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Mysuru’ Dolls durbar ready for diaplay

Express News Service

MYSURU: Every year, I used to place a board in front of my house welcoming people during the Navarathri festival to have a look at the dolls display,” says 63-year-old R Hemalatha Kumaraswamy, a resident of Agrahara.

But this year, there is no such welcome board, thanks to the novel coronavirus. However, the families who display dolls every year are doing so this time too, with the same enthusiasm. Mysore Pak, Mysore Mallige, Mysore Sandal Soap, Mysore Silk: just a few of the many significant cultural icons of this city. Add the world-famous Mysuru Dasara, these markers are enough to make the city the cultural capital of Karnataka.

The earliest recorded history of the festival here was during the rule of King Devaraya II of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 15th century. And the Wadiyars continued this tradition. Today, though the virus has cast its shadow over the celebrations, it has not dimmed the enthusiasm of households who display dolls and invite people during this time.

They may have scaled down the celebrations, but the vigour, devotion and grandeur are all there while following safety measures. The 10-day celebrations began on Saturday, and Mysuru’s festive spirit can be seen everywhere. Many families who display dolls have decided not to allow outsiders this time round as it will be challenging to maintain social distance.

Hemavathi, resident of JP Nagar, who has been displaying dolls for the past four decades, says: “We are celebrating the festival in the same grand manner. The only difference is we have restricted entry for outsiders, while laying emphasis on health and safety. I start preparations two weeks in advance – I gently unwrap all the dolls which are safely kept in the attic.

Even after the festival, it takes a week to again wrap the dolls in newspapers and keep them safe. We use naphthalene balls to protect them from cockroaches.”Hemalatha Kumaraswamy, a resident of Agrahara, who has been following the doll tradition for the past three decades says, “Every year, even passersby and strangers would visit our house to see the rows of dolls. I too would be happy narrating the stories. I work in a private company and I used to take leave during this festival time.” Mahesh Kumar, resident of Vijayanagar, says, “I used to visit 10 houses every year during Navarathri.

I love the concepts of mythology.” “Navarathri is one such festival where family, friends, neighbours come together which helps to strengthen relationships. There were a lot of celebrations every year and it was also an opportunity to make new friends, invite neighbours and showcase our tradition. This year we have placed a few dolls symbolically,” says Shobha, who has been displaying dolls for the past five years.

Sixty-eight-year-old Malini Sathyanarayan, who used to display nearly 30,000 dolls in her house, says,   “Navarathri is one of the biggest festivals in our house and we look forward to it eagerly. On an average, over 700 people used to visit our house during this time. However, with increasing Covid-19 cases in the district, we have restricted entry of outsiders to the house and we will place fewer dolls to mark the tradition.”    

THE TRADITION

Mysuru is famous for the dolls display. Dolls with vibrant colours are displayed, attracting people of all age groups. Usually, majority of them prefer to place dolls in nine steps, as it Is Navarathri. Most of them start preparations for the festival right from January. The dolls are displayed based on stories from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, heritage, culture, current events, etc.  A member of the family will narrate the stories to the children and visitors.

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