Dasara, also called "Navarathri", is among the most important festivals celebrated in India. The celebrations go on for 10 days. Dasha-hara in sanskrit means the "remover of bad fate".
Being from Mysore, Dasara is very special to me. It brings back nostalgic memories of the beautifully illuminated Mysore palace, Chamundeshwari temple, the darasa exhibition and the procession on Vijayadashami day to name a few. The streets of Mysore is full of tourists and locals enjoying Dasara to the fullest. Important streets and buildings in the city are illuminated. Music performances are held in the palace grounds.
An essential part of Dasara is the exhibition of various dolls and figurines in odd (usually 7, 9, or 11) numbered tiers ("padis"). It is called "Golu"(or Kolu) in Tamilnadu and "Bombe Habba" is Karnataka.
We grew up performing this custom of exhibiting dolls on Navarathri. The preparations at my place starts a couple of weeks before the actual festival. Mom gets from the wholesale market, the items to be given to the neighborhood ladies like small mirrors, comb, blouse piece, small bowls/plates to hold the thamboolam and kumkum boxes.
About a week prior to the start of Navarathri, appa (dad) brings down the dolls kept in boxes from the attic. He sets up the 7 golu padis. Amma draws maa kolam (this is a traditional design done using rice paste which is drawn on all auspicios occasions). Then we cover the padi with either a white cloth or amma's pattu (silk) sari. The dolls are then arranged according to mythological themes. The 'Marapachi' bommai (traditional wooden doll)is very important. My mom has a wonderful pair given to her by my patti (grandmother). The best part for us kids was designing our own themes around the golu ... like a small village or park.
On the first day of Navarathri, amma places the Kalasam (a bronze/silver pot with rice, on which a coconut is placed and decorated with mango leaves) on one of the padis (usually at the center) indicating the start of golu. Every day during Navarathri songs are sung praising the goddess Durga and prasadam is offered to the goddess...chundal being one of the prominent items. Neighborhood ladies are invited to take tamboolam and prasadam .
On the 8th day, our books are placed in front of the golu for Saraswathi (goddess of knowledge) pooja. We are not supposed to touch/read these books. On the 9th day is Saraswathi pooja. The books placed infront of the golu are taken out and read. On this day, payasam and vadai are made as neivedhyam. On the 10th day, the last day of Navarathri is Vijayadashami which marks a new and prosperous beginning. On this day we take out the books that were placed and read/write. In the evening of "Vijayadasami", any one doll from the "Golu" is symbolically put to sleep marking the end of that year's Navarathri Golu.
Now for the main attraction of the festival ... the reason for our blog's existence
Wishing all of you a very Happy and Joyous Dasara!!
Note: To know more about golu read this and for Dasara read this.
For those interested in Mysore Dasara, read this