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Tamil: Bomma Kolu
Telugu: Bommala Koluvu
Kannada: Gombe Habba
Navratri Golu.jpg
Dasara dolls arrangement
Observed byResidents of Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
ObservancesStory telling with dolls, family visits
Related toNavratri

Golu is the festive display of dolls and figurines in South India during the autumn festive season, particularly around the multiday Navaratri (Dussehra, Dasara) festival of Hinduism. These displays are typically thematic, narrating a legend from a Hindu text to court life, weddings, everyday scenes, miniature kitchen utensils, anything a little girl would have played with. They are also known as Kolu, Gombe Habba, Bommai Kolu or Bommala Koluvu.[1][2][3]

Each displayed item in a golu display is sometimes called golu doll or equivalent. These are typically made by rural artisans from clay and wooden materials then brightly painted. They are generally arranged in an odd number of padis (tiers) to tell a story. Goddess-related themes are common, along with developments such as anticipated wedding within the family and of friends.[2][4] During the golu display season, families visit each other with gifts to view and chit-chat over the golu display, share festive foods, and sometimes play music or sing devotional songs together.[4][5] Major Hindu temples such as the Meenakshi temple arrange elaborate golu displays each year for Navaratri.[6][7][8]


Bommai Kolu in Tamil means Divine Presence. Bommala Koluvu in Telugu means Court of Toys and Bombe Habba means Doll Festival in Kannada. It is a part of the annual Dasara-Vijayadasami Hindu festival where young girls and women display dolls, figurine, court life, everyday scenes along with the divine presence of the Goddesses Saraswati, Parvati and Laxmi in the Tamil, Kannada and Telugu households during Navaratri or The Nine nights.[2]


Traditional bride and groom dolls made from dry coconut at homes, Karnataka.

On the first day of Navaratri, following Ganapathi puja, a welcoming ritual is performed for goddesses Saraswati, Parvati and Lakshmi by Hindu ritual called Kalasa Ahvanam which is performed by an elderly male or female of the family on the day of amavasya at an auspicious time. 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 Kolu has been covered with fabric it is then adorned with various dolls, figurines and toys according to their size, with the deities at the top.[4]

The Kolu is predominantly displayed with depictions from Hindu mythological Puranas text, court life, royal procession, ratha yatra, weddings, 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.[citation needed] 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 Gollu collection. Display figurines are passed on from one generation to another as heirloom. In old Mysore area 'Pattada Gombe' is also believed to be a tribute to the Wodeyars the benevolent and progressive monarchs who ruled of the region for around 600 years.[citation needed]

A Bommala Koluvu display in 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.[4]

On the 9th day Saraswati Puja, special pujas are offered to goddess Saraswati, the divine source of wisdom and enlightenment. Books and musical instruments are placed in the puja and worshipped as a source of knowledge.[citation needed]

The 10th day, Vijayadasami, is the most auspicious day of all. It was the day on which evil was finally destroyed by good. It marks a new and prosperous beginning. Later, on the evening of Vijayadasami, one of the doll from the display is symbolically put to sleep, and the Kalasa is moved a bit towards North to mark the end of that year's Navaratri golu.[citation needed] Prayers are offered to thank the Lord for the successful completion of that year's Kolu and with hope of a successful one the next year. Then the Kolu is dismantled and packed up for the next year.[citation needed]


Kolu also has a significant connection with the agricultural and handicrafts professions in India. Besides the economic aspect of the festival, it is an important occasion for socializing. During this season relatives and friends in south India make it a point to visit each other's homes. This is also a very important occasion that promotes creative expression for women and for the family to work together on an aesthetic aspect.[4][9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Unique, artistic, creative: Kolu plans, The Hindu (6 October 2012)
  2. ^ a b c Peter J. Claus; Sarah Diamond; Margaret Ann Mills (2003). South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Taylor & Francis. pp. 443–444. ISBN 978-0-415-93919-5.
  3. ^ Nikki Bado-Fralick; Rebecca Sachs Norris (2010). Toying with God: The World of Religious Games and Dolls. Baylor University Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-1-60258-181-4.
  4. ^ a b c d e Philippe Bornet; Maya Burger (2012). Religions in Play: Games, Rituals, and Virtual Worlds. Theologischer Verlag Zürich. pp. 188–194. ISBN 978-3-290-22010-5.
  5. ^ Vasudha Narayanan (2015). Knut A. Jacobsen (ed.). Routledge Handbook of Contemporary India. Routledge. p. 342. ISBN 978-1-317-40358-6.
  6. ^ Navarathri celebrations: Meenakshi temple golu display steals the show, The Times of India (6 Oct 2016)
  7. ^ Crowds throng Madurai Meenakshi temple for ‘golu’, The Hindu (6 October 2013)
  8. ^ Gods and gopurams in full glow, The Hindu (1 October 2014)
  9. ^ Vasudha Narayanan (2015). Knut A. Jacobsen (ed.). Routledge Handbook of Contemporary India. Routledge. pp. 341–342. ISBN 978-1-317-40358-6.

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