Today is the first day of this year’s Navratri, one of the most important festivals of India. The word “Navratri” is made of two words “Nav” meaning nine and “Ratri” meaning nights. So, it is a festival which is celebrated across 9 nights. Since my childhood I was always excited about Navratri, especially for the Dandiya and Garbha with my North Indian friends and for Sundal and Golu with my South Indian counterparts.
Bommai Golu or Bommala Koluvu is majorly celebrated in the four southern states of India. It is the arrangement of Dolls on steps or “padi”. The mighty deities in various forms like Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Siva, Vishnu to name a few are arranged in the form of dolls and worshiped for these 9 days.
What does Hindu mythology say about this?
According to mythology, the gods were defeated by the evil energy of the demon Mahishasura and they approached Brahma, Vishnu & Maheshwara, whose collective energy gave rise to energy in the form of Goddess Durga to her to kill the demon “Mahishasura”.
Durga is considered to be in the most powerful form of energy during these 9 days. The first three days of of Navratri, the goddess is worshiped as Durga who protects us from evils, 4th, 5th and 6th days, goddess takes the form of Lakshmi who blesses us with wealth and 7th, 8th and 9th, she takes the form of Saraswati, blessing us with wisdom.
There are various explanations for golu or bommala koluvu, be it mythological explanation or homespun, I enjoy believing it. Some of them say that during this auspicious time, goddess Durga was most powerful, while all other gods were ‘powerless’ as dolls. That is the reason we display gods and goddesses as dolls and worship.
While the others say, that the gods formed a procession for Durga to defeat Mahishasura and so we arrange them in steps or “padi” as like in procession and preach them.
Personally, I feel respecting all the reasons, it’s a wonderful time for the social get together with the family. In our families,we have a tradition of inviting our relatives and friends for lunch / dinner. I so much enjoy cooking for them as much as I enjoy eating their delicacies, needless to say the weight gain after the festive season!!
Usually, the golu dolls are kept in 9 / 7 / 5 or 3 steps. There are no specific rules for this. This year, we managed to keep 5 steps golu, with a projectile son and a lazy husband, don’t expect me to keep more than this (sigh!!)
Why return gift?
Whatever is the reason, I love this part of Navratri. My project of buying a good return gift starts one month before the festive season. I follow certain ground rules like we should not repeat the last year ones, we should not repeat what our neighbor has given, we should buy age appropriate gifts..etc etc, I am sure most of you are relating with me on this!!
This year, I had an idea. Keeping in view the current roaring grocery prices, why don’t I pack a kilogram of potatoes and gift it?
Yes, I got the same look from my family as well, so planned to drop this idea for the time-being. Usually, the history says, the return gifts are supposed to be in line with Amman like bangles, kumkum etc etc. But, I don’t mind gifting some useful items, I am sure the Goddess would not have laid this restriction.
What mythology says?
I tried getting this answer from elders in the family, googled it and tried researching it a little. From the bits and pieces of information I gathered, I understand that in olden days, kings used to present alms to the people for their blessings and similarly we are doing it during this auspicious time to win the good wishes of the people. Now, my justification of buying useful things perfectly fits in, the more useful thing you gift, the better blessings you get :p :p
Now, comes the best part, Sundal!!
As a part of Devi Neivedhyam, or the offering to the goddess, Sundal ( Meaning lentils or pulses soaked, boiled and sauted) are made in most of the houses in the evenings. It is believed that Goddess Durga, was tired fighting the demons in the morning and so in order to rejuvenate her energy, she was offered protein rich sundal ( ooo, she sounds to be diet conscious !!!)
For whatever reason, Sundal is a good food rich in proteins. With the number of houses to visit during this festival and the weather being gloomy ( October / November), I think this is the way to go!!!
Some captures from our Golu
Dasavatharams, Astha Lakshmi
Rama, Lakshmana, Sita Devi and Hanuman
Most romantic couple I ever knew, Radha and Krishna in a boat ride
Saraswathy Devi with the Veena blessing us
Lord Siva and his family with Avvayar
Lord Vishnu preached by ladies
Marapachi Bomma, a must for golu
Chettiyar’s colorful shop
Traditional wedding with ponnu, mapilai
Small zoo, as my little son worries how does the big car go inside the small zoo!!