The last of the three-part series throws light on the export of Kolu dolls.
When it comes to celebrating our festivals, NRIs can put those living within the country to shame. As cultural gatherings are the only means through which these overseas Indians can remain connected to their roots and create a festive mood in a foreign land, they make the most of it.
The nine-day Navaratri fest is a prefect occasion for them to come together and have a merry time. Setting up of Kolu is an essential part of celebration among South Indians. But, where do these NRI turn to for the dolls? Villianur, a tiny village near Pondicherry, seems to be one of the major sourcing points.
The doll-makers of this region cater not just to Indian customers but also to foreign clients and their dolls have left an impression off shore.
A. Shekhar of Balaji Art Works says, “Our major clientele consists of Indians settled in foreign countries. We export Ramayana and Krishna Leela sets depicting main episodes from the mythologies. The 18-set collection has 300 and 250 dolls respectively. The dolls are available in clay and papier-mâché. In clay, the Ramayana set costs Rs. 25,000 and in papier-mâché it is Rs. 40,000. The other set costs Rs. 7,000 in clay and Rs. 35,000 in papier-mâché. These sets find patronage in New Jersey, New York and California.
“We also receive orders from South-east Asian countries, especially from Singapore. The most preferred dolls include various incarnations of Goddess Shakthi such as Kanaka Durga, Mahishasuramardini, Meenakshi, etc. Fancy dolls and miniature animals are sought after by Malaysian clients.”
France is the main destination for dolls created in Om Shakthi Fine Art Works, a unit run by Munnusamy. Chitra, a worker of the unit, says, “We receive bulk orders throughout the year from France, Singapore and Malaysia. It takes three months to craft and deliver these dolls. This year, one lakh dolls were despatched to Malaysia in September. ”
With the arrival of Kolkata dolls, there seems to be a fierce competition between these sharp featured and intricately designed dolls and the traditional ones. Shiva of Kartik Fine Art Works says, “Our traditional South Indian dolls have a bigger market in foreign countries, while Kolkata dolls are preferred here. There are certain orders where we deliver dolls to sub-clients, who in turn paint and embellish them before exporting.”