October 06, 2012

Navaratri Kolu Contest

Which image dominates the Deepavali festival greeting cards in North India?

That of Lord Ganesha.

Virugambakkam marketing professional R. Chandramouli has made the best of the festival for his own reasons.

Chandramouli collects images of this god who is the favourite of many people. And for Vinayaka Chathurthi, when our neigbourhood newspapers invited collectors to share their stories with us, Chandramouli wanted us to visit his home to take a closer look.

A collection of 400 plus, including one sun bathing on a green patch, sold in Singapore's shopping malls was amazing indeed.

And Chandramouli had more. He pulled out a bloated file and displayed over 100 greetings cards with another amazing variety of Lord Ganesha as the dominant image on Deepavali cards.

Our festivals are not mere celebrations. They also get people to celebrate craft and art, music and food and all the good things of life. So, at Navarathri time, the centrepiece kolu has taken avatars that spread from the centre. Families design and build kolus that have a theme, employ creativity and technology and present a little spectacle.

To acknowledge the creative talent and effort, our newspapers introduced the Kolu Contests over a decade ago. Just as we had introduced the Kolam Contest which has now grown into the annual Mylapore Festival.

The prizes for the bests are only a small part of the idea. More important is to tell families who are creative and celebrate tradition that the effort is indeed wonderful.

The displays at festival time have stories to tell, trends to spot.

One collector of Lord Ganesha told me that though hawkers now sold images of the Lord browsing at a PC or emulating M S Dhoni's helicopter shot, he stuck to collecting traditional works of craft.

In Mylapore and Arcot Road, we are tapping into technology at this year's Kolu Contests while at Adyar, a judge will carefully do the rounds of all those who wish to register for the event.

In the first two neighbourhoods, we will ask our photographers to shoot snappy video clips of the kolus whose owners have signed for the contest, get them edited into a short docu-film and screen them at a venue. The idea is to allow all the contestants to have the opportunity to view all the listed Navarathri kolus. And for the judge to sit at a PC and draw a list of winners.

Yes, in doing this some of the personal touch will be lost. But the film will also enable thousands of people in the neighbourhoods and around the world to enjoy your creations when we post the film on the Web.

We are open to ideas. Do share them. It was one such idea that provided a window to our readers in Arcot Road.

In our latest issue, since we could not locate a professional doll painter in the area we chose to list Saligramam-resident Lakshmi's name though she and her niece painted their kolu dolls for personal needs. There were a flurry of calls and we were a bit embarrased. But Lakshmi says she will help as much as she can!

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