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Splendour in clay

Navarathri is here and it's time to stock up on kolu dolls


IT'S THAT time of the year again when women get busy brushing the dust off old trunks holding clay dolls handed down generations.

Each doll, wrapped reverentially in an old saree, emerges out of a year-long hibernation to take centrestage for nine whole days in a kolu padi decorated with care.

The kolu padis at Poompuhar and Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan are no different when it comes to arrangement.

Only, they've been put in place a whole fortnight early and the dolls are for sale. Women walk out of the exhibition hall bearing well-packed cardboard cartons holding fragile dolls, created by artisans in Coimbatore, Kancheepuram, Cuddalore, Pondicherry and Kolhapur.

`Sets' in fashion

Though some people shop for individual dolls and arrange them in keeping with the theme of their `kolu', many prefer buying readymade `sets', which call for little innovation.

This year, some new ones have made their entry.

"The 14-piece cricket set is doing very well this year. So is the 20-piece wedding set, which includes the bride and groom, priest and a mantap," says P. Mohamed Ali, Manager, Poompuhar.

Plaster of Paris (PoP) sets and those with porcelain (glazed) finish are on offer, but being a little more expensive than clay, only those looking at keeping dolls on a permanent basis buy them, he adds.

While individual dolls start at Rs. 20 and go up to Rs. 150, sets start at Rs. 150 and go up to Rs. 1,500.

At the Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan, the dolls are bigger, some of them as big as temple idols.

"These are made of PoP and will last longer. They are also light-weight. If the same thing was made in clay, it would be very heavy and there is always the danger of it breaking," store in-charge Krishnamurty says.

This year, new sets like Hayagreevar and Girivalam have been introduced.

For Chitra, a homemaker, visiting the kolu exhibition is an annual ritual. "I come every year to add to my collection of dolls. This time around, I am looking to buy a Dasavatharam set. Though it's been around for a long time, I've never managed to take it home."


One can also choose from wooden dolls from Chennapatna and Kondapalli at Poompuhar.

An attraction this time around are the wooden snakes from Chennapatna (Rs. 90). Hold them right, and the snakes start slithering. Scary, but the intricate craftsmanship astounds you.

This year, Poompuhar has also stocked vegetables and fruits made of lightweight wood from Kerala.

An especially cute one is that of a custard apple. It looks good enough to eat.

"We usually sell vegetables and fruits made of wax, but they get disfigured in the summers. These wooden ones will last longer," the manager says.

Poompuhar offers a 10 per cent discount on clay dolls at the exhibition, which concludes on October 21.

What is a kolu without tempting give-aways? Be it hot, spicy sundal or the little knick-knacks that the woman of the house gives away as thambulam, Navarathri is time when people do their best to come up with interesting gifts.

For them, the Navarathri expo at the Lavanya Crafts shop at Shivanjali in Vadavalli, offers good options.

On offer are fancy kunguma chimizhils, diyas, bangles and hand-made bags. The fair there starts on October 14.

SUBHA J RAO

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