We bring to you the flavour of a very special festival in Tamilnadu – Navarathri – the nine nights. This festival occurs in the month of September or October in the Gregorian calendar. The Golu – the display of dolls that marks this festival is a colourful, social function.
Like any festival, Golu also has a significant connection with the agricultural economy of ancient India. It is said that in order to encourage dredging and de-silting of irrigation canals and riverbeds, the Golu celebration was aimed at providing demand for the clay material got from such cleansing to make the dolls for display.
The first three days are dedicated to Goddess Durga – a spiritual force to destroy all our impurities.
The next three days we worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth.
The last three days are devoted to Goddess Saraswathi – for wisdom and therefore success in life.
Saraswati puja is performed on the 9th day. Ayudha Puja or the worship of implements, is also conducted on the Ninth day with much fanfare. Weapons, agricultural implements, all kinds of tools, and automobiles are decorated and worshipped on this day along with the worship of Goddess. Today, the computer and other items that facilitate our day-to-day life also find a place in this worship. Students include their books and so do professionals, particularly accountants.
The tenth day, Vijaya Dashami or the victorious tenth is considered auspicious for beginning any new venture be it an enterprise or a child’s schooling or music lessons. It is believed that beginning a new venture on this day guarantees its smooth progress.
The Golu itself is set up on the new moon day preceding the festival. It is an arrangement of steps – an odd number like 3, 5, 7 or 9 and sometimes more. There is a certain tradition for the order in which things are placed – almost akin to evolution. The bottom step is usually reserved for shells and other products of the sea. The second is for plant life – fruit, vegetables, etc. The third step has animals and birds. The fourth step is home to man in various roles. The Chettiar – the fat jolly shopkeeper – is an integral part of the display. His wares range from groceries to furniture and anything from a pin to an elephant! This signifies prosperity. Next come the saints who with their devotion moved a step closer to God. Just above them come the incarnations of the Hindu pantheon who were born to vanquish evil and restore order whenever the world was in chaos. The topmost step houses images of the Gods themselves.
Apart from this order, it is customary to have a pair of Marapaachi dolls usually inherited from an earlier generation, and a kalasham or a ceremonial pot with a coconut surrounded by mango leaves.
The lady of the house supervises the arrangement of the dolls. All nine evenings are spent in visiting one another and admiring the different Golus. Visitors are offered manjal-kumkumam, flowers and sweets. Beautiful classical music is heard everywhere.
On the tenth day, one of the dolls is symbolically made to lie down with a lullaby and the kalasham moved a little to the north, signifying the end of the festival, and an ode of gratitude for the successful completion of the nine days of celebration, and a hope for another Golu the next year.