Golu and its philosophy


Golu and its philosophy

Sharada Navratri, an auspicious time to worship and celebrate Shakti, is round the corner. There are many activities that form a part of the celebration. Display of dolls is one of them. It is known as Bommai Kolu/ Bomma Golu. It is a doll and statue display festival. It forms an integral part of the Navaratri celebrations in Southern India, in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

People in the state of Tamil Nadu set up Golu in their homes. The Bommai Golu consists of a gallery of handcrafted dolls representing major deities, events from everyday life, dolls representing mythological events or even modern day happenings and so on. In Tamil, “Golu” means a royal durbar. The underlying belief in arranging these Navratri dolls on the tier is to depict that Goddess Durga or Mahishasuramardini is sitting in her Golu, prior to the slaying of the demon Mahishasura.

On the occasion of Golu people invite their friends and relatives to view the golu. The invitation is extended when they happen to visit others residence to view the dolls display. On all the 9 days of Navrati people offer sweet pongal, sweets, sundal (boiled dhall with spices), etc., as naivedhyam to the deity and distribute it among the visitors who come home. Children, particularly girls, are dressed with fancy dresses depicting various deities that include Lord Krishna, Devi Lakshmi or Devi Saraswati and so on. The offerings given to the visitors commonly known as “Vethila  pakku”, consists of clothes, coconut, fruits, sweets, small mirror, kumkum, turmeric, comb, beetle leaves and nuts to married woman folks (Sumangalis). Worshipping of girl child and married woman as Goddess Durga, is said to be highly auspicious during Navratri.

Kalasa Puja

The housewives begin golu with the setting up of “Kalasam.” Instead of using an image or photo the goddesses is worshipped in the form of kalasam. What is Kalasam? It is a general practice in the Hindu households to represent God or Goddesses in the form of kalasam. For Kalasam, they choose brass or silver pot and fill the pot with water. After this, they place a coconut amidst mango leaves on top of the pot. They also include coins, jewellery in the kalasam.

By chanting the Kalasa puja mantra, the power of goddess Durga or Parashakthi is invoked in kalsam or pot. It is called ‘Avahanam.’  After this puja it is believed that goddess Durga will be residing in the households for the entire nine days. Since she is the prime deity of Navaratri more importance is attached to this Kalasam and do kalasa puja.

After this puja, the Kalasam is kept in the golu i.e. First and foremost place and will remain fresh for the whole of nine days. During these nine days, the pot or Kalasam is adorned with new clothes, flower and sandal paste. Daily prayers, invocation songs, offerings, etc. are performed with devotion. Once the festival is over, a small Pooja known as punar Pooja is performed before removing the kalasam and the water inside the kalasam known as “Kalasa theerta” is consumed as prasada. After this, everything comes to normalcy.

How to arrange Navarathri Golu Padi

The display of Golu is done on what they commonly call Golu steps made of either metal or  wood. The furniture or golu stand will have nine steps or tiers. This is easily available in the market. The inclined steps are like our door steps or staircase steps. Dolls are displayed in graded steps or tiers.

It is noteworthy that the Navaratri Golu is set up with the arrangement of dolls on an odd number of steps (usually 3,5,7,9). The counting of the first step begins from top and proceeds to the bottom-most step. The top most is considered as the 1st step and the step nine is the bottommost one of depending upon the number of steps on keeps.

The golus are arranged according to different themes in different homes – from the elaborate, extravagant ones to the simple, but traditional and creative ones. Year after year the women folk with great enthusiasm organize these dolls as per their tastes. Every year is customary to buy atleast one new doll. There are certain rules in arranging dolls in respective steps:

Rows 1-3: The Kalasam adorns the first row or step. The first row or step begins on top of the display furniture (golu padi). Goddess Durga or Mahishasuramardini, Maha Lakshmi, Maha Saraswati, Siva, Vishnu, Brahma and all other gods and goddesses occupy row one to three. Sets like Dasavatharam, Ramar pattabishekam are very common.

Rows 4-6: The next three steps are to be arranged with saints like Azhwars, Nayanmars, Guru Raghavendra, Sai Baba, and the likes of national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi or Spritual Gurus like Ramakrishna Paramahamsar, Swami Vivekananda etc.

Row 7: This row includes sets of dolls on themes like family, marriage, festivals like Deepavali, Rama Navami, Krishna Jayanthi, etc.

Row 8: This row can be arranged with various businesses and crafts, say for example Chettiar dolls sitting in his business shop surrounded by grocery items like rice, pulses kept in bags or other utensils.

Row 9: The last one. This will display traditional wooden dolls called (Marapachi) – covered and decorated with glittering dresses. One can also keep dolls of various animals, birds and other species.


On the 10th day evening, the day of “Vijayadasami”, any one doll from the “Golu” is symbolically put to sleep by laying it down and the Kalasam is moved a bit towards North, what is generally called “yathasthanam prathishtapayami” to mark the end of that year’s Navaratri Golu.

Prayers are offered to thank God for the successful completion of that year’s Golu and with a hope of a successful one the next year! Then the Golu furniture is dismantled and the dolls are packed up for the next year.


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