Written by Jyotsna Iyer, a second-year undergraduate student.
Navaratri is a festival that is celebrated in numerous ways in different cultures across India.
Golu is one such way of celebrating this festival among numerous communities, predominantly in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Kerala.
Golu, also known as Kolu, Bommai Golu, Gombe Habba, and Bommala Koluvu, involves the festive display of dolls and figurines on a staircase-like setup. These dolls and figurines, known as Golu Bommai in Tamil, are made of clay and are often painted vibrantly. These are made by local artisans all year round, and sold mostly around the time of Navaratri. This display includes figurines of Gods and Goddesses, humans, animals as well as inanimate objects. Scenes from day-to-day human life as well as from mythology are depicted using the Golu Bommais.
The idea behind this tradition is to celebrate human beings and everything earthly along with deities and everything divine. The Golu gives an opportunity for people to bring out their creativity and also display a message they care about. Parks, villages, temples, playgrounds, and other scenes are created using Golu Bommais, wooden figurines, handmade cardboard figures, real plants, and anything else that fancies one’s creativity. Some of the thematic displays range from IPL cricket matches and movies to unity in diversity and environmental consciousness. Navaratri Golu celebrates the power of goodness and femininity; hence, women play a dominant and important role in this tradition.
Children in the household also play an important role in setting up the Golu, embracing their innocent and boundless creativity and often including their toys in the display. The Golu Bommais are often passed down across generations, attaching even more emotional and cultural value to the Golu. Rangolis and Kolams are made near the Golu as well as outside the houses. Spreading love and socializing is an important part of this festival. People invite friends and relatives to their houses to see their Golu display and exchange gifts. In many places, children go around to houses with Golu displays and sing traditional and devotional songs on all nine days of Navaratri.
The Golu is usually set up on the evening before the first day of Navaratri and ‘put to sleep’ by symbolically laying down one or all of the figurines. After the last day, the dolls are carefully packed and stored until next year’s Navaratri, when the same Golu Bommais are displayed often accompanied by a few new figurines. This Navaratri tradition sets out to celebrate everything in creation, spread positivity, and embrace creativity.
Headline Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Navratri_Golu_-_Dashavatara.JPG
Attribution: Mandayamr, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons