Rashmi Rekha Das

Dussehra for south Indians settled in Odisha’s Berhampur is synonymous with Bommala Koluvu festival. It is a quaint custom of arranging an array of dolls in elaborate themes. We can say it is a Telugu way of celebrating Dussehra. 

Each year during Navratri, Telugu community people celebrate Bommala Koluvu with fanfare. It is the traditional practice of displaying dolls that depict mythological stories, festivals of Andhra Pradesh in particular.

Besides, the festival represents social events such as marriage and public gatherings. On nine days homemakers especially from Kamma community wear nine different attires. 

“Apart from displaying dolls preserved by our forefathers, most of the dolls made of different kinds of wood, clay, cloth, brass and silver are put on display. You can say it is a kind of exhibition of dolls and decorative pieces in a step like formation. The arrangement depends on the availability of dolls.  In most places, the entire nine steps will be filled with statues of various gods and goddesses in Hindu pantheon”, said a woman organiser. 

Upon being asked the reason behind celebrating the festival, she said, “The festival is going to be extinct because youths are not interested to celebrate the festival. So, we are just trying to revive the dying tradition of our forefathers by celebrating it.”

Another woman devotee says, “Earlier, artisans used to create kolu dolls. But nowadays most people rely on readymade dolls. We also collect dolls throughout the year keeping in mind the Navratri Kolu. We invite only married women to attend the festival and distribute the Prasad among them.”

Karta of the festival said, “Younger generations will learn many things from each doll. Each doll has a story. We read Lalita Sahasranama in the presence of other devotees. We are living in such a state that we forget about ourselves. We even cannot recognise ourselves in mirror.  It gives a message for youths to lead a peaceful life. We just want today’s youth generation to keep it alive.”