Certain days in the Hindu almanac are considered very auspicious. The festival of Navarathri is celebrated for ten such days that are considered to be very holy. Nava means nine, rathri means nights. Navarathri is nine nights and one day devoted to the worship of the Divine Mother in her various forms. The Divine Mother symbolizes all womanhood and the creative energy of woman known as Shakthi.
All over India Navarathri is celebrated in various forms that are unique to the different States, as Durga Puja in West Bengal, Dussera in Karnataka, Navarathri in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh , as Kullu Dussera in Himachal Pradhesh and so on.
In Tamil Nadu an important part of the festival is the Kolu which is an arrangement and display of dolls called the Kolu Bommai on decorated makeshift steps called the Kolu Padi. These steps are usually in odd numbers.
Navarathri in Tamil Nadu is also a celebration of the girl child. All girls below the age of 9 years, are thought to personify Ambal who is often worshipped as a young girl.
The dolls that are used for the Kolu are handed down from generation to generation. New dolls are bought to add to the existing collection.
There are traditional wooden dolls called as Marapaachi Bommai, colourful painted dolls made of clay and papier mache of Gods and Goddesses, the Thanjavur Thalaiaati Bommai whose head nods in the slightest breeze…the range is awesome.
There are doll – sets depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Hindu weddings and so on.
As you can see, Kolu is fun! Who doesn’t love dolls!!
On all nine days special pujas are done in the mornings and evenings. It is an occasion to invite friends, relatives, and neighbours to look at the Kolu. Married women and young girls who come to see the Kolu are given gifts of a coconut, betel leaves and betel nut, small boxes of turmeric, kumkum, a small mirror, a comb , bangles and lengths of coloured fabric for stitching blouses. All these are considered very auspicious. They are asked to sing devotional songs which also adds to the fun.
A special dish called Sundal is prepared on all nine days. It is made of lentils or pulses which are different on each day. Sundal is given to all the guests as a take home gift. Sometimes there is a delicious sweet dish called puttu instead of sundal.
This lovely picture of Sri Krishna is not a painting! It is a perfect Rangoli made by a young girl who is a student of Class XII as part of the Navrathri Kolu at Sri Ramakrishna Mutt in Salem.
This just goes to show that talent is nothing but some aspect of the Divine that inspires and manifests through a chosen few such as this young girl, Lalithambigai whose name appears in the lower right corner of this Rangoli.