Gombe Habba – The Doll Festival

Dasara Bombe - Head shaking Dasara dolls

Doll house festival

In Karnataka we have the tradition of exhibiting all the Dolls neatly and making some themes out of it and invite neighbors to come and have a look at the same. Children are given some sweets. This event happens during the Dasara festival. Dasara festival falls usually during september or Octover month. It is also called as Navaraatri (Nine nights). During those 9 nights every night one or the other festival will be there.

In local language this occasion is called as ‘ Gombe koorisuvudu’ literally translated as ‘seating of Dolls’. This practice started few centuries ago by the Wodeyars the then rulers of Mysore Dynasty.

In this ‘Festival of Dolls’ the dolls are seated in a particular order by making as many rows as needed depending on the number of Dolls. And the rows will resemble a staircase. This is usually done using different sized Benchs or boxes, or combination of what ever is avaialble at home. Then it is covered with white cloth. Then the Dolls are arranged on that.

If a home is having good collection of Dolls, they will reserve each row for one theme. In one row they will narrate the story of Ramayana, another row will be for Mahabharata and so on. These days people include modern dolls with new messages like ‘save environment’ etc.

One keeps buying Dolls and goes on adding to his/her collection.

I was hardly 10 years old when we came to Mysore. During that time we used sow the raagi cereal in a Tray of mud. This would be done few weeks before Dasara. Thus by the time Dasara approached we used to have the raagi grown up resembling the shape of Grass. Thus this this would be used to portray either the Crop field or the Jungle and relevant Dolls would be kept in that plantation. How I wish I want to try that again.

Thus every home which celebrate Doll house festival will make use of its creativity and go on making different themes.

The regular set of dolls we find in these Doll houses are a ‘Marriage set – a Pair of wooden dolls having a bride and groom’ This doll is usually present in all the Brahmin families, as this is given during the time of wedding to the newly wed couple. This ritual might have started during the time of child marriages.

Bride and Bridegroom

Bride and Groom dolls

Dasara procession

Dasara Procession

There will be the dolls of Rama, Lakshmana and Seetha. Krishna and Radha. Some village setting and other Gods and Goddesses.

Few mix up the modern toys with the classic toys, I feel it will spoil its ethnic look.

Few years back a colleague of mine had invited me to view the Dolls she had showcased during the Dasara festival. And she gifted me with a Doll. I just love that culture. You keep Dolls, invited people and gift them Dolls, they can make a collection and they will be motivated to do the same for the next Dasara. Hope this culture continues.

Recently I visited the ‘Bombemane’ which exhibits and sells the Dolls from various manufacturers all over the country. Most of the videos and photos I have uploaded are from the same exhibition. But here you can buy the sets at a very high price ( its relative) but you wont get the fun and satisfaction which you get, where in you will buy dolls at different places at different periods and then make a theme out of it. In bombemane you get all theme sets.

The famous Dasara Bombe which I have shown in the photo was priced at 525/- each at Bombemane, and I bought the similar one at Shilparamam, Hyderabad for 300/- per pair.

Finally what I would like to mention is in the fast pace of life, where both husband and wife are working. Kids hardly get any holidays for Dasara, and even if they get they will have loads of homework. its becoming difficult to celebrate all these events. But we definitely spend lot of time in front of Computers or in front of TV, If we borrow few hours from these for the purpose of making these festivals a success, I am sure it will be worth the effort it takes.

Gombe habba photos by Sunil Jayaprakash


7 comments on “Gombe Habba – The Doll Festival

  1. jinnu says:

    I really like the Bombe Habba. It brings a whole lot of charm, liveness to the house.

    Thanks for the nice post.


  2. Bindu says:

    Thanks a lot for the comment.

    Also thank you for allowing me to share your photos in my blog.



  3. ES says:

    In Chennai, we have ‘navarathri golu’ – same thing like the above. Though we don’t celebrate it, many of our neighbors used to, and we were invited to their houses. We kids used to get sundal, laddu and other snacks if we go there 🙂 But gifting of dolls is also a very good practice – i agree 😀


  4. Bindu says:

    Yes, Infact my mom arrange what ever dolls were there at home during this Dasara festival especially for the grand children. After that even I got inspired and started buying such dolls, hope to have a good collection by next Navaraatri.

    Your blog name sounds interesting, I will drop in sometime.


  5. ES says:

    If you like music, can you suggest some good Kannada Movies where the songs are very good. I knew a couple of them – Mungaru Male and Amrithadhare – So, I have written about them. Can you suggest some more?


  6. Bindu says:

    Amritavarshini, Nenapirali, Huchcha and lot more are there..


  7. ranjitha says:

    it is very precise and informative


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