Dasara Doll Festival – III

A lot of colour, exquisite Dasara dolls, traditional splendour, doll arrangement interspersed with theatre and between all that taking in the rich aroma of flowers, food and festivities were some of the highlights of the Dasara Golu Walk arranged by Unhurried.in. The walks had been arranged over the Dasara week from 29 September to 4 October. I chose to attend the walk on 2 October.

We were first shown into the 107-year-old house of Diwan Sir MN Krishna Rao, erstwhile Diwan of Mysore kingdom.

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The dolls, most of them miniature, were arranged meticulously by Mrs Narendra, wife of the Diwan’s great grandson. The main display was at the centre and consisted of 4 steps with the 3 Raja-Rani dolls hogging the limelight.

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On both sides of the steps there were dolls of deities and also village folk arranged neatly depicting different facets of village life. I didn’t do a good job with the photos though 😦

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A masala dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan later we were off to the next house but not before savouring the colours and aromas of different varieties of flowers at Gandhi Bazaar. I have never seen a market looking more colourful!

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As we walked to the next house, we passed by a house said to be the childhood home of former Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalitha.

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The doll arrangement at the house of Veena Ravindranath was simply amazing! Her collection includes 4000 plus dolls spanning various periods of time. A highlight here is the stunningly beautiful depiction of various scenes of the Ramayan with dolls and visuals accompanied by eloquent captions. Everything here looked surreal and behind every scene was a story of toil, patience and a great sense of aesthetics. It goes without saying that arranging dolls is a test of creativity! Have a look at some pictures:

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Lord Brahma and Bhoomi Devi seek Lord Vishnu's help to slay demon king Ravana.

Lord Brahma and Bhoomi Devi seek Lord Vishnu’s help to slay demon king Ravana.

King Dasharatha performs Putrakameshti Yagna to beget a son.

King Dasharatha performs Putrakameshti Yagna to beget a son.

Birth of princes Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugana.

Birth of princes Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna.

Sage Vashista trains the princes in archery.

Sage Vashista trains the princes in archery.

King Dasharatha expresses his desire to coronate Rama as crown prince.

King Dasharatha expresses his desire to coronate Rama as crown prince.

A court scene depicting the arrival of sage Vishwamitra to take Prince Rama along with him to guard his yagna.

A court scene depicting the arrival of sage Vishwamitra to take Prince Rama along with him to guard his yagna.

Rama slays demoness Tataka as he approaches the yagnasthala.

Rama slays demoness Tataka as he approaches the yagnasthala.

Ahalya's redemption from curse.

Ahalya’s redemption from curse.

Rama breaks Shiva's celestial bow.

Rama breaks Shiva’s celestial bow.

The weddings of Rama and Sita, Lakshman and Urmila and also those of Bharat and Mandavi and Shatrughna and Shrutakeerthi.

The weddings of Rama and Sita, Lakshman and Urmila and also those of Bharata and Mandavi and Shatrughna and Shrutakeerthi.

Guha offers Rama, Sita and Lakshmana help in crossing three rivers during their vanavaasa.

Guha offers Rama, Sita and Lakshmana help in crossing three rivers during their vanavaasa.

Bharata breaks the sad news of Dasharatha's death to Rama at Chitrakoota.

Bharata breaks the sad news of Dasharatha’s death to Rama at Chitrakoota.

Bharata returns to Ayodhya to perform 'Paaduka Pattabhisheka'

Bharata returns to Ayodhya to perform ‘Paaduka Pattabhisheka’

Lakshmana chops off demoness Shurpanakha's nose.

Lakshmana chops off demoness Shurpanakha’s nose. The demoness in her human-like avatar had tried to woo Lakshmana who spurned her advances. She in turn had tried to attack him.

Lakshmana (partially hidden) chops off Shurpanakha's nose.

Lakshmana (partially hidden) chops off Shurpanakha’s nose.

Shurpanakha complains to her brother Ravana.

Shurpanakha complains to her brother Ravana.

Sita is allured by the golden deer

Sita is allured by the golden deer.

Rama kills Mareecha (disguised as a golden deer).  Mareecha mimics Rama and calls out to Sita and Lakshmana. Sita urges Lakshmana to go. Lakshmana draws a line (popularly called the Lakshman Rekha) and instructs Sita not to cross the line.

Rama kills Mareecha (disguised as a golden deer). Mareecha mimics Rama and calls out to Sita and Lakshmana. Sita urges Lakshmana to go. Lakshmana draws a line (popularly called the Lakshman Rekha) and instructs Sita not to cross the line.

 

Ravana arrives in the guise of a sage to fool Sita and kidnap her.

Ravana arrives in the guise of a sage to fool Sita and kidnap her.

Jatayu, the brave vulture tries to save Sita from Ravana's clutches.

Jatayu, the brave vulture tries to save Sita from Ravana’s clutches.

A badly injured Jatayu informs Rama about the kidnapping and also shows him the direction in which Ravana took Sita.

A badly injured Jatayu informs Rama about the kidnapping and also shows him the direction in which Ravana took Sita.

Khabanda advices Rama to meet Sugriva.

The rakshasa Khabanda advices Rama to meet Sugriva.

Shabari attains moksha

Shabari attains moksha

Rama meets Hanuman and Sugriva.

Rama meets Hanuman and Sugriva.

Sugriva's coronation.

Sugriva’s coronation.

Sugriva's coronation

Sugriva’s coronation

Rama gives his ring to Hanuman as a token of love and identity before Hanuman leaves for Lanka.

Rama gives his ring to Hanuman as a token of love before Hanuman leaves for Lanka.

Jatayu's cousin Sampaati informs Angad, Sugriva's nephew, about Sita. Sampaati then gets new wings and flies away.

Jatayu’s cousin Sampaati informs Angad, Sugriva’s nephew, about Sita. Sampaati then gets new wings and flies away.  Hanuman grows tall and decides to cross the ocean.

Hanuman grows tall and decides to cross the ocean.

Hanuman meets the demoness Surasa.

Hanuman meets Sita at Ashokavana and hands her Rama's ring. In turn she too gives him a token of love and gratitude to be handed over to Rama.

Hanuman meets Sita at Ashokavana and hands her Rama’s ring. In turn she too gives him a token of love and gratitude to be handed over to Rama.

Ravana's son Indrajit captures Hanuman. By then Hanuman has managed to kill five of Ravana's senadipatis (army generals).

Ravana’s son Indrajit captures Hanuman. By then Hanuman has managed to kill five of Ravana’s senadipatis (army generals).

Hanuman sitting on his tail.

Hanuman sitting on his tail.

Hanuman is brought to Ravana's court.

Hanuman is brought to Ravana’s court.

Hanuman meets Rama and conveys Sita's message to him.

Hanuman meets Rama and conveys Sita’s message to him.

Construction of the bridge by Rama and the vanara sena gets underway.

Construction of the bridge by Rama and the vanara sena gets underway.

Rama appoints Angada as a messenger to Ravana. Angada was known to have great diplomatic skills.

Rama appoints Angada as a messenger to Ravana. Angada was known to have great diplomatic skills.

In the fierce battle that ensues between Rama's vanara sena and Ravana's army, Indrajit uses the Nagastra to finish off Rama and Lakshmana. The brothers become unconscious. The divine bird Garuda brings them back to consciousness by brushing his wings against them.

In the fierce battle that ensues between Rama’s vanara sena and Ravana’s army, Indrajit uses the Nagastra to finish off Rama and Lakshmana. The brothers become unconscious. The divine bird Garuda brings them back to consciousness by brushing his wings against them.

Ravana sent back by Rama from the battlefield.

Ravana sent back by Rama from the battlefield.

The pièce de résistance in Veena Ravindranath’s collection was the large Kumbhakarna doll (see picture below):

Ravana sends demons to wake up his brother Kumbhakarna from his slumber.

Ravana sends demons to wake up his brother Kumbhakarna from his slumber.

Indrajit kills an illusionary image of Sita and using Brahmastra makes a bemused Rama and Lakshmana unconscious.

Indrajit kills an illusionary image of Sita and using Brahmastra makes Rama and Lakshmana unconscious.

Hanuman bringing the Sanjeevini Parvatha.

Hanuman bringing the Sanjeevini Parvatha.

Hanuman arrives with the Sanjeevini Parvatha

Hanuman arrives with the Sanjeevini Parvatha.

Rama tends to an unconscious Lakshmana.

Rama tends to an unconscious Lakshmana.

Lakshmana kills Indrajit at the Nikumbala Caves.

Lakshmana kills Indrajit at the Nikumbala Caves.

Rama invokes the blessings of Surya by chanting Aditya Hridayam before embarking to kill Ravana.

Rama invokes the blessings of Surya by chanting Aditya Hridayam before embarking to kill Ravana.

Rama kills Ravana

Rama kills Ravana

Vibishina is all set to take over as King of Lanka.

Vibishana is all set to take over as King of Lanka.

Lakshmana enters Ashokavana to release Sita.

Lakshmana enters Ashokavana to release Sita.

Rama and Sita in Ayodhya.

Rama and Sita in Ayodhya.

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Sita's Agnipravesham

Sita’s Agnipravesham

Installing of Shivalinga to remove 'brahma hathya' sin in Rameshwaram.

Installing of Shivalinga to remove ‘brahma hathya’ sin in Rameshwaram.

This was not all, there were many more dolls in Veena Ravindranath’s home. Have a look:

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After this spectacular doll feast there was one more to come and this one was mixed with theatre. ‘Bimba’ The Art Ashram was soaked in festive fervour and ethnic chic. There was a doll arrangement in one of the huts with age-old dolls gleaming in the dim light.   Actually, the muted lighting was accentuating the beauty of the dolls. The star attraction here was a large Saraswathi.

Bimba

Bimba

A dream stage for any musician!

A dream stage for any musician!

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Goddess Saraswathi, the star attraction in the doll arrangement.

Goddess Saraswathi, the star attraction in the doll arrangement towers over the other dolls.

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The evening ended with Rasalok, an enchanting still theatre performance where the artist Deepika Dorai had the audience (mostly children) spellbound with the narration of Kanakadasa’s life story titled ‘Ecstacy Enslaved’. The stage depicting a typical scene from rural Karnataka had dolls as characters representing village folk, domestic animals, Kanakadasa, his guru Vrishabacharya and more. It was dark inside the hut and only the stage was lit. Deepika had a torch with her and flashed it at each character as she introduced them. The narration in English was now and then punctuated with Kanakadasa’s bhajans and other sounds. This was the first time I was audience to such a performance and to say that I was dazzled would be an understatement. The 90-min performance was both enchanting and uplifting! I hope to make it to Bimba some day again.

 

Also see my last year’s posts:

Dasara Doll Festival – I

Dasara Doll Festival – II

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Going chomp chomp chomp at Basavanagudi

Heritage walk and tour organizer Unhurried.in’s first ever food trail at Basavanagudi, one of Bangalore’s oldest localities, had foodies like me making a beeline to Vidyarthi Bhavan, the famous restaurant in this part of the city. Situated in the midst of the famous Gandhi Bazaar flower market, this eatery is very popular and is one of Bangalore’s oldest. Not surprisingly it was chosen as the starting point of the food trail. The leader of the food trail was Mansoor Ali, an architect, foodie, heritage enthusiast and a long-time Basavanagudi resident.

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Listening to Mansoor’s enthralling talk on the Basavanagudi of the past, on the benches outside Vidyarthi Bhavan, served as an awesome starter to the multi-course feast that was to come. We were all shown a lot of photographs and paintings of the Basavanagudi of yore that he had stored on his smartphone. There were a lot of sketches of the Kempegowda Tower and Bull Temple. Unlike the Kempegowda Tower at Lal Bagh, entry to the Kempegowda Tower at Basavanagudi is now barred as it is now part of a private property. Once a congested locality in the Pete area of Bangalore, Basavanagudi was transformed into a well-planned layout by a British architectural team led by Standish Lee in 1892 after an outbreak of plague in the region. The part of Gandhi Bazaar area from Vidyarthi Bhavan to somewhere near Makala Koota stands on the dried up bed of the Karanji Lake, which was once the lifeline of the region.

Gandhi Bazaar was earlier referred to as Angadi Beedi because it only had shops. Brahmins formed the largest percentage of population in Basavanagudi. Prominent Bangaloreans who hailed from Basavanagudi include Masti Venkatesa Iyengar, DV Gundappa, MN Krishna Rao, GR Vishwanath, BS Chandrashekhar, and H Narasimhaiah.

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As we entered Vidyarthi Bhavan, our eyes caught sight of the innumerable portrait sketches on the walls. They are sketches of eminent past and present citizens of Basavanagudi and dignitaries who visited the eatery since it started operations in 1943. The artist who drew them, Vishnumurthy was once a cook at Vidyarthi Bhavan. Though Vidyarthi Bhavan officially started operations in 1943, the eatery is believed to have been functioning as early as 1930. It was started by the Adiga brothers and still belongs to the same family.

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Vidyarthi Bhavan is famous for its masala dosas, by-two coffee culture and the artistic manner in which waiters carry plates of dosas. The menu card isn’t very large here, there are only 8 items on offer.

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Vidyarthi Bhavan is closed on Fridays. There is a nice story to it. India got Independence on 15 August 1947 which was a Friday. The restaurant remained closed on that day to celebrate the great moment in the country’s history. From then on Friday was the official off day.

After a round of snacking at Vidyarthi Bhavan, it was time to move on. I enjoyed my plate of Masala Dosa.

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As we moved outside, Mansoor nostalgically recalled that more than a decade back Gandhi Bazaar road was skirted by tall trees on both sides. The canopy formed by the trees was such that there was a lot of shade. Sunlight could only trickle in. In the evenings when the birds returned to their nests, pedestrians usually carried an umbrella else they would have bird poop on their heads.

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Gandhi Bazaar road also has Kollapuri’s, once the only non-veg joint in Basavanagudi.

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Our next stop was the Adyar Anand Bhavan, a stone’s throw from Vidhyarthi Bhavan, and a comparatively new joint in this part of the city. I managed a click just before one of the staff told me that photography was not allowed here.

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As we walked on we savoured views of some of the last remaining heritage bungalows on the road.

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Srinivasa Condiment Stores which was earlier called Subbamma Stores is one of the oldest condiment stores here. The stores which was started by a lady called Subbamma is popular for the assortment of masalas it offers besides snacks like Congress kadalekai, Communist kadalekai, Computer kodubale, all kinds of mixtures and more. As part of Unhurried’s package we were asked to pick up a snack of our choice.

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We had a brief stop at Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room. It was closed as Saturday is a holiday here. Food is no longer served on the first floor. Once upon a time, the hotel practiced caste segregation. Brahmins would sit in a separate section. Food was served in a very traditional manner and on the floor. There were no tables, one had to sit on small wooden platforms.

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As we walked on, there were more bungalows to admire. The many conservancy lanes were a reminder of the travails of the scavengers.

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Butter Sponge, opposite National College, which started in the 1980s is a unit of the the famous VB Bakery at Sajjan Rao Circle. The grub here is very reasonably priced. Not surprisingly, the bakery is frequented by students of National College and other colleges in the vicinity. The Saturday speciality here is the Damrod, a delectable pumpkin preparation garnished with raisins and cashewnuts. The Japanese cakes offered here also vanish fast from the shelves. There are lots of other goodies too like Swiss rolls, doughnuts, burfis, breads and more. After sampling the Damrod, our next stop was the famous Brahmins’ Coffee Bar.

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Brahmins’ Coffee Bar is famous for its soft idlis and crunchy vadas. When it started, Brahmins’ was a very tiny joint and people had to stand on the pavement and relish their food. This place too belongs to an Adiga family though not the same one which owns Vidyarthi Bhavan. The recipe of the vadas and idlis was invented by a lady of the Adiga family known for her impeccable cooking. Since it was a busy day, we couldn’t get to talk to the owners. True to their reputation, the idlis and vadas tasted great.

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We ended our trail with a Neer Dosa at SLV Corner. After already having eaten so much, it was quite a task finishing off the soft-as-cotton Neer Dosa. And there was no room for any dessert 🙂