Pandavas pulp kauravas in basavanagudi

Veena Ravi’s family is using 5,000 dolls to stage Mahabharata; display open to public

Published: 05th September 2017 11:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th September 2017 11:50 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU:  Many say that family traditions, which are integral to every household in the city, have been dying. These traditions include families getting together in the summers to make mango pickles and setting up of dasara toys called Gombe Habba during Vijayadasami. But Veena Ravi, a 45-year-old resident of Basavanagudi, ensures she carries on the tradition of setting up a dramatic dasara stage to depict epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana. During the festival, her house becomes an attraction not only for the public, but also guided tours.

She has been turning her house into an art gallery for the last ten years, and nearly a thousand people turn up to view it, says Veena. Her mother, who is now 86 years old, used to practice this tradition, but on a smaller scale. For her, the journey of doll collection began when her mother handed her those dolls on her wedding 20 years ago. Ever since, for Veena and her husband Ravi and their two children, Dasara has turned into a grand family affair with over 5,000 Dasara dolls made of clay, wood and paper wash. The family has been collecting these dolls from Rajasthan, Delhi and especially Tamil Nadu. She inherited a handful of them from her mother and the oldest doll is about 50 years old. These dolls are used only during dasara, the other times, they are stored in the third floor of the house.

The tradition began with setting up dolls on the staircase in their house. That is what Veena’s mother used to do. But when Veena got into this by herself, she came up with theme based decorations. Last year, the family carved the chariots and hosted an exhibition of 108 Vishnu temples from across the country. This year too, the family is carving chariots out of wood. Depicting women empowerment The family has chosen to depict the Mahabharata war this year.

“The Mahabharata war itself requires hundreds of chariots. We are making these wooden chariots at home,” says Veena. The family starts preparing the storyline two-months prior to Dasara. To depict a war scene, at least 100 dolls would be required. Hence, to depict 36 scenes from the epic, about 5,000 dolls of heights of up to 5 feet will be used. Dolls of animals such as birds and crocodiles will be used for war scenes. Veena feels the epic is relevant even today. “I feel with the advent of IT culture in Bengaluru, people have gotten very involved in their jobs and tradition has suffered,” says Veena.

“With the strategies of war in Mahabharata, we are also showcasing management tactics and women empowerment,” she adds. How does that happen? With reference to the mythology, the exhibition will display why and how the Kauravas’ decision to choose Bhima was a bad one, as he was partial towards the Pandavas. Women empowerment will be demonstrated by Kunti’s role. These scenes will be open to the public from September 20 till October 3. The ground floor and first floor will serve as the space for the exhibition, extending from the staircase to balconies.

The story will be depicted in all stages, assuring to keep it authentic to the Mahabharata text. The family will narrate the story in Kannada, Hindi or English. “So far, the news has spread through word of mouth. So there are people who come once every year. I call them my Dasara friends,” laughs Veena. She is a vice-principal of CB Bhandari Jain College.

Mansoor Ali, founder of Bengalurubyfoot, was introduced to this world of dasara dolls by Veena Ravi
about six years ago since they lived in the same neighbourhood. “I am a Muslim so I was not sure
if I’d be welcomed to learn about the Hindu tradition of doll decoration. But when I was introduced
to Dasara dolls I was fascinated,” says Mansoor.

Since the establishment of Bengalurubyfoot three years ago, he has been organising Dasara tours
at her house. The tour will  be organised on September 21 by Bengalurubyfoot and a Mysuru Dasara trip will also be held on September 27.


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