Gollu – What a Concept!!!

October 11, 2008

Its Navarathri or Dusherra or Durga pooja in India. One of the major attractions of Navarathri in southern states of India is Gollu. Whats so special about it? you might ask, well let me share a simple revelation i had quiet recently.

First things First
Navarathiri or Durga Pooja is a festival dedicated to Goddesses of Hinduism. It is celebrated during the months of September/October. The festival is also celebrated as a Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana that is victory of good over evil. It is primarily celebrated in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Gujarat and in many other parts of India. Visit this link, which goes into the details of the festivities.

What is a Gollu?
First of all, for those of you who do not know what a Gollu is, its an arrangement of dolls primarily that of gods and demigods of Hindu mythology (see picture below). The doll arrangements also depicts stories from Hindu mythology, life events (marriage, house warming etc), social events (concerts, games etc) and many others. 

Gollu at Houston Meenakshi Temple

Gollu at Houston Meenakshi Temple (Click to see complete Gollu)

People who have gollu at their homes, will invite their neighbors to come and see the gollu. Evenings are when the fun starts, the visitors (usually mothers with their kids, girls) are treated with not only the gollu, but snacks and small gift items. In return, the visitors are asked to sing (traditional/devotional songs) or recite stories.

So we know what is a Gollu now, whats so special about it? The answer can be summed-up as ‘Snack and Learn’. To elaborate, Gollu is a medium through which the stories (and their morals) from Hindu mythology (hence Hindu values) are passed on to the kids who visit the Gollu. They also learn about various life events, social events and various aspects of life through these dolls. Above all, Gollu also acts as a cultural hub where the traditional music is nurtured. Kids, by singing and reciting stories also learn public speaking and overcome the stage fear. People who prepare Gollu are enthused to put-up a good show and hence acts a fuel for imagination and creativity.

So… there you go! Gollu is a simple tool by which the values of Hinduism, values of social life are passed onto younger generation, all the while promoting traditional art forms like singing. That’s my revelation.

The Big Question
Now, if a festival like Gollu could have so much hidden values and principles, what is the significance of so many other rites, festivities, and rituals of Hinduism? Thoughts?