They keep traditions alive despite pandemic gloom | Bangalore News
Leela Praksham, who has organized a large assortment of traditional dolls for the Habba Bomb, as part of the Dasara festivities since 1971, says she was unable to do so last year because her family was down with Covid. âThis year the festival is very special – it’s all about survival,â she says.
âThis year’s Dasara has been the most anticipated in decades. For us, this is the family that comes together for the celebrations – some of which we had not met in the past two years due to restrictions brought on by the pandemic, âshe said. Leela, based in Bengaluru, has been collecting dolls for over 40 years.
âIn fact, we were so excited about the Habba Bomb that we bought a personalized shelf to display the dolls,â says her daughter-in-law Soumya Hemanth.
Leela is not alone. âThis year is special because I was unable to organize the exhibition last year due to the pandemic,â said Roopa Srinivasa Rao, based in Mysuru.
âThis time it’s a refreshing experience after more than two years without meeting friends and family. Now that the cases of Covid have declined, we can also invite a limited number of guests, âshe said.
“However, I did not make an elaborate display taking into account the Covid situation,” she adds.
Roopa presented two themes – the Dasara procession and the prototype of a village – with a pond, tiny huts and people engaged in their daily activities.
Speaking of preparations for the Habba Bomb, she says it starts at least a month before the festival. âMy family helps take the dolls out of the attic. We clean them and repair them in case of small damage. In the event of major damage, we have them replaced.
âDuring my childhood in Bengaluru, I always looked forward to organizing and decorating a large assortment of traditional dolls for the festival. However, space constraints in the tiny apartment stripped the desire. Once I moved to Mysuru, I started to organize the exhibitions, âshe says.
Her home in Mysuru is a real eye-catcher, with guests arriving in large numbers each day to see her doll displays arranged in all pomp and splendor.
She has been collecting dolls for over 20 years and has a collection of clay, papier-mÃ¢chÃ©, wood and fabric dolls.
âI collect my dolls from parts of Mysuru, Tamil Nadu, and this year I bought wooden dolls online from Kondapalli in Vijaywada,â she says.
The tradition dates back to the 17th century
Tracing the traditions of dolls to the 17th century, art historian Raghu Dharmendra says that Bombe Habba began during the Vijayanagar Empire and entered Mysuru after Raja Wodeyar, the first ruler of the Independent Kingdom of Mysore, had acceded to the throne in 1610. The long festivities in Mysuru invoke the royal tradition inherited from the Vijayanagar empire. Travelers from Italy and other parts of the world have documented the similarities between the two, âhe says.
The main dolls of the festival are a pair of a husband and wife, a king and his wife, and figurines of various deities. However, over the years several types of dolls have appeared in the market to suit different themes.
Speaking to YOU, Deepika, daughter of Nagalakshmi who runs Bengaluru-based NH Dasara Dolls, said that it is difficult to get the dolls suitable for Kannada traditions. âMost of the dolls come from areas of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kolkata and Mumbai. The doll makers over there aren’t aware of the market here. Sometimes, depending on demand, we place orders for figurines of family deities like Udupi Krishna, personalities like Saint Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa.
âBut in the end, it’s the Mahabharata and Ramayana themed doll sets that are flying off the shelves. We have some 33-34 sets of dolls depicting tales from the Ramayana. We recently added to the collection – Ram and Sita returning from Lanka in a Pushpakavimana, âshe says.
Speaking of the impact of Covid on the business, Deepika says sales have plummeted over the past two years. âIt’s a little better this year, but people are still hesitant to leave their homes. Now customers are contacting us through WhatsApp. We send them the pictures of the requested figures and they place the order, and we ship it. It’s not strictly about online shopping, but we try to meet the needs of the customers and evolve the business model accordingly.
âEarlier we used to send dolls to clients overseas who contacted us through their relatives in town and now we do it for clients here. That’s it, âshe said.
Deepika, a private company employee, works with her mother, who has run the shop for over 25 years, during peak festival season.