Celebrating hand made clay dolls

Kolu is an age old tradition of South India that celebrates the heritage of hand made clay dolls. Clay dolls are made by artisan families working on this art for generations. Steel wires are used to form the basic shape of dolls. Clay is plastered over this by hand and fine details are then sculpted on it. They are coloured with bright and cheerful paints. Each doll is designed, created and painted by hand with utmost precision.
 

chettiar dolls

chettiar dolls

Traditional wooden dolls called "marapaachi"

Traditional doll making families are scattered all over South India.  They are engaged in clay doll making through out the year. These dolls are stacked away for a year awaiting the Navaratri season. Doll makers open shop for the three months from August to November, the festival season in India.

wedding procession

Various techniques and innovations keep springing up every year. The wedding procession above is one such interesting set. Notice the antique looking car in this set? The latest trend this year are modern gadgets like cars.

The indigenous design and talent of doll makers are amazing. Have a look at the interesting  doll set below –  represents a scene from the Ramayana – Hanuman carrying the Sanjevi mountain. Though the set appears to be one single doll, it consists of six individual pieces that can be assembled in to one set. The attachment of various pieces is by an amazing design involving simple steel wire projections and holes, V shaped joins, flat pedestals etc.

Hanuman and Sanjivini hill

This set can be dismantled into individual pieces and stored away safely. Notice the tree in below picture, a thin line running in the middle is the part where it has been joined. Talented and creative designs, from traditional artisans who have preserved this art over generations.

Kolu Steps

Kolu Steps


 
Decoration of the steps are done with sarees or decorative cloth. Apart from normal dolls, there is also a small farm or garden, where pulses are grown to resemble grass. The doll maker’s innovative spirit can be seen here too, in the tiny farming doll sets and miniature animal dolls created for these farms or gardens.

Sprouting pulses (kollu)

Sprouting pulses (kollu)

There are dolls representing every form of earthly and mythical characters. Arrangement of dolls resembles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Plant forms in the last steps, animals in the next higher steps, men and women in the middle steps, mythical divine characters in the top steps.

Harvest dolls

Harvest dolls

Airport Model

Airport Model

Evenings are a perfect time for fun, with families and friends visiting each other’s kolu. Music and chatter fill the air. Small gifts are given away to women and children. This year, instead of buying gifts, my sister and I decided to do them at home. We did pretty looking clay lamps (diyas or man vilakku) and small paper packets and cloth bags for these lamps.

 More pictures of the lamps coming up soon 🙂

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