Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seeds of Bombe Mane

When I first visited Ramsons store in 1997, I was awestruck with so much beauty under one roof. I was like Alice in the wonderland (of handicrafts). I had been to Mysore's Cauvery Emporium, the handicrafts marketing enterprise of Karnataka government, but it paled in front of the treasure trove that Ramsons is.

Ramsons has every possible Indian handicraft product from rosewood inlay furnitures, intricately carved sandalwood figurines, traditional board games, miniature paintings, Mysore style paintings, Tanjore paintings, brass figurines, stone sculptures, papier machie products, marble vases painted with gold, and so many more.

Still, I was not happy, I looked all over again, all counters, corners, shelves, and all three floors across which the store is spread. One thing was conspicuous by its absence - clay dolls.

My obsession with dolls started when, as a kid, I saw doll festival at my maternal granny's home in Nanjanagud, during Dasara. A fairy land of dolls lay in front of me. I had never seen those dolls before, though I visited my granny quite often. I later came to know that they were carefully stored in a huge wooden chest, the entire year, only to be taken out during the festival. Beautifully coloured clay dolls of all shapes and sizes captured my imagination. It seemed like my other granny's stories of Rama, Krishna and other gods had come alive in those moon faced cute dolls.

Returning home at Mysore, a near empty showcase welcomed me. I started pestering mom to buy dolls and demanded that we celebrate doll festival at home. She yielded to my relentless demand and started buying dolls from hawkers who sold them from door to door. Whenever our relatives toured outside, they bought dolls for us. One by one, the showcase at home started filling with dolls; our own small collection was building up. Mom's mother bought and gifted a pair of pattada gombe (Raja Rani dolls in red sanders wood also called as chandanada gombe) from Tirupati. After a few years the doll hawkers came few and far between, doll supply started drying up and within a matter of a decade dolls were not available in Mysore. I started looking for dolls wherever I went; my mission was to have a decent collection of dolls.

So, I was pretty disappointed when I did not find any clay dolls at Ramsons except a few old damaged ones. When I asked Gyani (R.G. Singh), a partner of the shop about it, he told me that earlier they were selling beautiful Kolhapur dolls and in fact the store had earned the epithet 'Gombe Angadi' (The Doll Store). Since past few years the demand for dolls had died down - the reason why the store did not sell dolls anymore - he added.

I asked him why not start selling dolls again as dolls are not available in Mysore and one has to buy them either in Bangalore or Madurai which are very far from Mysore. My efforts to convince him failed. Then as a last resort I requested Gyani to buy dolls for me whenever he went out on business trips, for which he agreed. My collection started growing again. In fact, most beautiful dolls in my collection are what Gyani bought.

After my education I honed my design skills at Ramsons and finally became its official designer in 2004. I renewed my request (which had graduated to a demand by now) to Gyani about doll exhibition. Ramsons nurtures an art foundation, Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, which is working towards research, development and support of art and craft forms of the land. So my argument was that the doll-making forms a huge chunk of craft tradition and impressed upon him the fact that the doll-making tradition of Mysore has already disappeared. In the same breath I told that if we can come up with a project that can atleast help even in a small way to sustain the tradition of doll festival in Mysore; looking back now, I think this argument made an impact and Gyani started working on it mentally.

In the year 2005, just a couple of weeks before Dasara, Gyani went to Varanasi on a business trip. There he saw beautiful wooden dolls at a doll manufacturer's store. Next day morning he went to Ahilya Bai ghat for his customary dip in the Ganges. He took three dips and turned around towards the ghat. The ghat with its rows and rows of steps leading down to the river was teeming with people. Suddenly, it looked like the doll display during the doll festival at Mysore where dolls are neatly arranged on stepped platform. Returning to the hotel room Gyani called me and asked me to talk with his dad and brothers and tell them that we are having doll exhibition for the Dasara. He asked me to prepare a nice brochure and fax him a copy before getting it printed.

I was excited to receive this call from Gyani and started working on it right away. The first thing was I did was to coin the name 'Bombe Mane' for the exhibition. It means doll house or house of dolls.
Then I conveyed the message of Gyani to his father and brothers and everyone started working at full throttle since we had just 10 days to put up an exhibition. I photographed dolls, wrote text, designed the brochure and faxed it to Gyani. Getting a green signal from him, I took the design to printer and got it printed.

Day by day, things became hectic and the hall of Pratima Gallery started transforming in to a doll house. Invitations were posted and dolls started arriving from Varanasi, Sarnath and Jaipur. Gyani arrived a day before the inauguration of Bombe Mane. The exhibition was a huge success. Thousands of people thronged Pratima Gallery and Bombe Mane was the talk of town within couple of days.

Along with new dolls from across 10 states - Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal and Orissa - old dolls in the collection of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, gifted by Smt. Kaladevi, were on display. Thus since past seven years Bombe Mane is gaining popularity not only in Mysore, but also within the state and without.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Inauguration - Bombe Mane 2011

From right: M.B. Singh, P.R. Anand Rao and D. Ram Singh

From left: M.B. Singh, D. Ram Singh, artist Raghupati Bhat and P.R. Anand Rao

P.R. Anand Rao lights the lamp and inaugurates the exhibition of Bombe Mane

The vigorous beats of Chanday drums created a positive atmosphere during inauguration

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Navadurga in Tuluva Folk Tradition

Daivasthana created at Bombe Mane to house Navadurga
Indian sub-continent is blessed with fertile soil because of its innumerable rivers. Right from Indus Valley civilization up to present day, farming has been the backbone of India. Man toils day in and day out in farmlands, orchards and plantations. When nature rewards him with a bountiful harvest, he is thankful. Thus the field, soil, rain and nature are subjects of thanksgiving for its people. The bond between man and nature has grown emotional with man considering nature as the divine mother. To thank her generosity (food) and seek protection from her fury (natural calamities), people across the sub-continent have venerated and appeased nature as a benign divine mother since time immemorial.

This idea of worshipping divinity as feminine has been well documented in Vedas and over centuries has spread far and wide in the sub-continent. According to Devi Mahatmya, nine manifestations of devi Durga are known as Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandra Ghanta (Chanda Khanda), Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kalaratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri (Siddhidayini) and are collectively called Navadurga. Each of them is worshipped on different nights of Navaratri.
Shailaputri                  Brahmacharini               Chandakhanda
The worship of Devi or divine mother has acquired local flavours and is highly evolved. The Tulu speaking people from Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts in Karnataka follow a unique folk tradition of worshiping animals, deities and folk heroes as spirits invoked into huge wooden figures called Uru or Paapay. Tall, wide eyed figures hewn out of jackfruit wood are brightly coloured in primary colours and decorated with 'byagadi' paper which imitates gold in colour and brilliance. They are installed and worshiped in sanctified spaces called 'daivasthana' or 'bhutagaradi'.
Kushmanda                      Skandamata                              Katyayini
Veerabhadra Jarandaya the god of might, Panjurli the protector, Bobbarya the guardian, Kalabhairava Mandathaya, Jumadi the goddess of prosperity - these are few of the pantheon of Tulu folk deities. Kola and Nema are night long rituals and worship of these deities called 'daivas'. Goddess Jumadi (Dhumavati) is worshipped along with her eight other forms - Durgi, Chandi, Chamundi, Lekkasiri (Rakteshwari), Maari, Mahankali, Kanneshwari and Komala Kumari as nine manifestation of the mother goddess in Tuluva folk tradition.
Kalaratri                        Mahagauri                               Siddhidayini

Based on the iconography as suggested in the encyclopedic Sritattvanidhi, Navadurga figures have been created in jackfruit wood by Pradeep Gudigar of Kundapura. Rajesh Acharya of Udupi has casted bronze masks in traditional lost wax process. Udupi artist Purushotham Adve's acrylic on canvas depict masks and other aspects of bhutaradhane. Palimar's Venkataramana Kamath has crafted masks, scimitars and daiva figures in clay. A beautiful pillared sanctum has been created by Srikanth Sharma of Srirangapatna to house these Navadurgas. Padmanabha Pambada and his assistants have come all the way from Palimar to decorate the diorama with traditional ani ornamentation using parts of the sacred coconut and areca trees and embellishing them with floral patterns and mango leaf festoons.

This tradition of veneration is unique to the coastal strip of our state. Hundreds of garadis and daivasthanas are spread across the areas populated by Tuluvas from Sullia to Baindur.

This is an endeavour of Bombe Mane to showcase little known traditions associated with the all important devi worship. This year's Navadurga worship has been presented in traditional Tulu folk idiom.This unique flavour of Tuluva land is sure a feast for senses.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bombe Mane 2011 - Inauguration Invitation

Ramsons Kala Pratishtana

invites you to the 7th annual doll exhibition


Inauguration: Sri P.R. Anand Rao, National Secretary, Bharat Vikas Parishad

Chief Guest: Sri S.A. Ramdas, Hon'ble Minister for Medical Education, Govt. of Karnataka

Guest of Honour: Smt. G.H. Vanita Prasanna, Hon'ble Member, Mysore City Corporation

Inauguration on: Thursday 15 September 2011. 6.30 pm

Exhibition: 16 Sep. to 6 Oct. 2011. 10.30 am to 7 pm

Venue: Pratima Gallery, 1160, Ramsons House, In front of Zoo, Mysore 570010

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bombe Mane 2011 - Brochure

Dolls as playthings is a universal phenomenon. But in some ancient cultures, across the globe, they are also venerated and propitiated for different reasons. In India, several regions have unique traditions associated with doll worship like - Bhutaradhane of coastal areas of Karnataka, Rati Manmatha worship of Hubli-Dharwad, Bombe Masti worship and Koggatthi dolls of North Kanara and Ayyanar worship prevalent in Tamilnadu.

Tulu speaking people of coastal Karnataka worship Bhutas, or spirits in the form of brightly coloured wooden dolls. The object of their worship are animals, folk heroes, demi gods and gods. Tall figures of bhutas or daivas hewn out of jackfruit wood (Artocarpus heterophyllus), painted bright red all over and having huge unblinking eyes captivate the imagination of onlookers. These massive idols stand guard in sanctified sanctuaries or 'daivasthanas'. Believers celebrate the ideals like innocence, honesty, sacrifice and courage of common men and women whom these figures represent, and hence are venerated.

This year Ramsons Kala Pratishtana has brought a slice of South Canara to Bombe Mane. Navadurgas in the form of wooden daiva figures of Tulu folk art have adorned the display section in divine majesty. These nine goddesses - Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandra Ghanta (Chanda Khanda), Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kalaratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri (Siddhidayini) - manifested on nine successive nights of Sharannavaratri to defeat the devious Mahisha and scores of his commanders; they are worshiped across India. In Tuluva tradition, the lore associated with the origin of these goddesses is different. According to it, nine manifestations of goddess Durga Parameshwari are called Jumadi (Dhumavati), Lekkasiri (Rakteshwari), Chandi, Chamundi, Kanneshwari, Durgi, Mari, Mahankali and Komala Kumari.

Artists, Pradeep Gudigar of Kundapura, Rajesh Acharya and Purushotham Adve of Udupi, and Venkataramana Kamath of Palimar have brought alive the dolls and other accessories for this unique display. Padmanabha Pambada of Palimar and Srikanth Sharma of Srirangapatna have inricately decorated the display area in authentic 'daivasthana' style.

Apart from this special display, Bombe Mane has the choicest dolls lovingly selected from across India. Traditional clay dolls, wooden Ambari procession sets, Mahishasura dolls, miniature kitchen sets in brass, wood and clay, doll sets of Ramayana and Mahabharata, miniature animals, birds and fish in wood, Raja Rani dolls in brass, wooden doll house, doll house furniture in wood, papier machie dolls, costume dolls, lathe turned lacquerware dolls and toys, plaster of paris dolls of various deities and saints, etc., are among thousands of dolls on display.

Each one of these dolls are waiting to tell you their story and fire the imagination of you and your little ones. Come, take home the innocence of dolls and their loving embrace.

Welcome to Bombe Mane.

- Dr. C.R. Dileep Kumar