishegam, among others.

The thematic collection has band set, cricket set, kalyana bojanam, Mayabazaar set, Sangeetha Mummoorthigal, Kumbakarana vadham and Kamsavadham.

While new dolls are added to the kolu collection as a must, people take the traditional route and follow the rituals in displaying the kolu. On Mahalaya amavasai, after tarpanam, the custom is to keep a kalasam filled with rice, turmeric, betel leaves, and mango leaves with a coconut on it.

Over the years, kolu has transcended caste and community barriers and many find it an opportunity for socialisation. Lalitha S, an art critic, says, “In an era of online networking, kolu is a great opportunity for meeting people and exchanging pleasantries. While it was the Brahmin and Nattukottai Chettiar community who used to keep kolu, for the past several years it’s heartening to see that irrespective of caste and religion, families are putting up kolus.”