Mumbai: At Subhadra Ramesh’s house in Deonar, the Golu Bommai (idol) Padi (steps) this year has the theme of friendship. The stories of the friendship are drawn from Ramayana and Mahabharata. As the Navratri festival is celebrated, south Indian families make it a point to have Golu Bommai/Bommala or Golu Dolls at home. The idea is to mark the festival, the victory of good over evil and also to educate children about the tradition, the cultural life, the divine forms of goddesses and gods, living heroes and the life that revolves around them.
For some like Subhadra, it is also a learning experience. “I did a lot of research and even made Golu of King Dashratha. I have four examples from Ramayan and Mahabharat and two contemporary ones from south India for friendship this year,” said Subhadra, who has made separate corners of friendship stories.
From the Ramayana, it is the friendship between Lord Rama and Guhan (boat man) who helped the former cross the river, Jatayu and Dashratha, Sugriv and Lord Ram and Trijadai and mother Seeta.
“Jayatu was a friend of Lord Ram’s father and tried to save Seeta when she was being abducted by Ravana. Similarly, when Seeta was held captive at Ashok Van she made friends with Trijadai. The Golus try to tell these stories,” said Subhadra.
Golu of Draupadi giving timely help to Krishna by bandaging his finger | Ashutosh Shukla FPJ
In the case of Mahabharata, the Golus tell a story of Krishna and other cowherds, Krishna and Draupadi where she tears her saree and bandages Krishna’s finger, Arjuna and Krishna among others. “The contemporary ones from the south are of friendship between elderly poet Appar and much younger Thirugnanasambandar who bond over and sing the praise of Lord Shiva. The other is of Sunday who as a friend of Lord Shiva prays to him and gets things done of lay people,” said Subhadra who has a nine-tier Golu.
Made in odd numbers, each layer of Golu signifies something different and the topmost layer is reserved for the Gods and Goddesses by many. There is also Marapachi and Kalash that are must-haves. “At my house, I keep the Kalash at the top,” said Kalpana Mahendran who also makes Golu at her Chembur home but does not mind about the other ascending and descending order of the Golus. Most people keep Gods and Goddesses at the top followed by Gurus and then all that describes earthly life like various occupations.
Golu of Apar and Thirugnanasambandar bonded over praise for Lord Shiva seen jointly open and close Vedarayan Temple | Ashutosh Shukla FPJ
“The most popular are Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ashta Lakshmi, Dashavatar, Murugan, Valli, Devanai / devasena, Shiv Parvati, Ganesha, Ayyapa and Guruvayurappan. We also have a good amount of Somanglya (haldi-kum kum) sets that are sold because when women are invited at homes, they are given that,” said Kashivishvanathan T S of Giri Stores, which is a go-to place for Golu dolls and Padis.
He added, “Although not in Mumbai, this year we also had Golus based on the characters from movies Ponniyin Selvan I and II. The Chola Kings who ruled nearly 1,000 years ago were deeply religious and spiritually motivated people. They had faith in divine spirit and high values of humanity. The golus on them were very well received."
Homes aside, Golu Bommai are even seen in temples that are not South Indian. “Ours is a 300-year-old swayambhu temple of Maa Durga. Though it is not a south Indian temple but as many devotees were south Indians and their families continue to come, we have Golu made here too,” said Anil Gawand, managing trustee of Marubai Temple in Matunga close to Khalsa College.