The divine court of Goddess Durga is going to be held in my house for the next nine days . I am celebrating Navaratri or Dassera as it is probably better known as. The slaying of Mahishasura by Durga is celebrated over the nine days. While most of India celebrates the Durga Puja in Bengali style, in South India – mainly in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, women celebrate Navratri Golu or Kolu as in Tamil Nadu or Gombei Habba as it is called in Karnataka . If anyone knows what it is called in Andhra Pradesh , please let me know.
Dolls or Bommai (Bombei)are arranged in steps (usually odd numbers) and they are artistic creations of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and their stories.To me , it is more of a connection with my childhood where I got mesmerised by Hindu mythology and legends . I grew up creating parks and zoos with my cousins while the elders arranged the dolls and hence the fondness for this festival. I keep Navratri Golu every year and colourful clay and wooden figurines of Gods and Goddesses jostle for space with mortals as Ram and Krishna are displayed along with cobblers and snake charmers.
Last year was my first Navratri Golu in Bangalore and I had posted some pictures as well. This year, my collection has expanded from wooden Panruti and Marapachi dolls to “Bommais” from Kanchipuram, Panruti , Cuddalore and Madras to a few Bengali dolls and some that I purchased off the streets in Bangalore. I do not have enough to create a theme, but I have a row dedicated to Krishna which has glimpses of his life – Vasudeva carrying the baby Krishna secretly in storm under the protection of Adiseshan, the child Krishna dancing on the snake Kalingan, relishing butter with foster mother Yashoda , to dancing with Gopikas , killing his wicked uncle, Kamsa and posing with his wives, Rukmini and Satyabhama . There is also Krishna as Parthasarthy , the charioteer of Arjuna in the Mahabharat war.
My first two rows are filled with Vishnu and his Dasavatharam and forms of the God in Ananthasayana pose with Brahma emerging from his navel to Hayagriva and Rama with his consort Seetha along with Lakshmanan and Hanuman. The Goddesses, Lakshmi , Saraswati, Durgai and Meenakshi are there to grace the Golu and the latter’s wedding to Sundaresan or Shiva (where the Madurai temple is famous for) is celebrated grandly in my house. There is also Shiva learning the meaning of Om from his son and guru , Murugan which is one of my recent collection.
Most of the dolls are new, some are given to me by my mother and a few by my mother in law as well. In our culture, Navratri Bommais are usually handed down by the mothers to their daughters and it carries on as a family heirloom. The Gods give way to mortals as lives of common men and women are juxtaposed with a rich Kuberan and his wife.
The nine days are usually filled with visitors who come home , eat “sundal “, sing songs, comment on the collection and go home.Those who keep “kalasa” do puja every day and celebrate it in all religious zeal. To me however, I am more into the art and the cultural aspect of the festival and helps me connect with my roots..
Besides sundal and a few sweets or snacks, Navratri is unlike most Hindu festivals where food takes priority over anything. At least for me..so sorry if you are expecting a feast though.However the important thing that I meticulously plan is a gift for every guest (sorry -only women ) and I spend hours combing through the streets to buy something that represents the festive spirit. Usually it is my mother and my husband who are at the receiving end in this activity and this year also, I have something interesting..I hope the guests like it 🙂
So, do join me in the celebration and come home for Navratri Golu ! You could get one too !!
By the way, this post moves away from travel towards culture and festivals which I believe is a part of a traveller’s life as well.