Friday, September 26, 2014

Bommai Veedu (Doll House)

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Navarathri (Nava - nine, Rathri - night) has begun and to celebrate the occasion with all it's myths specific to each region, rarities of celebrations, divinity and energy's a nine day divine affair with 'Shakti' (energy), 'Vrudhi' (Prosperity) and 'Budhi' (Wisdom...Knowledge being the essence). On the 9th day Ayudhapuja (Ayudham - Tools, Puja - Prayer) is performed and on 10th day the festival concludes with 'Vidyarambham' (Vidya - Knowledge, Arambham - Beginning). Knowledge is innately associated with divinity in our country that even initiation into the world of letters is done ritually during the 10th day.

Read more about Navarathri here and here.

Now, my focus however is something else, it is part and parcel of Navarathri here in the is intrinsically attached to the occasion and that is the arrangement of dolls in nine steps (3, 5, 7, 9 or at times 11 steps are also followed) which is called Bommai Kolu, Bomma Golu or Bome Habba according to each region. The bommais (dolls) are proud possessions of each family which are handed down through generations. It is a traditional art and has been in practice for a real 'Nile' time :) I would like to share a find...a place in Palakkad which caters to these dolls. 

Vijaya Sirppa Kalaikoodam (Bommai Veedu - Doll House) is a haven for the dolls that can be bought for the display and arrangement called Bomma Golu. It is situated in Kalpathy Gramam (Village) which is also one of the UNESCO declared World Heritage Site. The house-shop has been christened after the lady of the house. The husband, wife and the two boys together they make a great team and I could sense that energy there. The boys are school-going and they give a helping hand as when possible during holidays. Down-to-earth, simple folks whose world revolves around this traditional art. Their house smells and imbues the scent of this art that covers from floor to ceiling in that agraharam (traditional house of the village).

Sri.Palani & Smt.Vijaya

They have dolls made of paper mache, clay, cement and even wax. Wax dolls are made only on order. There are also dolls made from mould like the best selling ones of Krishna, Ganesha, or Devis. They also take custom orders if photographs are provided but that does cut your purse as they need more time, energy and labour. The dolls range from 200 to 15,000 at the time of my visit. Palani however added that he can also make dolls that cost almost a lakh.

Palani is the one who creates the moulds and tends to all the work that has to be done for the dolls but the doll gets complete only with the eyes and that is the 'speciality' of Vijaya according to Palani. The eyes of all the dolls are drawn by Vijaya who paints with her left hand, she has lost her right one. The eyes are truly marvellous when you consider it closely. She learnt it from her granny who was into this traditional art of doll making.

It takes around 3 weeks to make their hot selling Krishna which is around a foot high with the mould. They make the dolls the whole year through. 

My delight was on the high when I found out loads and loads of Krishnas of all sizes :) You could see some rare ones too if you eye closely...








 A whole range of Krishnas...sells a lot the whole year through


 Devis - Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathy

 Hanuman & Swami Vivekananda hiding behind Ganeshas

 Sree Narayana Guru among the Gods

 Loved this Ma Durga! expensive affair (it costs around 12k to 15k!)

 Varaha Lakshmi, RadhaKrishna and MahaVishnu...not very common

In love with this Goddess Saraswathy

A unique Dhanwanthary Murthy (God of Health and Medicine)

Loved this big ones??? Now drool over these tiny little treasures...


 Dasavatharam and AshtaLakshmi all wrapped up


 Lakshmi Vilakupuja

 Karthikai Pengal (Karthika - a star, Pengal - Girls)

 Kalyana (Wedding) Set


 Madurai Meenakshi

Indra Sabhai (Royal Court of Lord Indra)

I reached there almost during twilight and so the snaps were taken under the tubelight. They had also wrapped up all the dolls as there were customers constantly moving in and out buying them. As it was dark outside, couldn't get a picture of the outdoors.

 Bommai Veedu family - Subith and Bhuvaneshwaran with their parents

When I wanted to click their picture...they posed but that lovely curve was missing and I asked them for it and then the second picture happened which I liked a lot :) So natural...What say?

Kalpathy Village - the pictures below are from Palakkad Walks, Sanskriti and The Hindu




Kalpathy is a place to be during November when the renowned Chariot Festival takes place and then these narrow lanes will be thronging with people, elephants and The Chariots!!! This is how it will look :)


(Click on the pictures to view it big)

A special thanks to one of my best buddies, Pushkala, and her Father to get me the address of Bommai veedu. She is my buddy from school and she lived in here until she got married and settled in Mumbai. She recalls them as Bommai Veedu and thanks to her as I thought would be a nice title for the post. Thanks Kala!

This is how a Bomma Golu looks like...

Bomma Golu

On this auspicious occasion re-posting two of my earlier mural works...Ma Durga is missing...should make one presently :)

Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswathy
Kerala Mural painting

Linking the post to Eva & Kristin's Paint Party Friday!

PS: In case anyone is interested in these Bommais (dolls), do drop me a mail at I will convey the message to them as they don't own a site or page.

Please do not use/reproduce the content (words as well as images) without the written consent of the author.


My name is Erika. said...

Fascinating post. I just love the colors on the statues. Wow. How nice to inherit them from your family and to have them to enjoy. I would love to hear the myths that go with this "holiday" time you are celebrating.

Giggles said...

Seem like a beautiful celebration filled with lovely traditions! Thanks for sharing those wonderful dolls!

Hugs Giggles

dokka srinivasu said...

Beautiful Dolls. Really a great effort to share such beautiful dolls with information about their family history.

Our pride India is a land of unique cultures, diverse customs like these Golu (Bommala Koluvu), Rangolis, ethnic fairs, folk paintings etc. Incredible India.

In Andhra Pradesh we call them as Bommalu (Dolls) and some people shared their Bommalu in the form of Bommala Koluvu (Golu) during Dasara (Navarathri 9 days) and also in Makara Sankranthi festival occasion.

Please look into my blog and share your comments.

Linda Kunsman said...

Thank you so much for generously sharing your culture here. I enjoy learning the words too. The doll displays are simply amazing!!

Julie said...

Hi,you are invited to share this Feline Art Friday:

Meghana Hassan said...

Thank you Deepa for taking us through the tour of Bommais n their makers.. Navratri has always been the most awaited festival of the year for me for the reason of these dolls.
Thanks for dropping to my blog n getting connected.. :)

Carol said...

Thank you for sharing the beauty of your homeland!!! These dolls are amazing and I love reading their story. Your murals are truly beautiful too.

Arti said...

Hi Deepa. Despite being an Indian, I had never heard of these dolls- goes to show how much there is to learn about India! Thank you for such a colourful offering on Navratri. Meeting Vijaya and her family must have been a special experience for you:)I love the knowledge and divinity connection you mention at the start of your post. said...

nicely documented :)

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Unknown said...

All dolls are Excellent... How can I get a sculpture of god Dhanwathari moorthy....

Vipin Nambiar said...

Hi deepa... i need some golu dolls.. as my normal search for navarathri golu dolls i got this article.. very nice.. If u can give the contact details of this people for buying dolls is very helpful for me.. my contact number was 7510813097..