Golu at a home in Chennai

Golu (or “Kolu”) is a timeless tradition in Thamizhnaadu. Otherwise called NavarAthri (nine nights), this ten day festival (Vijayadasami being the grand culmination on the 10th day) where dolls (mostly religious figurines) are displayed on odd-numbered steps in homes is one more example of the way religion and social interaction are interwoven into people’s lives in our culture. In fact, there is a school of thought that believes that based on the “AyaNA” – UttarAyaNA or DakshinAyaNA, festivals in Hinduism are either community-based (outdoor) or home-based (indoor). Since JanmAshtami, VinAyaka Chathurthi, NavarAthri, DeepAvali etc. fall in DakshinAyaNA which is the period corresponding to the Thamizh months starting from Aadi (July-mid) to MArgazhi (ending January 13th), they are celebrated at home during this six-month period. Among these festivals, Golu is for all practical purposes a women-oriented festival (not that the menfolk have no role to play but “predominantly” is the operating word here) and serves as an avenue to know each other “at different levels”.

This post is about a Golu in a home where they have kept up with this tradition for over 40 years. I was invited to the house of the people who host this extraordinary Golu by my aunt who lives opposite their place in Mylapore. She told me that I had to see the Golu to believe it and boy, was I treated to a spectacular visual treat like none before. In terms of scale, this can easily qualify for a “Gigantic Golu” and they have kept the Golu in a big hall and in a passageway leading to the hall. Their dedication and attention to detail has to be seen to be believed and I thought to myself that if ever there was a competition for city-based Golus, this one will finish either in the first place or at least as one among the top three. Yesterday was when I saw their Golu and since I didn’t have a camera then, I told them that I would come today and take pictures (to which they agreed whole-heartedly).

Today being the last day, I rushed to their place in the evening (in spite of a painful, wobbling foot due to the after-effects of Chikungunya) and clicked on all the “bommai”s that they had kept in the Golu. Their thematic arrangement of the Golu was itself an indication of their forethought and careful planning (and this is probably second nature to them as they have been doing this year after year). You could name the God or the Goddess and you would find a figurine in that Golu. There were also contemporary themes like VinAyakArs (several of them) playing Cricket, the entire RAmAyaNA story in series, Jesus and the people around him during his time, a very captivating Krishna with the flute, ShivA, DakshinAmoorthy, PArthasArathy, AmbAL, AyyappA along with several other deities of the Hindu Pantheon and the brothers – GaneshA and SubramaNyA sitting beside each other in an unusually casual pose.

With that, I leave you to take a look at the photos (the last one being the Golu at our place) and I thank the good folks of that house who let me take pictures so that I could tell the entire world about their love’s labor (even though I think by nature, they are hardly the type who wish to draw attention to themselves). Also note the decorations and jewellery on the idols – they are fabulous. I used a downloaded shareware to create watermarks to protect these images from unauthorized duplication but if anybody wants to print them or use them on their site or otherwise highlight them on some online or offline media, they can feel free to do so. The pictures are posted on my blog here.

5 Comments so far

  1. suppamani (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2006 @ 7:19 pm

    “Mylapore Times” , the tabloid is conducting a Kolu Competition since the last several years and a family of two sisters and one brother from Manthaveli, Chennai -600 028 is winning the same several time and their Kolu is so popular and having a lot of visitors and to facilitate them , I heard, they are keeping the same even after Vijaya Dhasami, a few days for such visitors. Jaya TV with Aquaguard is also conducting a Kolu competition and giving awards to the winners.

  2. R.S.Money (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2006 @ 8:01 pm

    the Kolu mentioned about is “SUMUKHI’s house Kolu and to my knowledge now they are one among the Judges to select the Best Kolu from the competitors for “Mylapore Times”

  3. Ajay Shroff (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 2:16 am

    Thanks for the info Thennavan. So many ppl like me celebrate festivals but do not know the meaning behind them. Great Post.

  4. ANAND (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 8:03 pm

    Its fabulous. Thanks for sharing those pictures.

    It brings back some of my childhood memories, going to neigbour houses to see golu, to eat snacks (different types of sundal). Sometimes i used to go to houses whom i didn’t even know with my friends. Its nothing unusual. I hope you all would have done similar things during your childhood. BTW, unfortunately, we don’t follow this tradition in our house. May be I should start at least from next year.

    These mylapore folks must have had enormous interest, patience and creativity. Great job.

  5. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on October 5th, 2006 @ 7:39 pm

    Fantastic :)

    I visited my neighbours’ houses to see their kolu and was astounded. I’m used to seeing them at Navaratri in the London temples, but the display put on by one of my neighbours was far more extensive than anything I ever saw before. They too, they told me, have won Mylapore Times prizes.

    I also had the happy experience of taking two visitors from UK to the Anna Salai [near Ritchie St] Khadi shop. They loved the whole shop, especially the fact that it was possible to browse without being hassled, but were especially delighted by the dolls. As they were seeking Ganesh to take home they were delighted to be able to buy several — made in papier mache, they hurt neither the purse nor the airline weight allowance :)

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