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Why Do We Keep Dolls in Navratri?

Posted By ServDharm


Posted on October 20 2021

Navratri or Navaratri is a key festival celebrated by Hindus all over the country in honour of Goddess Shakti. The goddess is worshipped in nine different forms during the nine-day long festival. The festival comes to an end with the Dussehra celebrations on the tenth day. In South India, Hindus arrange different types of colourful dolls in steps as a key part of the celebrations. This arrangement is called golu and the dolls are made of different materials.

The doll arrangement is often done in an odd number of steps. The minimum number of steps is usually 3 and can go up to as high as 9. The nine steps are said to symbolize the Navagrahas. In some cases, people keep even 11 steps. It is believed that the golu arrangement portrays the energy of the Goddess through the various figurines displayed on the steps. Interestingly, there is a specific pattern that is followed in the way the dolls are arranged on the steps made of steel or using cardboard boxes.

Read on to know some of the key dolls arranged on the steps during the festival period.

The topmost or ninth step is used to represent pure consciousness. A brass or silver pot filled with water and turmeric and vermillion added in it is kept on a round plate. A coconut with a betel leaf on either side is kept on top of the pot to signify the pure consciousness. The three eyes of the coconut represent the physical eyes of a person and his/her inner vision. Lord Ganesha is also kept on this step as He denotes the high energy state of all living beings. The vessel highlights the human body.

The eighth step features a pair of wooden dolls representing a husband and wife couple. These dolls are listed among the most important dolls in the entire setup and are usually passed down from generation to generation to epitomize family values and traditions. The man and woman signify spirit and matter or Purusha and Prakriti respectively. Some people use this step to keep figurines of the Trimurti or the Tridevi to represent the creation, maintenance, and dissolution in the universe.

The seventh step is dedicated to placing dolls epitomizing the Pancha bhoota or the five universal elements. These five elements are Air, Water, Earth, Space, and Fire. Alternatively, figurines of other Gods and Goddesses are also kept on this step.

The next three steps are decorated with dolls of demi-gods, saints, kings, and/or queens. Other caricature dolls representing politicians, sportsmen, or other personalities or worldly objects are placed on these steps.

The third step illustrates how various Hindu festivals are celebrated. The dolls are arranged accordingly to show their participation in the celebrations. Other Hindu occasions are also depicted on this step.

The second step features happenings in day-to-day life or everyday scenarios. Examples of such settings include a shopkeeper selling his wares, a park, a hospital, or any theme on daily happenings.

The first or bottommost step portrays the evolution of living things or mankind. The dolls on this step are arranged accordingly.

There is no hard and fast rule that the dolls on the steps must be arranged only as mentioned above. The number of steps used for the display also varies based on the availability of dolls for the display. However, the tiers are always odd in number. Often, Hindus add a few new dolls to the existing collection every year. Irrespective of how the arrangement is carried out, it cannot be denied that the doll arrangement is without doubt a visual treat for the eyes!

According to legends, Goddess Durga won over the demon Mahishasura using the strength derived from the powers of all other gods and goddesses. Since they gave the goddess all their powers, they were helpless and stood like dolls witnessing the war. The doll festival celebrated to pay respect to those deities by worshipping them in the form of dolls.

Most households have a theme for arranging the dolls. Some Hindus opt for a traditional and simple theme while there are those who opt for a pompous arrangement. Some common themes opted are scenes from epics like Ramayana or Mahabharata, reducing pollution, and saving the environment.


Written by Deepthi K



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