Arranging a Bommala Koluvu at home for every Dasara for the past 75 years has been the tradition for the ‘Satyabhama of Telugu film industry’, Jamuna Juluri. The 83-year-old actor explains about the dolls and the importance of setting up the Koluvu.
Bommala Koluvu is one of the colourful traditions practised during Dasara, Diwali and Sankranti by various communities in the south. Everyone celebrates this tradition with great joy inviting their families and friends for a perantam (a get-together of sorts for women).
“When we were in Duggirala, when I was 7-8 years old, even though we didn’t have so many dolls then, my mom used to prepare Taati aakula bommalu, and tie langa voni (half-sari) to them. Later on, we used to collect empty matchboxes the whole year and keeping Dasara in mind, we used to prepare pallakis, and simhaasanams for the festival by using cooked rice to stick them together and further decorate them with colourful beads and chamkis. Till date, I have a Saraswathi doll that adorns my Bommala Koluvu. This has been with me for more than 80 years,” says Jamuna, who has decorated her Bommala Koluvu this year too with many dolls that she brought 50 years ago in Chennai.
Though Jamuna was busy with her movies, she still managed to continue the tradition without breaking for so many years. “When I shifted to Chennai, we bought sets from Mylapore and my mom took me to the market and bought marriage set, Dasavatharalu, Vaikuntam, Kailasam, etc.,” says Jamuna. The last three days of the festival were open to all and the then superstars like Bhanumathi, Rajashri, and Anjali Devi would come to see her dolls.
The dolls need a lot of maintenance, as they are brought out only once a year. “When we were shifting to Hyderabad 50 years ago, many dolls got broken during transportation. After the festival, I specially wrap the dolls in bubble wrap and maintain them, once my driver broke the head of a minister who sits in Ravana’s Sabha, since then, I became very cautious about unwrapping the dolls,” says the legendary actor, who feels that such traditions were made not just for entertainment but also to develop friendship with neighbours.
“Nowadays children don’t know how a farmer ploughs the fields, what naagali (plough) is. An art is involved in this Bommala Koluvu, in ‘Ramayanam’ set, there are 6-7 different Hanumans, we have to place them perfectly — for instance, when Hanuman is with Rama and Sita, he will be sitting in front of them very loyally, but if you see the same Hanuman in Ravana’s court, he will be sitting on his tail made as chair, and with rakshahas he is in a different mood. Here the children will come to know about our epics visually,” says Jamuna, who is being helped by her grandson in setting up this Koluvu.