Colours of the Season

Colours of the Season

Handcrafted Dussehra dolls, by design studio Varnam, bring to memory dance-drama forms that were integral to the festival

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Dussehra collection of Yakshagana dolls (left) and Coorgi bobble heads

Bengaluru-based Karthik Vaidyanathan, 43, founder of Varnam, which has championed Channapatna crafts for nearly six years, presents his latest collection of Dussehra dolls. His many visits to this town in Karnataka led to discoveries in cupboards of artisans, which were designs from the ’50s and ’60s. Called Bombe Habba or golu in Kannada, this aspect of the festival is celebrated with toys, usually made with wood or clay. Varnam has revived these dolls in their latest collection, which includes the basavas (sacred cows), Coorgi dolls, and also dolls depicting the famous Mysore Dussehra procession. What is unique in the collection are the keel kudures (horse on false legs), inspired by a folk dance form of Karnataka, an imitation of the movements of a horse by men and women. These toys, once an integral part of Dasara Gombe, are seldom seen even in Channapatna today.

Creating these dolls is a time-consuming process. Soft wood of the hale tree or Aale mara is first turned into shapes by hand on the power lathe, with cutting tools. They are lacquered with glossy Channapatna colours. Then, artisans paint the various features and ornaments using non-toxic oil paints over the lac-coloured body.

The Dussehra collection includes the Yakshagana dolls, taken from the traditional theatre form of Karnataka that combines dance, music, dialogue, costume and make-up. To evoke memories of the Mysore Dussehra procession are the gajas (elephants) as well, decorated with detailed ornamentation.

While his previous collections include home utilities, Vaidyanathan is now busy creating designs for Diwali and Christmas. Varnam’s collection is available online and at select stores across the country.