The big festive mood has set in with the beginning of Navratri – the nine-day long celebration of good over evil. As it is known, demon king Mahishasura with his ardent austerity won a boon from Lord Brahma that he could only be defeated by a woman. With the grant, he went on to create havoc in all the three spheres which led to the creation of Goddess Durga to slay him. What ensued was a 15-day long battle and on the day of Mahalaya, Goddess Durga slayed the demon king.
Navratri celebrates this occasion. Over the course of the nine days the different avatars of Goddess Durga are honoured. With diversity thriving at the heart of India, each region has its own way of rejoicing. If Dandiya is popular in Gujarat, Ram Leela is well-known in North and in South India the festival is celebrated with dolls. The exhibition of dolls is known as Bombe Habba in Kannada, Bommai Kolu in Tamil, Bomma Gullu in Malayalam, and Bommala Koluvu in Telugu. Bommai Golu translates to ‘divine presence’.
This festival strikes a close resemblance to Japanese traditional doll festival celebrated on 3rd March named hinamatsuri. Observed by courtiers during the Heian period, hinamatsuri was meant to celebrate female children and pray for them.
With the arrival of the festival – dolls, figurines and toys are arranged in a step-like arrangement. The number of steps is always odd. Traditionally, a bride is gifted with wooden figurines of a man and woman as part of the wedding trousseau. These dolls symbolise prosperity and fertility. It is a notion that the doll arrangement is the universe of this godly wooden doll couple.
The fun is in creating different and unique themes every year and arranging the dolls accordingly. Themes on social media, India, mythology and agrarian lifestyles are popular. The themes and arrangements can get as creative as possible. There is also space for a lot of experimentation for youngsters and adults alike.
Growing mustard seed or millet grass is a part of the miniature parks created for parks and zoos. Even the rangoli patterns that are drawn in front of the Golu, are extremely vibrant and creative.
Family, friends and relatives are invited to be a part of the festival. Golu hopping is a show of solidarity between families. The visits are also spaces for young girls and womenfolk to showcase their singing and creative talents. Many verses and chapters from Gita are recited along with singing the devotional songs. Essentially, Golu is a revival of rich culture that we hold and an opportunity to present it. It is more of a festival of the women by the women.
Thamboolam (an assortment of coconut, betel leaves) and prasadam is given to the visiting women. Kids are served with snacks and gifts. All throughout the days, there is hustle-bustle making one wish that the show must continue forever.
In 2020, the Golu festival has gone virtual because of the pandemic. The preparations are done in such a manner, that families can connect through different online modes and pay a visit through the web. Mask seems to be a common return gift choice. Let’s celebrate this year’s Bommai Golu with the needed precautions and ring in the good fortune.