In India, Navaratri, the festival of the Divine Mother, is celebrated across the country in its varied forms. For instance, Delhi celebrates it as a triumph of King Ram, with events circulating the occurrences in the fabled Ramlila. Durga Puja captures the essence of the festival in West Bengal and in Gujarat, the Garbo takes center stage with entire communities participating in a dance around the Mother’s idol. In South India, celebrations revolve around the Golu, which is a display of colorful and glorious dolls. The southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu equally practice the tradition of displaying figures of gods, goddesses, men, women, children, and even entire greeneries.
The Navaratri Golu may feature scenes from Hindu religious texts passed across generations. These are celebrated stories like the Dashavatar, Puranas, and Ramayana. The festival gives everyone a chance to revisit this ancient lore, each of which contains a moral within itself. Generally, the dolls are placed on a series of steps considered as the ladder of evolution through the journey of one’s life. The steps are, invariably, oddly numbered, starting from 1 to about 11. Most of the families stick to the nine steps representing each one of the nine days of Navaratri. A decorative cloth is laid down on the steps before placing the dolls in a particular or random order.
Celebrations of Navaratri begin on the no moon or Amavasai day, where the steps are set up first. The ceremonial jar or Kalash adorns the first or top of the step, decorated and filled with water. A full coconut and a coronet of mango leaves are placed within it. It represents the Divine Mother Durga. Idols of deities such as Lakshmi, Saraswati, and other Goddesses are placed on either side of the jar. The other steps may also include figurines of heroes and saints of our country. Some depict marriage functions, while others represent human activities such as farming. A business set of wooden dolls known as Marapachi Bommai is placed, with a couple dressed up in colorful clothing. Each year, as is the custom, one doll is added and thus becomes a collection of Golu dolls, over the years.
The Goddess of Learning and Knowledge Maa Saraswathi is worshipped on the ninth day, where books, tools, and other associated items are adulated. Vehicles are also subject to gratitude. The last or tenth day is Vijayadashami also known as the day of victory, which concludes the Navaratri festival. It is one of the most auspicious days and on this occasion, the Golu dolls are put to sleep only to be awakened the subsequent year, with a new addition to the collection.
The dolls, along with the entire set up are worshipped twice a day.
Navaratri also epitomizes and honors women, where they gift each other betel leaves, fruits, coconuts, and flowers along with accessories such as bangles and vermilion powder or Kumkum.
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