All the family members participate in Golu festival but women are the main participants during this nine day event. Dolls are placed at the Pooja Sthala (place of worship) in the homes on several steps (like stairs). Odd numbers are generally followed for steps (3, 5, 7 etc.) depending on the capacity of the person to manage the dolls and the decoration.
The top steps are generally reserved for idols of Gods and Goddesses. Just below those steps could be some characters from religious stories or saints. Some people keep the dolls (idols) to give some message or reflect some story. The last few steps are used to show the characters or events from daily life.
It is a belief that the Goddess can appear in any form hence every form of life is represented and paid respect through dolls. This is an opportunity for people to meet each other and also to have a look at the decorations done at their homes.
Unlike the other parts of India, females of all ages get special respect and most of the times receive gifts during Navratri (Golu in Chennai). Age is not a barrier. It is considered good to invite female members at home during Golu festival and hand over some gift when they depart.
In the photos below you will find a variety of dolls available in the market this Golu festival. I took these photos from a local market in Chennai. Some dolls (idols) are offered as sets while the others can be purchased individually. Someone in my neighborhood told me that Chhota Bheem Dolls are also available in the market. A friend in office told that Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam idols are also visible in the shops.
Each day prayers are held for the Goddess and special Prasadam is made. The ninth day (navami) is celebrated as Ayudha (or Ayudai) Pooja. The tenth day is Vijayadashami or what we call Dushehra. I will write some other time on Ayudha Pooja and Dushehra.
On the tenth day the dolls are finally packed or what we can say put to sleep so that they can be welcomed again next year. Some people use the same number of dolls each year and some people keep increasing the number of Golu dolls depending on the space available in the house. Those who are not able to perform the rituals individually can do it as a community.
Special thanks to my neighbor and the friend in office who shared their experience and knowledge on Golu festival.
Author - Archit
लाभस्तेषां जयस्तेषां कुतस्तेषां पराजयः I येषामिन्दीवरश्यामो हृदयस्थो जनार्दनः II