Handicraft dolls of Tamil Nadu

In 2019 July and August,Kanchipuram was all busy like never before,where devotees from different parts of the state and country were waiting in queues, starving just to see the deity at least once in his/her lifetime. All news channels and print media of Tamil Nadu had never missed to telecast and print everyday, the trending popularity of the God who was immersed in the temple tank of varadharaja perumal kovil of Kanchipuram for 40 years. Athi varadhar perumal was the talk of the town and once in 40 years the immersed idol is taken out of the temple tank and kept for devotees darshan for 40 to 45 days. This idol was made out of Athi Maram (Indian Fig Tree) and he grants boons (Varam in Tamil)  to his devotees that signifies Athi and Varadar of the name Athi Varadhar Perumal. Athi varadar idol is 9 feet long. It was taken out 80 years before in the year 1939, 40 years before on July 2nd 1979 and now on July 1st 2019. When I met the Craftsman, 1979 was the last time he saw athi varadar and it was not that famous and it got famous now and this is the first time he is doing this athi varadar doll. In this post, the clay and paper mache dolls of Athi Varadar are explained.In this post, the making of the clay and paper mache dolls of Athi Varadar in Nindra Kolam and Padutha Kolam are explained. 

Required Materials:

For Paper Mache Athi Varadar dolls:

  1. Paper Mache Dough
  2. Mould
  3. Cement Packing Cover 
  4. Talcum Powder without perfume
  5. Gum (Pasai)
  6. Oil Paint

For Clay Athi Varadar Dolls:

  1. Wet Clay
  2. Mould
  3. Chalk Mixture (Chalk Powder+water+Gum)
  4. Painting

Making Process:

Mould Preparation:

The moulds are prepared based on the features of the dolls. In some cases, the mould used for clay dolls is used for making the paper mache dolls or a new mould is made specially for paper mache dolls. Some moulds are made separately for each element that highlights the doll. In case of making a mould, the modeller moulds the doll in a clay. POP and Cement are coated into layers over the handmade clay doll.  Once the POP and Cement solidifies it forms the mould. Sometimes coir is also added in the POP and Cement mixture to obtain better strength. The mould is now ready to use.

Making of Paper Mache Athi varadar dolls:

Paper Mache Dough Making Process:

Paper Mache Paste or flour is prepared by kallaar maavu (White stone used for drawing kolam)+paper maavu (Paper Flour)+pasai(Gum made by boiling tapioca flour in water).All three are kneaded to a dough. Little amount of Mayil thutham (Copper sulphate) and thurasu is added which acts as disinfectant/ insecticides. 

Making of paper mache doll:

Dough is then rolled flat. Mould is puffed with talcum powder that acts like a grease. Ash was used during those days when talcum was not available.Rolled dough is then spread and pressed over the mould. The pasai or gum is applied on the spread dough.

Athi Varadar DollsPasai applied over the pressed dough

Cement packaging cover is torn into pieces, dipped in pasai and stuck over the applied gum on the pressed dough.

Dolls of Tamil Nadu

Kanchipuram Dolls online

This sheet is used to give gripness to the doll when removed/unmoulded from the mould and each sheet cost Rs.5. The moulds are then let to dry in sunlight.

athi varadar onlineSingle piece mould without joints

Golu Dolls OnlineTwo Piece mould-Front mould of athi varadar paper mache doll

Athi varadar paper doll onlineTwo Piece mould-Back mould of athi varadar paper mache doll

The dried doll is taken out of the mould.

Traditional Dolls of Tamil Nadu

Athi varadar bommai

Water is applied on the edges of the doll to make the hard surface soft and smooth.

Athi varadar doll

The extras on the side joints are corrected using a knife.

Tamil Dolls

Sukkan which is nothing but the dough and fevicol is applied on the corrected areas to bring the doll to shape. Again water is brushed over the filled areas of sukkan.Now both front (Mun Acchu)and back (Pin Acchu) is joined by using pasai (gum) and dough. The open bottom is covered by placing cardboard or daily calendar cardboard that gives a complete finished look.

Tamil Nadu handicrafts online

Fevicol and Kallaar maavu+ Chalk Powder is applied on the cardboard to stick the dried doll to the base. Correction and final finish is done by hand itself.Colours are decided based on the traditional colours that has been followed for decades or reference is taken from the gurukkal of kovil (Temple Priest) or moolasthanam colour is referred. White coat first applied as paint. After colouring, eye painting and ornament painting(Gold work=Varnish+Gold Powder+Kerosene) which is an important part of the doll painting is done.

Athi varadar doll painting

Magenta pigment is used only for flowers used. Paper mache dolls are taller compared to clay dolls.

Handicrafts online

Making of Athi varadar clay dolls:

Clay is procured from the local village. The wet clay is spread and pressed over the front and the back moulds. After a few minutes the moulded wet clay is removed from the die. Now the front and back are joined with wet clay on the sides. Similarly in each mould maximum of 100 dolls can be made. The capacity of the mould deteriorates when it exceeds more than 100 dolls. The intricate details might get lost and would become shapeless. The required dolls are moulded and dried at room temperature. Now the dolls are made ready to fire. For firing the clay a temporary kiln is made. The process of making kilns and firing dolls are explained in a separate blog. To know more click the link. The fired dolls are then coated with gondhu (Gum), chalk powder and water mixture. Then dolls are painted by hand and spray gun with white as base colour. The paint colours are based on the reference image for new dolls or by default the painters would know which doll goes with which colour or sometimes the kovil gurukkal (Temple Priest) suggests them with colours. The colour variations are obtained by mixing basic colours by the painters. Colour mixing is done using varnish along with the oil paint. When a spray gun is used to colour it might spread to other parts of the dolls which are then corrected by hand paint. Finally, gold painting of ornaments, flower painting and eye painting is done using separate pigments. 

athi varadar clay dollAthi varadar nindra thirukolam-Standing pose

Athi varadar dolls onlineAthi varadar padutha kolam/sayana thirukolam-Reclining Pose