It’s Kolu time! Downtown team recently visited Villianur to unravel the story behind the figurines — from how they are made to adorning the ‘Kolu padis.’

Navaratri is round the corner and a number of households in the city are gearing up to celebrate the festival in all its grandeur. It is an occasion for vibrant festivities. It is intertwined with a number of activities such as gifts, clothes, dance, music, food and above all, creativity. It is also the time when ideas are exchanged and relationships renewed.

Navaratri is also a great community event. People get to know each other in their neighbourhood and work spots and some even create new friends during the occasion. To entertain guests and to show off talents, families put up a colourful array of dolls called the Kolu. The number of dolls or the make over in the display reveals the talent of the home maker.

In many a homes plans are already taking shape. Scenes culled from various stories in the epics and puranas are often displayed on the ‘Kolu padis’ or near it. Every year new dolls are put on view. This gives ample opportunity for the potters making the dolls, a matter of both economics and passion, with the entire family pitching in. Creative and innovative, they come out with new items every year. Villianur, a quiet village, about 12 km from Pondicherry is home to 15-20 units involved in making the dolls.

New arrivals

“This year we began making the figurines by the first week of June. We receive orders from a number of shops in Chennai and according to that we begin production,” said Sudha, a worker at the unit — Om Sakthi Fine Arts Works. Trained by Munnusamy, a national award winner in handicrafts, the unit specialises in making terracotta animals such as swan, peacock, horse, elephant. “This year we have sent a large number of these to small-time traders and popular outlets in Chennai (West Mambalam, Anna Salai, Tiruvottriyur),” said Mr. Munnusamy (93545 11197).

“My unit has sourced a large number of Ganesha idols to Chennai. We have made them in such a way in order to create awareness about AIDS, religious tolerance and various other social evils. I hope placing such dolls on display can drive home the messages with ease,” added Munnusamy.

As one approached Karthik (92821 82838) of Kaatru Fine Art Works, a number of dolls, set aside for drying, painting and embellishing, could be seen at the entrance of his home. Shiva-Parvati seated together, Dakshinamurthy, Lakshmi and Saraswathi were all given final touches by his family members. He said that his unit has started sourcing dolls from Kolkata. “People in Chennai prefer these dolls over traditional ones as the features of the figurines are more defined and intricately carved.”

Talking about new dolls made at his unit, Shekhar (93626 36610) of Balaji Art Works, said, “This year we have introduced Brahmotsavam set in papier-mâché. To craft the dolls, we went to Tirupati and observed each and every ritual performed during the festival.”

His unit has also brought out sets such as different incarnations of Goddess Shakthi, Heramba Ganapathy, Shakthi Ganapathy, four Shaivite saints — Appar, Sundarar, Manikavasagar and Thirugnanasambandar.

Apart from the usual marriage set, dolls depicting important ceremonies in human life such as baby shower, ear piercing, naming, and feast are also available. Village gods such as Madurai Veeran, Muneeswaran and Ayyanar are the other new additions.

From a plain and simple look, this year a few dolls have been given a glittering finish (using a new paint) to make them more attractive.

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