Our family has been celebrating the Navarathri festival since 2005 by inviting family and friends to our home to see the Golu display which is a Southern Indian tradition where dolls are arranged in a creative way and portray various stories from the Indian culture. Traditionally, this festival motivates kids especially girls to dress in traditional costumes and visit friends' homes where they sing classical songs and are treated to sweets and snacks.
This year our family chose the theme of depicting temples from a southern Indian state called TamilNadu for our Golu display. We primarily picked those temples that we had visited recently in our summer trips to India and tried to capture a few salient features of each temple like the temple water tank, pillars, Gopurams
(temple towers) through hand built structures.
This year's Golu included a display of 4 temples in different parts of the state of TamilNadu. Two temples on the beach in the suburbs of Chennai – The Ashthalakhmi temple depicting the 8 forms of Lakshmi, and the Mahabalipuram Shore temple built by the Pallavas. The other two temples on the banks of river Cauvery - Sri Ranganatha (form of Vishnu) temple in Srirangam with its 236 feet tall Rajagopuram (tallest temple tower in India) and the Ganesha Rockfort temple in Trichy.
Researching for the Golu was a great learning experience. I was particularly fascinated by the shrine for Surathini a Muslim Goddess in the Srirangam temple. This led me to the question of how the Hindu devotees decided to pray to a Muslim princess. During a Muslim invasion, the Ranganatha idol was taken to the north where princess Surathini fell in love with the idol and took care of the idol. Later when a group of people retrieved and took the idol back to Srirangam, she followed them but gave up her life when she could not find the Ranganatha idol there. In reverence to her love for Lord Rangantha, there a shrine for ‘Thulakka Nachiyar’ (Muslim princess) in Srirangam. The amazing message
from this story that resonated with me in that we have an example of communal harmony from centuries ago.
Navarathri is one of my favorite festivals as we all learn a lot about the traditions and cultures from the various regions in India and this festival is a great way of bringing the community together through Golu, Gharba, Dhandiya, Dussehra etc. The visitors to our Golu were fascinated by the stories behind these temples and some were motivated to visit these places on their next visit.
I recall during our recent trip to some of the Ekal run schools, how local traditions were supported by Ekal volunteers who encourage kids to express the history and culture of their local area through songs and dances. It builds self-awareness and confidence in the kids about their roots and the community they belong to and how they are part of a nationwide education movement.
Ekal is celebrating the "Ekal Navratri 2017" on October 14 where there will be showcasing the traditions from various regions of India through food, dance, music and competitions. For more details and to register visit: