Navratri is a celebration of the holistic dimension of power of Shakti or the creative energy which is understood as feminine and at the basic level, the nine days of this Hindu festival turn into a social jamboree for women, where it is marked in South India at the Golu functions i.e. an assembly of dolls. Golu, which means an assembly or darbar of dolls in Tamil, is celebrated during Navratri among the South Indian Hindu community in Tamil Nadu and is also a part of the festivities in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
In Tamil Nadu, it is called as Bommai Golu and in Telugu it is known as Bommala Koluvu. The miniature dolls of gods, goddesses, animal and people are arranged on the steps where the number of steps should be an odd number and while the dolls of shopkeepers are kept on the bottom most step, Acharyas and gurus are placed on the middle step, other gods in the top 3 steps and Devi in the topmost step.
Neighbours and friends are invited to homes and gifts are exchanged among women, which contain clothes, coconut and sweets while married women also exchange small bags which has items like comb, turmeric, mirror and beetle leaves. Women engage in singing hymns and praising the three major forms of the Hindu goddess – Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga.
As per the tradition, the women wear mogras in their hair on the nine days and even give it to other women who visit their house but the options for purchasing the Golu is less in Pune. On the 10th day, the dolls are taken out from the stand and packed carefully to be kept safe for the next year.
In Andhra Pradesh, the assembly of dolls is referred to as Batukamma Panduga, which is decorated during Navratri. Women also make a flower stack with seasonal flowers, known as Batukamma, which is worshipped for nine days. On the last day of Navratri, the Batukamma is set afloat in a nearby water body.
Karnataka marks Navratri by celebrating it as Naada Habba – in the exact way it was celebrated back in 1610 during the Vijayanagara dynasty. They take out elephant processions on the road. Fairs and exhibitions adorn the state.
In Kerala, the devotees celebrate the art of learning during Navratri. In the last three days, they place books and music instruments near the idol of Saraswati and perform the puja. On the last day, they take the books for reading.
This state celebrates Navratri by worshipping Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi for three days each. The most interesting part of Tamil Nadu’s celebrations is the decoration of the kolu – a 9-step staircase. It is said that each step represents each day of the festival. The stairs are adorned in miniature dolls of gods and goddesses which are acquired by the devotees as heirlooms from their forefathers.