We've been keeping golu for the last twenty years.These displays are typically thematic, narrating a legend from a Hindu text to court life, weddings, everyday scenes, and miniature kitchen utensils.
On the first day of Navaratri, following Ganapati puja, a welcoming ritual is performed for goddesses Saraswati, Durga and Lakshmi by a Hindu ritual called Kalasa Aavahanam which is performed by an elderly male or female of the family at an auspicious time (muhurtam). This is then followed by building a rack of odd-numbered shelves of Kolu (or Padi) (usually 3, 5, 7, 9, or 11), set up using wooden planks. After the steps have been covered with fabric it is then adorned with various dolls, figurines and toys according to their size, with the deities at the top.
The dolls are predominantly displayed with depictions from Hindu mythological texts, court life, royal procession, ratha yatra, weddings, baby showers, everyday scenes, miniature kitchen utensils, anything a little girl would have played with. It is a traditional practice to have wooden figurines of the bride and groom together, called 'Marapacchi Bommai' or 'Pattada Gombe', usually made of sandalwood, teak or rosewood or dried coconut and decorated with new clothes each year before being displayed on the Kolu. In southern India, bride is presented with 'Marapacchi Bommai' during the wedding by her parents as part of wedding trousseau to initiate the yearly tradition of 'Navaratri Golu' in her new home with her husband. These dolls come as couples dressed in their wedding attire, depicting husband and wife symbolizing prosperity and fertility and the start of the bride's Golu collection. Display figurines are passed on from one generation to another as heirloom, and are often several generations old. In the old Kingdom of Mysore, 'Pattada Gombe' is also believed to be a tribute to the kings of the Wodeyar dynasty who ruled of the region for around 600 years.
A Bommala Koluvu dolls display in the early 1950s.
In the evenings, women within the neighborhood invite each other to visit their homes to view the Kolu displays; they also exchange gifts and sweets. A Kuthuvilakku lamp is lit, in the middle of a decorated Rangoli, while devotional hymns and shlokas are chanted. After performing the puja, the food items that have been prepared are offered to the Goddess and then to the guests.The first 3 days of the festival are dedicated to Durga, then the next 3 days dedicated to Lakshmi and finally, the last 3 days are dedicated to Saraswati.
On the 9th day, Saraswati Puja, special pujas are offered to goddess Saraswati. Books and musical instruments are placed in the puja and worshipped as a source of knowledge.
The 10th day, Vijayadashami, is the most auspicious day of all. It was the day on which the demon Mahishasura was finally destroyed by Durga. It marks a new and prosperous beginning. Later, on the evening of Vijayadashami, one of the doll from the display is symbolically put to sleep, and the Kalasha is moved a bit towards North to mark the end of that year's Navaratri Golu display. Prayers are offered to thank the Lord for the successful completion of that year's Navaratri festival and with hope of a successful one the next year. Then the steps are dismantled and the dolls are packed up for the next year.