South-East Asia: Male dancer

Front view
Front view

General description: Young man dressed in the flamboyant clothes of a character in one of the epic Hindu myths (possibly Vishnu due to the five-pointed star around his neck).

It is possible that this figurine is a golu, a doll made especially for Bommai Kolu (aka Bomma Golu or Bombe Habba) a doll and figurine display festival celebrated during the festival of Navratri in Southern India (in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh). However, it could also come from any of the SE Asian countries with a Hindu population.

Dimensions 22.5 x 13 x 8.5 cm / wooden block 9.3 x 8.5 x 0.9 cm

Date when acquired 2015

Original Date Unknown

Source Flea market in Göttingen, Germany.


Back view
Back view


His rigid body made of papier maché is formed in a classical dance pose and stands on a wooden block painted black. His fine features are painted on. His black hair and moustache are also painted on. On his forehead is a representation of the third eye (ajna chakra), which refers to the gate that leads to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness.

His body is in a classical dance posture, the tribanga (see below).

His right hand is in a hasta or mudra (classical Indian hand gesture typical of statues and dancing) where the index finger (air or the planet Jupiter) and the thumb (fire or human consciousness) form a circle. The other fingers are bent. The circle formed by the thumb and index finger mean apparently union. The meaning of the whole single-hand gesture (asamyuta hasta) I am not certain about but it could be a representation of the Chin Mudra (a symbol of unity which also grounds the person).

In his left hand he is holding a white flower, possibly a lotus. The lotus is the foremost Hindu symbol of beauty, prosperity and fertility. It represents eternity, purity, divinity, and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, and ever-renewing youth.

His toe and finger nails are painted red. Red in Indian mythology denotes bravery, protection and strength.


Side view
Side view


The doll is bare-chested and bare-footed. He is wearing tight velvet short trousers to just below the knees. Gold zig-zag braid hems the legs and a pattern made of red beads and gold sequins has been sewn on each knee. Around his waist is a sarong in a fine starched cotton in a cream and light brown pattern. The sarong is folded at the front to hang down to the floor.

Around his waist is a cummerbund made of gold and black shiny braid, held in place by a woven black belt with a gold oblong at the front with a circular design in gold beads with a red bead in the centre. Hanging down from the cummerbund at the front is a semi-oval piece of black velvet covering the stomach. It has narrow gold braid along its edge and forming a U shape in the middle. Around its edge are long fringes made of pinkish orange fibres. Five sequins held in place by red beads decorate the front. Two of such sequins are also on each of the black velvet oblongs hanging down over the hip bones to mid-thigh. Above each sequin is a design of three short rows of green and gold beads. Golden tassels hang down from the oblongs.

Close-up of the cummerbund
Close-up of the cummerbund

At the front of the cummerbund is a piece of golden material hanging from two chains of golden beads. The material is cut in a curve with narrow gold braid around its edge and three gold sequins with red beads decorating the front. Two rows of three beads (2 gold, 1 red) are to the right and left of the central sequin. Hanging down on each side of this decoration to the knees are large tassels made of the same pinkish orange fibres as around the stomach-piece, bound by gold braid and hanging on chains of gold beads.

A fine turquoise tulle shawl with long fringes is tucked into the belt to form a loop over the front of the body to mid-thigh and long side lengths down to the floor. Holding the fringe in place on each are three golden sequins each with a gold bead in the middle. Tucked into the back of the belt is a similar shawl but in a golden tulle. The loop goes to just below the buttocks.

On his head is a headdress made of black velvet in a dome-like shape with a top knot on top. Around the base is a gold band with a pattern made of gold sequins and red, green and gold beads. Five narrow strips of gold braid form a five-star pattern at the crown and then run down to the headband. At the back of the headdress is a gold wing-like structure again decorated in variously coloured beads and gold sequins.


Close-up of head and face showing the fine features
Close-up of head and face showing the fine features


Over his arms and down his back is a piece of thick paper delicately cut out to give an intricate form. From the front it is golden but on the back the red, green, black and gold design seems to show a mythical creature. The creature has a yellow and red eye. The creature is possibly Garuda, the humanoid bird that acts as the mount for the god Vishnu.

Tucked in the back of his belt is a short sword whose cross guard has one long curved side and one shorter one. If the doll is a representation of Vishnu, then this sword is Nandaka, which is a symbol of knowledge in Hindu scriptures.

Close up of the cape-like structure showing the eye of the creature
Close up of the cape-like structure showing the eye of the creature and the top of the sword

Around his neck is a long necklace made of white beads that is tucked in under his belt. It is held together at the middle of his chest by a five-pointed star in gold with a red sequin and a white bead. This type of pentagram is a sign of Vishnu, one of the principal deities in Hinduism and the god of preservation and protection.

A copper bracelet is around each of his wrists and ankles. Around his upper arms is a gold armband with a small wing-like design decorated with red and gold beads.


The lotus a symbol of many positive attributes.
The lotus a symbol of many positive attributes.

Background information

Classical Indian dance postures: There are 4 types of postures (bhangas), where the body deviates from the central erect position. These four bhangas are: abhanga (off-center, a slightly askew standing position), samabhanga (equal distribution of the body limbs on a central line, whether standing or sitting), atibhanga (the great bend with the torso diagonally inclined and the knees bent) and tribhanga (the triple bend with one hip raised, the torso curved to the opposite side and the head tilted at an angle). The last version is the one shown by this doll.


Source(s) of information



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