Marapachi – The magical memorabilia

With origins dating back to the very beginning of time, Indian handicrafts have been the centre stage of communities across the country right from the time of the Indus Valley Civilization. While Mohanjodaro and Harrapa gave us an influx of diverse crafting traditions and a high degree of technical expertise, the subsequent reigns added on in terms of inspiration, new techniques, design styles and in essence a piece of their culture. And with every era that went by and with every dynasty that ruled over the land, our repertoire of crafts expanded, evolved and encompassed our rich legacy in its finely chiselled and carved structure. Traditional crafts from south Indian revolve around preserving vintage artefacts and craftsmanship from the Chola and Pandya dynasties, including stone sculptures, bronze celestial figures, rosewood carvings, Tanjore painting and so much more. It’s life-like aura, intricate handiwork and attention to detail has put this region on the world map. Hailing from this holy abode of handicrafts is the Marapachi, an iconic representation of many a timeless tradition.

Marapachi Bommais, also known as Rakta Bommas, are handcrafted wooden dolls that are made specially in the land of seven hills, Tirupati. Authentically carved from rosewood, sandalwood or redwood it is a visual depiction of a husband and wife that symbolises prosperity and fertility that are only made in pairs. A great deal of time and effort goes into bringing these dolls to life. Right from custom designs to precise wooden carvings to intricate paintings that seem life-like to adorning the dolls with dresses and detailed ornaments, one can’t help but be in awe.

A significant tradition involving the Marapachi is during Navaratri when they take centre-stage in the magnificent displays. The very reason it is part of a bride’s wedding trousseau is to initiate the yearly custom of Golu and lead the collection of dolls that she will gather over the years. Dressed in wedding outfits, it is the first to be placed in the Navaratri display in most households. An interesting ritual followed is to sprout a few grains in front of them during these nine nights, post which they are let to flow in a river as a symbol of sowing and reaping the seeds of success and good fortune.

Legend has it that the steps of the Golu resemble a temple’s gopuram, from being a visual narrative of mythological epics to symmetrical arrangements to its adornment with dolls and sculptures. While Marapachi is a significant feature of the Golu display it is not present in the gopuram as it is representative of the man and the woman of the household.

The stunning visual and aesthetics of these red wooden dolls have a deeper significance attached to it. The sandalwood used in crafting it has immense medicinal properties that play multiple roles. When a newly married couple welcomes a child, the Marapachi becomes the preferred toy as it is safe for a child to lick. In fact, the extract absorbed from the sandalwood is good for the child. Beyond this, it was also used to cure injuries, wounds and marks. When the flat head of the doll is rubbed against a flat wooden disk, it releases a red sandal paste which is believed to have healing powers. Additionally, it makes for a beautiful showcase that will last for a lifetime and beyond.

From one generation to the next, Marapachi is a souvenir of tradition and a mast of prosperity. Ever since the inception of Sundari Silks, it has been an integral part of our journey, synonymous with our cultural values, rooted tradition and indigenous craftsmanship. Stay tuned as we unveil an exciting announcement on this heritage heirloom.

Inspired by India’s diverse traditions and cultures, we seek is to bring forth the country’s handloom heritage to the world, through the finest fabrics from across the land and the magical hands that work the loom, such as the breezy and beautiful Bengal cotton sarees.

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