Golu was very well done this year. My mother surpassed the standards which she had surpassed the previous year. It was grander, more colourful and very besh-besh worthy and with the exception of Abhiramapuram maami who had upstaged everyone by substituting sundal with bruschetta (no kidding! we plan to one up her next time by serving sundal bruschetta, and yes, you heard that here FIRST!), it was safe to say that ours was one of the biggest in our circuit. The thing is, Golu is more than just a part of Navrathri for my mother. It is a competition, and my mother wants to be sole owner of the “my golu is bigger than your golu” prize. Every year, apart from running about town collecting “rare” dolls to her already mammoth collection, she goes around houses looking at golus, making painstakingly detailed mental notes about what she could have done, what she couldn’t have done, what she should have done, what she shouldn’t have done…you get the picture.  

Front view, Golu 2010. On the left side there was the mini krishna leela and on the right, the dinosaur village park. Both are missing due to lack of space in the frame and general laziness of the photographer.

A couple of days back, I was talking about the festival with one very favourite akka of mine, when she brought up the topic of theme golus. It brought to mind a rather distinct memory, which I didn’t share with her then, but thought I’d write about. 

It was Navaratri of 2005. My mother had dragged me along to go Ayodhya-Mandapam-adjacent-street Maami’s. She had kept a theme golu, the theme being “the 12 alwars“. It was quite a creative display, really – she had five small padis with the regular golu and the alwar stories going around it. 

Now, every golu that I visit, I usually have this policy of looking around for a minute and then going “waaw”. It is painless, and always ensures that I get extra sundal to eat so that I’d have atleast have something to do while the older people gossiped about that maami’s daughter. Unfortunately, I was unable to exercise my patent charm at Ayodhya-Mandapam-Adjacent-Street Maami’s simply because of the fact that she insisted (read forced) us into listening to her tell the story of all 12 alwars in the same tone I use to recite tax provisions when I mug. Not very pleasant, to put it mildly. As if that wasn’t painful enough, maami gave us a paper with, wait for it, a QUIZ. It had 12 questions (keeping with the theme, apparently) and the one (out of the two of us – me and my mother) with the most number of correct answers would win a prize, namely the pink plastic boxes that she got as vethlapaaku from some other maami the previous year and decided to recycle. Which was pretty smart on her part, come to think of it, although it might have been weird if said maami had found out what she was up to. 

I digress. 

On our way back home, I wasn’t too happy – apart from “losing” the quiz (which wasn’t much of a surprise. I had written “Andal” as the answer to all the questions) the sundal that maami had so affectionately stuffed me with was already giving me stomach trouble. Neither was my mother. Just as I was about to ask her if she was experiencing the same amount of pain that I was, “How di?” she interrupted. 

“I think she gave us leftovers from yesterday, ma”
“Chi! not that. How do people keep golus like this? Theme and all. Everybody will talk about her golu, I’m sure.”
“Somebody should talk about her sundal. It’s a potential lawsuit.”
“We should keep a theme next year.”
“Are you kidding? Too much effort. Our golu is nice the way it is. Besides, nobody cares, ma.”

At that moment, there was a flash in her eyes and I knew exactly what was coming. 

“We are having a theme golu next year”  
“Maaa…” 
“Enna? You want gelusil?”
“Noo! This theme business is torture!”
“It’s simple enough. You just have to think of something. We can’t do alwars. What about ramayana?”
“Too much work.”
“Mahabharata?”
“Too much work.”
“I know! Nava-rathri! The number 9!”
“Too much.”
“No di. Nava thirupathi. Nava grahas. Like that. It’ll be new! It’ll be different! Everyone will talk about it! What do you think?”
“I think I need gelusil maa”

By the time we came back home, my mother had pretty much visualized the whole set up of how her golu was going to be next year. She was very excited, in fact, the only thing she didn’t do was jump out of the car in her very pattu podavai and run around saying “Eureka! Eureka!” which might have resulted in a vaccuum cleaner or two being aimed at her direction. But still, as far as she was concerned, she had achieved a new pinnacle in creativity and couldn’t wait to share it with Paati.

Amma! Maami aathla enna theriyuma!
(“Amma! Do you know what they had at Maami’s house?”)

Paati stared for a bit at both of us. It was hard to ignore the excitement on my mothers face and the nausea on mine. 

Oosipona sundal” 
(Bad sundal)

“Aiyyo. Theme golu!”

“Theme golu a? Oh, they just showed it on TV. Some Maami in Adyar had also kept theme golu.”

“Apdiya? What theme? Even I have an idea for a theme.”

“Oh, it was nice. Nava rathri no? So she had kept number 9 as the theme. Nava graha set she had, then she had kept Nava thirupathi, one padi for nava rasas. Like that. It was very nice.”

Sometimes, people ask me how I so consistently bulb all the time. It takes a great amount of effort to not say hereditary. 

57 Comments on Golu

  1. Reminds of the days when golu was so assiduously planned at kept at home. But that was when my paati was alive and my sister was still home. Now, I have to make do with sundal that my mom gets from others homes.

  2. my wife had a sundara kanda themed golu this year (for obvious reasons as she is pregnant). It was bayangara talk of the town. she did pretty much everything you said your mother did.

  3. ayyo theme is no fun. Then everyone will talk about same thing? Same theme. boring. Keep different stuff, and it will bring out different gossip and more envy.

    Key if you are in South India – keep N.India bommai and vice versa. Trust me. It works beautifully.

    You come next year for my golu okay? In Adyar and Bangalore 😉

  4. Che pa! We don't celebrate golu with as much …. no actually, we don't celebrate it at all. Although, if I remember correctly, my chittis and athais do – or used to.

    I miss golu sundal. And i miss seeing awkward kids run around in their pattu paavadai or a very badly worn sari.

    And oosi pona sundal – LOL!

    Loved the entry. 🙂

  5. Lot of hardwork and care has translated into an excellent golu and equally humourous post from you.
    LOl at the sundal bruschetta and oosi pona sundal.

  6. Amit123, Golu is a traditional display of dolls during Navarathri in Tamilnadu.Ladies use all their creative energies and compete with neighbours and relatives for the bragging rights.Sundal is distributed as prasad every evening when visitors come to see the golu.Hope u know what sundal is…Padma

  7. I couldn't help but notice that you've really spent time customizing the blog.. if you want to get rid of the blogger banner at the top of the page, try pasting

    #navbar-iframe {
    display: none !important;
    }

    just before the /* Variable definitions

    great posts, keep them coming 🙂

  8. Bale, besh!

    Neivedhiyaminging Malteesers instead of Sundal? Size fits. Tastes as good an all. One up "Bruschetta" mami.

    Have a Christmas theme [ like a nativity display] on top of your golu? After all, it's, there about's that time of the year. Mambalam Mami, up your ante will ya?.

    Then again, that may make people think that you are going to marry a X[mas]-Man.

    Brilliant blog. Nice work.

    And sailusha – respect 🙂

  9. Sundal bruschetta isn't hep enough. Think creatively – Italian Minestrone Sundal, Northie Chaat Sundal, Greek Sundal salad, Lebanese Sundal Falafel with hummus, Mexican Sundal Chilli, etc.

    B. 🙂

  10. Oosi pona sundal as ammunition for a machine gun. Pump that mami with sundal bullets :-p Then keep the gun in the golu display. Varava ellarum terror aaitu best golu ever nu verdict kuduppa. Amma happy. Thou shall get thy gelusil too 😉

  11. Your Golu is awesome!!!

    OOsi pona sundal lol! I hear people re-circulate last years prasadhams and dolls and what not. Sundal.. not good.

  12. i liked the post… but the surprise is many people wont know what is GOLU .. and i also saw some comments of the people asking what is golu?
    i think u might be knowing many fact about golu .. i thing its not shared in this post ..but u have given ur experiences very well which is easyily understandable by everyone 🙂 first time i am hearing about theme in golu ,, its very nice,, people can have differnt theme each year and pray to the god on 9 days…
    and culture too comes here as a part.. but nowadays keeping GOLU in homes were diminishing day by day.. u all must accept for this

    GOLU will be kept in homes during the 9 days of the navarathiri by placing a min of 3steps to 9steps . the number of steps should be an odd number like 3,5,7,9 .
    people have pujas in morning and evening bye calling the neighbours and giving sundal, fruits .. the important is to give the sacred kungumam to the ladies:)
    every year their must be a new bommai should be bought and placed in golu.
    some of the important sets of bommai is the chettiar set whish will have bommai of chettiar and his wife with 9 nayavthaniyam placed infront of them . the dasaavatharam bommais.. kumbam .. thanjavur thalaiyati bommai. vinayagar, ect… and also the wide variety of the living beings from oru arivu to 5arivu bommais for example,, sangu, aadu,, maadu, trees etc .
    the 9 days where pyaed for lord lakshmi, lord saraswathi, lord parvathi on 3 consecutive days ..

    :)there are much more about GOLU:( i know only this much

  13. maybe a little late to comment on a october post. but still..
    alwar maami is intelligent enough not only to recycle the gift she got last year, but also prudent enough to give it to only the winner of the quiz 😛

  14. I just came across your blog, after reading the "seshadri" post. You have an unbelievable sense of humor. Kudos really! And your writing is fantastic… very gripping and engaging. There is so much I relate to as well, I hope you keep writing for a long time!

  15. superb post,could not control myself from laughing.it reminded me of my school days when my paati and amma used to arrange golu and the endless sundal varieties and the singing sessions at all maamis homes.awesome sense of humor 🙂

  16. superb post,could not control myself from laughing.it reminded me of my school days when my paati and amma used to arrange golu and the endless sundal varieties and the singing sessions at all maamis homes.awesome sense of humor 🙂

  17. i liked the post… but the surprise is many people wont know what is GOLU .. and i also saw some comments of the people asking what is golu?
    i think u might be knowing many fact about golu .. i thing its not shared in this post ..but u have given ur experiences very well which is easyily understandable by everyone 🙂 first time i am hearing about theme in golu ,, its very nice,, people can have differnt theme each year and pray to the god on 9 days…
    and culture too comes here as a part.. but nowadays keeping GOLU in homes were diminishing day by day.. u all must accept for this

    GOLU will be kept in homes during the 9 days of the navarathiri by placing a min of 3steps to 9steps . the number of steps should be an odd number like 3,5,7,9 .
    people have pujas in morning and evening bye calling the neighbours and giving sundal, fruits .. the important is to give the sacred kungumam to the ladies:)
    every year their must be a new bommai should be bought and placed in golu.
    some of the important sets of bommai is the chettiar set whish will have bommai of chettiar and his wife with 9 nayavthaniyam placed infront of them . the dasaavatharam bommais.. kumbam .. thanjavur thalaiyati bommai. vinayagar, ect… and also the wide variety of the living beings from oru arivu to 5arivu bommais for example,, sangu, aadu,, maadu, trees etc .
    the 9 days where pyaed for lord lakshmi, lord saraswathi, lord parvathi on 3 consecutive days ..

    :)there are much more about GOLU:( i know only this much

  18. Your Golu is awesome!!!

    OOsi pona sundal lol! I hear people re-circulate last years prasadhams and dolls and what not. Sundal.. not good.

  19. Bale, besh!

    Neivedhiyaminging Malteesers instead of Sundal? Size fits. Tastes as good an all. One up "Bruschetta" mami.

    Have a Christmas theme [ like a nativity display] on top of your golu? After all, it's, there about's that time of the year. Mambalam Mami, up your ante will ya?.

    Then again, that may make people think that you are going to marry a X[mas]-Man.

    Brilliant blog. Nice work.

    And sailusha – respect 🙂

  20. Lot of hardwork and care has translated into an excellent golu and equally humourous post from you.
    LOl at the sundal bruschetta and oosi pona sundal.

  21. Che pa! We don't celebrate golu with as much …. no actually, we don't celebrate it at all. Although, if I remember correctly, my chittis and athais do – or used to.

    I miss golu sundal. And i miss seeing awkward kids run around in their pattu paavadai or a very badly worn sari.

    And oosi pona sundal – LOL!

    Loved the entry. 🙂

  22. my wife had a sundara kanda themed golu this year (for obvious reasons as she is pregnant). It was bayangara talk of the town. she did pretty much everything you said your mother did.

  23. Reminds of the days when golu was so assiduously planned at kept at home. But that was when my paati was alive and my sister was still home. Now, I have to make do with sundal that my mom gets from others homes.

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