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02 Feb 2023, Edition - 2760, Thursday

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Chinese toys rock legacy of Thanjavur ‘bobble head’ dolls

Covai Post Network


No Navaratri celebration is complete without the famous Thanjavur Bommais. The Thalaiyatti Bommais are still part of the kolu in almost all the houses. Especially the Dancing Girl (bobble-head) or the tilting doll.

Unfortunately, with the low-priced, fancy, plastic and Chinese electronic toys flooding the markets, patronage for the traditional hand-made Thanjavur dolls has declined abysmally forcing the artisans to switch over to other professions to make a living.

While Thanjavur Thalaiyatti Bommai is a generic term given to dolls made here, much confusion exists over which of the two prominent types is the real deal – the dancing girl or the tilting doll.

The principle in a conventional bobble-head doll is that the head is linked to the base with a metal spring or a pivot. A gentle tap on the head makes it bob. The tilting doll moves on the principle of equilibrium. The doll is hollow but has a heavy curved base that makes the entire doll bob and upright itself without toppling. These dolls were traditionally used to improve the motor skills in toddlers learning to crawl and grab objects.

“Once a profitable and prestigious trade, the profession and the products have now lost charm as people have started opting for cheaper Chinese electronic toys,” S. Boopathy (50), a doll-maker from Mariammankoil village near Thanjavur, said.

“Declining patronage and the low profits have pushed the doll making industry, a part of identity of Thanjavur, to the verge of extinction,” Boopathy, who is the sole supplier of the both the bobble-head and the tilting dolls, said.

“The younger generation do not show any interest in learning the art. Earlier, more than 200 families were involved in making these dolls in Mariammankoil village. Now only three families are involved in making these dolls. After me Thanjavur dolls will become antique pieces,” he lamented.

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