“In Tamilian households ‘Navarathri’ usually entails arrangement of dolls, called ‘Golu’, set up for these 9 days, divided equally to worship Goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.
I distinctly remember how we celebrated Navarathri through my childhood. We would have vacations after quarterly exams and would spend our time indulging in festivities like setting up the stairs, the dolls, etc. None of the houses would have readymade stands so we would use whatever was available in the house, from drums and buckets to old cartons and trunk suitcases to make the steps. We’d cover them with our father’s or grand father’s Veshti and place the dolls on top. The dolls were made of clay and beautifully painted. I remember having a Dasaavatar set, Ashtalakshmi set, Sivan-Parvathi set and Marapachi dolls (made out of special wood). We would even decorate the Golu with a ‘park’, with toys, cricket sets, etc and add greenery to it using sprouted mustard seeds and ragi.
Everyday, the children would visit the houses in the neighborhood, sing a song for their Golu and enjoy Sundal, a snack made of Channa Dal and Moong dal. For Saraswathi Pooja, we would keep our books, pens, pencils and musical instruments before the idol. That meant, we didn’t have to study that day! The next day we have the Punarpooja after which we would read at least one page from each of the books.
Many years after my marriage, I asked my mother-in-law if we could continue the tradition of Golu in our house, because it felt like something was amiss all those years. She immediately agreed and started collecting dolls. We have a readymade steel stand at home, for the steps. The First row of dolls must be Kalasam (a small pot filled with rice and coconut on top), Ganesha and few bigger dolls. The second and third steps can be Dasaavatharam, Ashtalakshmi, Ramar Pattabishekam and other dolls. Generally the fourth step is for Gurus and fifth one is for animals, birds and Chettiyar-Chittichi dolls (couples) selling rice dal and vegetables.
With traditions like Golu, people find their way back to the roots. I sincerely pray to God that my children should continue this tradition too!”
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