Keeping the Kolu tradition Alive

Today, who bothers to spare so much time for a doll arrangement. If time permits they visit a nearby temple to have a glimpse of the Bommaikolu, and the ritual ends there

Published: 10th October 2013 12:13 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th October 2013 12:13 PM   |  A+A-


The tradition of arranging ‘Bommaikolu’ in homes was once upon a time a ritual performed by every Brahmin woman during the nine days of the Navarathri festival. Though most of them these days resort to the temple Bommaikolu to offer poojas and other prayers, there is still a bunch of women folk who carries out this ritual at their homes without fail. Vrinda Hariharan, who is in her early 60s, goes down memory lane while arranging dolls at her home in the city. She has been performing the ritual for the past 50 years without fail. Added to that, most of her dolls in the collection are more than a 100 years old. “It is exactly 50 years since we migrated to this city and till date I have not failed to follow any of the Navarathri norms, be it reciting special prayers, preparing savouries on the occasion or putting up the Bommaikolu,” she says. If you thought Vrinda’s is a capsuled version with just a countable number of dolls arranged for namesake, you are mistaken. There are approximately a hundred dolls arranged colourfully in her room. Pointing to a shining pink doll and a white swan, she says, “This is the oldest of the entire collection. The pieces were passed on to me from my mother who herself got it from her grandparents. The tradition of handing over dolls still continues and I have given away some of my collections to my daughtersin- law,” she says. All her dolls were purchased from her hometown Palakkad and each of them has been beautifully carved in clay. “These days they make these products in plaster of Paris and other stuff. Though initially they glitter, with usage, they are likely to break. Right from the time I started making my own Bommaikolu, I have been using this very same collection, those which were used by my grandmother,” says the charming woman, who is also the president of the women’s wing of Kerala Brahmana Sabha. She further adds that buying idols today burns a hole in your pocket. “This year I thought of buying some new pieces and when I heard the rates I just bounced back. It is not fair to charge thousands.” Pointing to a 10-piece collection, she says, “I purchased this set for `5 when I was a kid.” Her collection includes dolls of almost all Hindu gods. “Dolls of Pandavas and Ashtalakshmi are very rare and the Bommaikolus of these days don’t have such varieties.” The 30-piece single item depicting the shathabhishekam of Sri Rama is truly worth mentioning. “The work of putting up this arrangement starts at least a week ahead. Today it’s much more simpler because we use steel stands for laying out the dolls. During our childhood days, we had to rely on wooden planks and the whole business was indeed tedious. Each idol has to be washed and dusted and some even require a little bit of painting to restore the lost sheen. Special pujas used to be performed for the Bommaikolu, with extra ‘nivedyam,’ which included chundal, which is a mixture of all dals, and pollavada, a compulsory item,” she says. Vrinda Mami totally agrees with the fact that the custom is fading out slowly. “Today, who bothers to spare so much time for a doll arrangement. If time permits they visit a nearby temple to have a glimpse of the Bommaikolu, and the ritual ends there.” But, Vrinda Mami has an idea to make each woman practise the custom at their homes and for this she has planned a Bommaikolu competition this year! “We have asked every woman in the sabha to put up Bommaikolus at their homes and the best one will be awarded a prize,” she says.


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