Golu - arts and crafts of india-toy towns

Navratri Golu
Celebrating Navratri Golu

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.
navratri golu

navratri golu
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.
navratri golu
Last year was my first NavratriΒ 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.
navratri golu
navratri golu
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.
navratri golu

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.
navratri golu
navratri golu
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..
navratri golu
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 πŸ™‚

So, do join me in the celebration and come home for Navratri Golu ! You could get one too !!
Navratri Golu
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.


  1. ugich konitari 1 October, 2008 at 18:22 Reply


    One of my Tamil friends who has since moved away used to have this display and invite us over. Your photos brought back all those memories. She has a trunk full of memories. Interestingly, she aquired from someplace in Chennai, an entire set of cricket team dolls, Ganesha dolls in action wicket keeping/bowling/sweeping a la Sachin , and so on. ….

    (you did say “lives of common men and women are juxtaposed with a rich Kuberan and his wife. ..) πŸ™‚

    thanks for a wonderful display and heres a virtual sashtang namaskar to the deities….

  2. Anu 1 October, 2008 at 21:25 Reply

    Lovely Lakshmi. I miss Golu because im stuck in a small apartment, but really enjoy visiting friends who have the space and the energy to get these Dolls from India. Even though my favorite are the kutti krishna doll, no golu to me will be complete without the chettiar mama and mami dolls

  3. Vijay 2 October, 2008 at 08:21 Reply


    The biggest attraction of golu those days were the girls in their half saris, are they still around or gone extinct. The second best was the sundal, glad atleast that survived.


  4. I am 2 October, 2008 at 09:54 Reply

    After reading the title I was expecting some cute soft toy story! But was taken by surprise that it’s related to the ‘Navaratris’. Now I have some idea on how Navaratri celebrated outside Bengal and Gujarat..

    so do people buy or collect these dolls over years or one buys new one’s every year?

    We do something similar in ‘Janmasthami’ though. Thanks for sharing. And I really loved some of the dolls, specially the round ones ‘GOLU MOLU’ and the ‘Cobblers’

    nice and Happy Navaratri..

  5. YOSEE 2 October, 2008 at 15:56 Reply

    Enjoyed visiting your ( virtual)Golu, Lakshmi ! Just missed the Sundal ! :-). Long since i did any Gombe-Koorisodu for Dasara. As i read your blog, I remembered the stories and symbolisms my grandmother used to narrate to us while arranging her dolls in stipulated order. I remember also our little “parks” in large trays, sprouting Ragi for grass.

  6. ~vagabond~ 3 October, 2008 at 02:05 Reply

    Daseera, Navaratri and Durga Pooja I had heard of, Golu I had never heard of until your post. Your post is so vibrant in every way…colorful pictures and such an interesting style of writing. It was such a pleasure to read and look at. Happy Golu to you too. πŸ™‚

  7. mitr_bayarea 3 October, 2008 at 04:41 Reply


    very nice golu and really nice to see that you have the time to keep up with all this amidst your hetic routine. Wish I had the potential and to get more larger dolls when we come from India so that my golu could become bigger.

  8. Renu 3 October, 2008 at 10:18 Reply

    beautiful doll and enjoyed the post very much and now I understand seeing so many dolls in all my andhrite friends houses.never asked them.

  9. Stephanie 6 October, 2008 at 23:40 Reply


    Wonderful, beautiful! Your collection is stunning and I agree that experiencing the art and festivals of various cultures is an intrical part of travel.


  10. Kamini 7 October, 2008 at 17:27 Reply

    Very colourful and beautiful.
    Travel without any culture and history becomes rather hollow and one-dimensional – so this move is most welcome!!

  11. Jeevan 8 October, 2008 at 10:50 Reply

    The chettiyar doll takes place at many golu, we had this doll for long time until kids broke. Well u has beautifully arranged buddy. I have witness few golus at my relative place as younger then.

  12. Anil P 8 October, 2008 at 23:48 Reply

    What an imposing phalanx of deities indeed. Most remarkable.

    They must add so much colour not to speak of inspiration, a means to connect with our shared past.

  13. Lakshmi 31 October, 2008 at 14:34 Reply

    UK – Thanks for such a lovely comment.I am glad the dolls brought back memories..Traditions are a great way of connecting people

    Vishesh – Romba thanks .. did u eat lots of sundal ?

    Bindu – Thanks…welcome to backpacker..looking forward to reading your travel stories

    Anu – My apartment is very small too..do have a small golu if u can next year..Im sure u will enjoy it..I can send u dolls if u like πŸ™‚

    Ceedy – I see this more as culture, tradition and art rather than faith πŸ™‚

    Rash – wish u had come πŸ™‚

    Vijay – the half sarees or the girls ? lol, was just joking πŸ™‚

    Tanu – dolls are collected and bought each year..mostly mothers hand over dolls to their daughters as well

    harekrishnaji – thanks πŸ™‚

    akira – glad it brought back nostalgic memories..thanks for dropping by ..

    yosee – I miss those parks too..used to keep lots of them as kids

    diana – thanks πŸ™‚

    SK – I guess u always thought it was a “ladies’ function “

    Priyank – glad u liked them..its a part of south indian tradition

    Vagabond – thanks..in a way indian traditions and art forms are preserved through such festivals

    Sameera – thanks πŸ™‚

    Mitr-nice to know that u keep them as well..any pics ?

    Cuckoo – the fanfare is absent, but its very colourful and vibrant..I like bommais or dolls :)come home sometime for sundal

    Renu – glad you liked them..I like the dolls from andhra

    Matt – thanks..yes, its very colorful and artistic..lots of artisans in india make a livelihood out of this

    Aaarti- thanks πŸ™‚ next time, make a visit to blr and come home

    harekrishnaji – thanks for the feedback. my focus was to describe how navratri is celebrated down south as usually people forget south when it comes to national festivals..pls gv us more details .

    blogeswari -thanks..yours are so cute as well. mom in law gave one and my mother another .

    Gil – thanks..thats a little deviation fm a regular travel post and more into culture , glad u liked it

    Shantanu – Mysore is amazing during dassera ..its called golu or kolu πŸ™‚

    Wendy – glad u liked them..do drop in when u are in india sometime

    Stephanie – thank u..after all, we travel to soak in the culture as well..

    Kamini – yes, i agree with u..a beautiful mountain and a sky can be found anywhere πŸ™‚

    Jeevan – did u eat sundal ?

    Raji – will def visit..I dont think so, but let me not start a debate here πŸ™‚

    Anil – thanks..collective past rather i would say and it gives us a sense of identity ..i think the emotions behind these colourful dolls keep the festive spirit alive

    celine – U cant imagine..i had so many guests that I virtually dropped dead for a while, but it was wonderful .thanks

    Sankri – welcome to backpacker..glad u liked it..that would be a great idea..do have a golu at home

  14. Ranganath 5 March, 2009 at 17:47 Reply

    My aunt is married to an Andhraite. I came to know from her that Marapachi dolls are mainly made in Tirupati. Actually in AP, the display is known as Bommalu ( or Bommala ) Koluvu. She sent us an image of Hygreeva.

  15. Anonymous 21 November, 2009 at 00:59 Reply

    It is rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

  16. Anu 3 October, 2011 at 11:43 Reply

    wonderful golu! love ur dolls, but my fav is the dashavtaram set! did u buy it recently or is it an old one? been looking for one like that… actually was in the process of writing a whole post dedicated to them πŸ™‚

  17. Sravanthi 13 June, 2013 at 12:25 Reply

    Hello Madam,
    That was a wonderful collection.I stay in Bangalore.I read extensively to know the areas where I can collect dolls for little less price.They are quite costly in Bangalore and the prices touch the sky during festive season.I have already started collecting a few,I am interested in mud dolls.Can you tell me the areas(if possible address!!!) either in Bangalore/Chennai.It would be very helpful in saving my time and energy if u can tell me the areas.

  18. Sandeep 5 January, 2015 at 16:02 Reply

    Hi Lakshmi – I came across this post of yours while looking for some mythological toys/ action figures for my daughter. Would be grateful if you could help me by telling where I can buy some of these images.

    Your Golu decoration looks simply superb, btw!


  19. Mythraeyee Mukundan 19 October, 2015 at 08:37 Reply

    You take me down memory lane! An awesome writer you are and a very intelligent woman who can precisely pen her thoughts. I read this post to my mom and it brought a bright smile on her face. The post connects the reader with the tradition. Way to go Lakshmi!

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