Golu (also known as Kolu, Bombe Habba, Bommai Kolu or Bommala Koluvu) is the practice of setting up a display of dolls in homes (primarily in South India) during the Navaratri festival.
Readymade ‘padis’ or steps are set up, or boxes, tables and even bricks are used to build a structure with an odd number of descending steps (between 1 to 9 levels). The steps are then covered with a cloth or sari, and the dolls are arranged on them. Every house boasts a unique arrangement, as the collections of dolls are built up over several years, with pieces inherited from their families and new pieces added each year to the display. In many houses, at the end of each day, aarti is performed before the golu.
The origin of the word ‘kolu’ can be traced to ‘kolu’ in Tamil or ‘koluvai’ in Telgu, which means a ‘sovereign sitting in his royal durbar or court’. Belief is that it depicts that Goddess Mahishasuramardini (Durga) is sitting in her Kolu, prior to the slaying of the demon Mahishasura. According to some other sources, the ‘navrathri’ is supposed to represent the cycle of creation and dissolution of the world. In line with the view, on the evening of the last day of Navrathri – known as ‘Vijayadasmi’ – the dolls are made to lie down or ‘sleep’ – which symbolises the end of the cycle.