Friday, 19 October 2012

Navarathri Golu

The South Indian festival - Navarathri Golu (Festival of Dolls)

Golu - in Tamil means courtyard.  It is an important festival in the Hindu calendar that celebrates women power.  The festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil demon Mahishasura.  Special prayers are offerred to worship Goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi – the Goddesses of Courage, Wealth  and Knowledge & Fine Arts respectively. The Golu festival (celebrated as Durga puja in Bengal) epitomizes the victory of Good over Evil.

Golu is observed over nine evenings, referred to as ‘Navarathri’ – 'Nava' means nine and 'rathri' means night.  This year, Navarathri begins on the 15th October and ends on the 24th October.

The festival commences with a Kalasha pooja on the first evening and continues for nine nights. Kalasha, also spelled as Kalash and kalasa (in Sankrit: kalasa literally means "pitcher or pot"), is a metal (brass, copper, silver or gold) pot. Such a pot filled with water and topped with a coronet of mango leaves and a coconut. This combination is often used in Hindu rituals and the entire arrangement is called Purna-Kalasha, Purna-Kumbha or Purna-ghata.  Each of these names literally means "full or complete vessel" and the Kalasha is considered a symbol of abundance and "source of life" in the Vedas.

During Golu days inviting friends, neighbours and relatives is a highlight of this festival.  It’s a fun way of acquainting with the neighbourhood and also an occasion to display one’s singing prowess and progress from bathroom singers to living room singers! :)

In Gujarat’s Navratri Festival, is “a circle of ecstasy” that throbs for nine nights with millions of fantastically costumed devotees swaying in a fusion of dance and devotion. A legendary and unique Folk Dance form known as 'Garba' is performed but in recent times this been heavily influenced by 'Dandia Raas' and these are performed with great splendour.

Chick peas, black eyed peas or other lentils with seasoning is offered to the deity and shared with visitors on all the Golu days.  Among Indian festivals, Navarathri is one of the longest festivals celebrated in different styles across India.  The 'Golu' is quintessentially South Indian. 

Golu Setting Code 

There is a defined code in the setting up of the steps for Golu. The number of steps be in odd numbers 3,5,7 and should not exceed nine. The code for setting the Golu is as below:

From the top, for a 9 step Golu:
1st step                 -                 Kalasham and God's idols
2nd and 3rd steps -             More idols of God.  Inevitably, the eight forms of Lakshmi and the Ten Avatars of Vishnu known as Dashavataram idols representing the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu are placed.  The order of the Avatars – Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Balarama, Krishna and Kalki.
4th Step                 -                Saints, Gurus and enlightened ones
5th Step                 -                Freedom fighters, philanthropists' and social workers
6th Step                 -                Householders, vendors, farmers and so on
7th Step                 -                Animals
8th Step                 -                Birds
9th Step                 -                Insects and crawling creatures

The above hierarchy should be followed if less than 9 steps of Golu is being constructed.

The 10th Day, known as Vijaya Dasami or Dussehra

The Golu or Navarathri festival culminates on the tenth day that is known as Vijaya Dasami or Dussehra. This day is considered as a very auspicious in the Hindu calendar. The day marks several things, viz.

·       the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated as victory of Goddess Durga over demons.
·       the day also marks the victory of Lord Rama over the demon King Ravana (epic : Ramayana); and
·    Finally, this day also is known as ‘Ayudha Puja’ day or ‘Vishwakarma’ day.  Vishwakarma - a divine engineer and architect from the Vedic age.  As a mark of reverence, he is worshipped by the engineering and architect community besides by all professionals. Artisans, craftsmen, mechanics, smiths, welders, industrial workers, factory workers, and workers of all kinds worship Lord Vishwakarma on this day and pray for a better future, safe working conditions and above all success in their respective fields.
This year, Vijaya Dasami falls on October 24th, and the day is considered to be auspicious for commencing new ventures or enrolling into new programmes of learning or for that matter taking up learning of fine arts.

The Philosophy of Navarathri

The form of the doll arrangement is to show that we place Gods, saints and great men above the ordinary human beings and other forms of life. The philosophy behind this is that if ordinary human beings nurture good thoughts and pursue good deeds to others, they will be elevated as a result of such noble thoughts and actions, thus gain saint like qualities and finally attain oneness with God.

The Prayer:

Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu,  Matri rupena samsthita | Namastasyai
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu,  Shakti rupena samsthita | Namastasyai
Ya Devi sarva bhutesu, Shanti rupena samsthita | Namastasyai
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

The goddess who is omnipresent as the personification of universal mother, Salutations to Thee
The goddess who is omnipresent as the embodiment of power, Salutations to Thee
The goddess who is omnipresent as the symbol of peace, Salutations to Thee
I bow to her, I bow to her, I bow to her

Let us celebrate this Navarathri Golu, and harness the spirit of good within us and spread Peace.