Navarathri is a festival celebrated widely throughout India over nine successive nights. In several Indian languages the word means “nine nights” and perhaps that is why the festival is called Navarathri. There are many variants of this festival and in South India, and in particular in Tamilnadu this is a time when people arrange dolls and religious icons in an artistic manner within their houses and invite their neighbours over. There is therefore a lot of socialising over these nine days.
Each family tries to outdo the others in the selection and artistic arrangement of the stuff that they display. This results in lots of doll bazaars (markets) springing up in the weeks preceding this festival and during the festival itself. Most of these bazaars sprout around temples. The vendors spread out their wares on the pavements or hawk them from pushcarts.
In even the recent past most of these dolls were made of eco-friendly material like clay, wood, reeds and so on and were made by local craftsmen. The displays therefore also served to showcase local crafts and arts. But of late I see plastic dolls of Hindu deities, made in China, flooding our markets. To me this robs this festival of much of its charm and relevance.
During this year's Navarathri I visited the area around the Mylapore Temple along with others in my sketching group to sketch the doll vendors. Although I did sketch some of them the dolls themselves were small and therefore did not figure too prominently in my sketches. But I think I did manage to capture some of the character of these informal and very chaotic shopping areas.
I sketched all four on location, directly in ink, using a Hero 578 fountain pen.