Nothing Like Navarathri: Preparing for Festivities Part 2 (of 3)
By Jennifer Kumar, Cross-Cultural Coach
Part 2 of 3 in Navarathri Trilogy (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)
Parade of Dolls
Because I like to arrange dolls on the kolu padi, any time of the year is a good time to search for nice additions. Sometimes the best finds are unplanned on outings to tourist locations, like the time I found the statue of a Native American village in Niagara Falls, Canada (pictured in this post), or the Hrithik Roshan doll that is the newest addition (found in Dubai airport last year on our way back from India)! But other purchases are made on planned outings, though luck plays a big part. These are mostly purchases of the multi cultural Barbie dolls, purchased from toy stores in after Christmas sales (then priced half price or less than regular price). I have also found unique dolls in second hand stores and some given to me by friends and family members, such as the three feet tall doll standing to side of golu in various dresses. This doll, originally wore a Hungarian dress, given to me by my Hungarian grandma. But like me, a Hungarian American turned indophile; it was only a matter of time before I also donned this doll with saris. I have dressed this doll in full human length saris and two piece Kerala mundu saris. Then, some additions have been given to me by my friends and family in India, holding another special meaning for me.
For the past five years it is true that some dolls have stood on the golu for each of the five years, while others circulated in and out (some borrowed from my nieces as pictured to the right, click for bigger size), while others sometimes don’t make it. And then, some years, friends bring a doll to add to the golu, as some traditions dictate to visit a golu one must bring something to add to it for the time being. So, each and every year, the golu is different. The feelings and impression there after seeing it completed is also different.
Creating Golu Padi
Golu padi is the term for the steps the dolls are displayed on. Apparently, in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, these steps are sold by Godrej in stainless steel. Here, in U.S., I have yet to find anything that suits our requirement of being step like but not heavy, bulky and awkward to store. Though, one option would be in trying to purchase a hina-dan which is a stand the Japanese use during Girls Day to display dolls in a very similar fashion to golu, for the festival called hina matsuri. With Japanese being masters of making big things become small, compact, easy to store and more of our requirement for the stand, we are on the lookout for this. Hopefully, it is also reasonably priced! But until we find that, we will make due with arranging our furniture to make a suitable set of steps.
After setting up the steps, it is time to cover them. Even if the steps were standardized and made ‘professionally’ covering it would be important. Like sleeping on a bed, it’s not nice to display the dolls on hard uncovered surfaces. So, to cover it, we take bed sheets and saris. Some people make special coverings for the golu padi, but I continue to use bed sheets and saris. This year, taken from a blog, I used the idea of covering first the steps and sides with Kerala sari (off white with gold border) and placing a plain colored sari with gold border down the center. It’s a strikingly simple and beautiful idea. After placing the covers, I then add the lights, then the dolls.
Gift Bags and Snacks
I remember my first golu gift bag. It was a treasured thing as I never experienced it before. Opening the small bag, inside glaring back at me was my face as reflected in the small handheld mirror. These mirrors, about three inches square are covered back and sides with this thin fire engine red plastic and on the back about 2 ½ inches square is a beautiful picture of Goddess Lakshmi. These types of mirrors I had not found for sale outside Chennai, though possible in Tamil Nadu, not even in Kerala, in bordering southern city of Trivandrum. Also in this bag are small packets of haldi kum kum. These packets were not bought in the store, but made from recycled newspapers. Old Tamil newspapers are cut in small rectangles, a bit of haldi in one, kum kum in another and folded into thirds and then closed by folding one end into the other. These I easily have learned to recreate here, but from the Democrat and Chronicle. No Dinakaran or Daily Thanthi here! (Ironically, one blog post I read even discriminated on which of these papers to use as one actually holds the color of the haldi or kum kum better than the other!) Lastly, in the bag was a small comb and a pack of bindis. Upon holding this, something in me told me golu was special and the experience has stayed with me until today.
I enjoy creating these golu gift bags, inside placing a mirror, comb, hair ties, bindis, handmade soap and haldi kum kum for women. Since the special mirrors are not available here, often we buy small picture frames, craft mirrors and print out pictures of a goddess and fashion them together. It is quite a project, that even my husband and father in law have joined in to create! Small kids will get a toy- a doll or a teddy bear or a car.
It is custom that girls visit the golu as it is about ‘dolls’. Though the first year I put golu, I doubled it as a housewarming and men and boys did join also. Generally, boys and men don’t come. In my opinion if guys want to appreciate the beauty of golu, please join. It’s nice that girls and women have their own festival, but forcibly excluding anyone (men, boys, etc.) I don’t believe in.
Boys and men though, if visiting the golu, would enjoy eating sundal and other sundries made as prasad (holy offering or snacks) during this time. Sundal is a snack made of fried chick peas and other variety beans mixed with Indian spices. Sundal made of chick peas is my favorite that I usually make, though I have tried it with other variety beans also.
Photos in this article are by Krishna Kumar (doll in sari and kolu steps), the other two by Jennifer Kumar.
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Thank you for reading.
tags: Navarathri, "party favors", "gift bags","goody bags",thamboolam,offerings,"parting gifts",etiquette
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Part 2 of 3 in Navarathri Trilogy (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)
When is Navarathri 2011? September 28- October 7, 2011.
Find out when is Navarathri, other Hindu, Indian, American, and Interfaith holidays by following the Interfaith Calendar, click here.
Author of this post and owner of this blog; Jennifer Kumar, CC, MSW, is a cross-cultural coach helping people find comfort in foreign lands through multicultural advising, interfaith coaching, expat mentoring, English as Second Language conversational and life skills coaching and more! Contact her for more information at authenticjourneys at gmail dot com or follow her on Facebook. Read more about her bio and credentials here.
Updated February 2011