Dolls, Dolls and More Dolls

Many in India would just be recovering from the Navratri/ Dushera festival. Navratri, for many in the South (the term meaning 9 nights), means bringing out dolls and idols and placing them in a decorative display (mostly in the form of steps) in the main room of the house. Friends and family are then invited to view this display of dolls. This is also called Kolu.

Recently, the Indo Japan Chamber of Commerce also announced a display of Japanese dolls from a personal collection at the centre. The display was open to the public earlier this week and I was quite surprised to see a similar pattern of doll display which revolves around the ‘Hinamasturi’ or the Japanese Doll Festival which is also apparently called the Girl’s Day (Yes, there is also a boy’s day!).

The Hina Masturi

On the periphery the two kinds of doll displays look very similar- however I was quite surprised to learn that there are strict norms about what should be displayed in the Hinamasturi display- for example the Imperial Dolls are always on the first step, the second step has three ladies of the court holding Sake, the third holds musicians, the fourth ministers, the fifth samurai and the last few steps hold utensils and other household articles.

The Emperor and Empress
Selection of Household Articles



While there is a similarity with Kolu (the Gods are always displayed on the higher steps whereas the lower steps are more re-encatments of mortal scenes and heroes etc), there is a lot more flexibility of what gets included in a Kolu- essentially any kind of doll or idol would fit.

Here is a picture of one of our Kolu displays from way back in 1982.

We used to display three special dolls called “Gowri Bommai (Dolls)”- essentially these dolls have joints that come apart and hence can be redecorated and refixed to resemble any mythological character. And yes that is yours truly being towered by the dolls.

Old Kolu Collage

2 Comments Add yours

  1. A different topic from most of your others 🙂 Enjoyed this one a lot!

  2. Nirmala says:

    I am always amazed by what i keep learning about various cultures having common roots! Very interesting about Japanese having this doll tradition.

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