Navaratri golu- A festival of dolls and fun

Navaratri golu- A festival of dolls and fun Cover Image

Arranging dolls in sequence, decorating steps, adding a new touch- these are just some things that go into a Navaratri Golu. How do you celebrate it?

Navaratri swings around in the months of September or October each year and I look forward to it with the uncontrolled excitement of a child. Why?

Every single time, I am all wound up by the idea of ‘Navaratri Golu’ or ‘Bombe Habba’ as it is known. The frenzy that goes into unwrapping the dolls which I take down from the attic is only matched by the furious thought process that goes into the preparation of the Golu steps – their design, number and the overall decoration.

Typically, there are an odd number of steps and people can use either makeshift items such as cardboard boxes, tables and old tins with planks on top to make the steps or invest in a readymade set of steps now easily available online

You must be wondering how this whole concept came about, that of dolls for Golu and Navaratri which is inherently a South Indian custom. There are many beliefs associated with the tradition, one of which signifies that the nine steps of the Golu are associated with the nine nights of Navratri, each night celebrating one aspect of Devi, the Goddess.

The marapaachi dolls, or the wooden dolls occupy pride of place in any Golu, since they symbolise the husband and wife of the home. These are given to the girl as she leaves home to embark on a life of matrimony and is passed down from generation to generation.

Today you can get lovely outfits for each of these dolls and add your own creativity to them. Each Golu has its own set of dolls but the popular ones are the Dashavataram set, the Rama-Lakshmana-Sita-Hanuman group, Ganeshas in various hues, the Chettiar sets to mention a few.

What kids will love about it

What can make this extra fun for the children is the idea that they can contribute too! My daughter loves bringing out her dolls and creating a make-believe tea party for them. Another year she used her sand kit to set up a construction site, complete with trucks and other automobiles.

Added to this is the flavour of every Golu – mixing and mingling with friends, neighbours and family. Each home sets up a Golu and invites women and girls over to see the display. This is usually a wonderful chance for the kids to socialise, get to see a plethora of golu arrangements, eat delicious sundal and delectable payasam to fill their tummies.


At the end of the day, it is a festival to celebrate joy, colour, wonder and beauty. Effectively, it is an occasion to celebrate life and the triumph of good over evil.

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