Navarathri Golu (Festival of Dolls) – The Southern Indian festival 


Golu – in Tamil means courtyard.  It is an important festival in the Hindu calendar that celebrates women power.  In South India, the occasion is celebrated with a beautiful display of idols and dolls, a.k.a. “Golu“.


The festival also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil demon Mahishasura.  Special prayers are offerred to worship Goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi – the Goddesses of Courage, Wealth  & Knowledge, Fine Arts respectively. The Golu festival (celebrated as Durga Puja in Bengal) epitomizes the victory of Good over Evil.



Golu is observed over nine evenings, referred to as ‘Navarathri’ – ‘Nava’ means nine and ‘rathri’ means night. The festival commences with a Kalasha pooja on the first evening and continues for nine nights.


Kalasha, also spelled as Kalash  and kalasa (in Sankrit: kalasa literally means “pitcher or pot”), is a metal (brass, copper, silver or gold) pot. Such a pot filled with water and topped with a coronet of mango leaves and a coconut.

This combination is often used in Hindu rituals and the entire arrangement is called Purna-KalashaPurna-Kumbha or Purna-ghata.  Each of these names literally means “full or complete vessel” and the Kalasha is considered a symbol of abundance and “source of life” in the Vedas.


The highlight of the festival is to invite friends, neighbours and relatives during these Golu days.

It’s a fun way of acquainting with the neighbourhood and also an occasion to display one’s singing prowess and progress from being a bathroom singer to a living room singer! 🙂

Gujarat’s Navratri Festival, is “a circle of ecstasy” that throbs for nine nights with millions of fantastically costumed devotees swaying in a fusion of dance and devotion. A legendary and unique Folk Dance form known as ‘Garba’ is performed but in recent times this been heavily influenced by ‘Dandia Raas’ and these are performed with great splendour.



Chick peas, black eyed peas or other lentils with seasoning is offered to the deity and shared with visitors on all the Golu days.  Among Indian festivals, Navarathri is one of the longest festivals celebrated in different styles across India.  The ‘Golu‘ festival is quintessentially South Indian.

Golu Setting Code 

There is a defined code in the setting up of the steps for Golu. The number of steps be in odd numbers 3,5,7 and should not exceed nine. The code for setting the Golu is as below:

From the top, for a 9 step Golu:

1st step                   –                 Kalasham and God’s idols

2nd and 3rd steps    –                 More idols of God.  Inevitably, the eight forms of Lakshmi and the Ten Avatars of Vishnu known as Dashavataram idols representing the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu are placed.  The order of the Avatars – Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Balarama, Krishna and Kalki.

4th Step                  –                Saints, Gurus and enlightened ones

5th Step                  –                Freedom fighters, philanthropists’ and social workers

6th Step                  –                Householders, vendors, farmers and so on

7th Step                  –                Animals

8th Step                  –                Birds

9th Step                  –                Insects and crawling creatures

The above hierarchy should be followed if less than 9 steps of Golu is being put together.


The 10th Day, known as Vijaya Dasami or Dussehra

The Golu or Navarathri festival culminates on the tenth day that is known as Vijaya Dasami or Dussehra. This day is considered as a very auspicious in the Hindu calendar. The day marks several things, viz.

  • the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated as victory of Goddess Durga over demons.
  • the day also marks the victory of Lord Rama over the demon King Ravana (epic : Ramayana); to mark this occasion effigies of Ravana, Kumbakarna and Indrajit are burnt; and


  • Finally, this day also is known as ‘Ayudha Puja’ day or ‘Vishwakarma’ day.  Vishwakarma – a divine engineer and architect from the Vedic age.  As a mark of reverence, he is worshipped by the engineering and architect community besides by all professionals. Artisans, craftsmen, mechanics, smiths, welders, industrial workers, factory workers, and workers of all kinds worship Lord Vishwakarma on this day and pray for a better future, safe working conditions and above all success in their respective fields.

Vijaya Dasami day is considered to be auspicious for commencing new ventures or enrolling into new programmes of learning or for that matter taking up learning of fine arts.

The Philosophy of Navarathri

The form of the doll arrangement is to show that we place Gods, saints and great men above the ordinary human beings and other forms of life. The philosophy behind this is that if ordinary human beings nurture good thoughts and pursue good deeds to others, they will be elevated as a result of such noble thoughts and actions, thus gain saint like qualities and finally attain oneness with God.

The Prayer:


  • Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu, Matri Rupena Samsthita | Namastasyai
  • Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Samsthita | Namastasyai
  • Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu, Shanti Rupena Samsthita | Namastasyai
  • Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah


  • The goddess who is omnipresent as the personification of universal mother, Salutations to Thee
  • The goddess who is omnipresent as the embodiment of power, Salutations to Thee
  • The goddess who is omnipresent as the symbol of peace, Salutations to Thee
  • I bow to her, I bow to her, I bow to her.

Let us celebrate this Navarathri Golu, and harness the spirit of good within us and spread Peace and Harmony.



Varalakshmi Vratham is an important Puja, dedicated to Goddess Varalakshmi, performed by many women in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Varalakshmi is another form of Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and consort of Lord Maha Vishnu.  Varalakshmi is believed to be the one who grants boons (Varam).

Varalakshmi Vratham falls during Shukla Paksha of Hindu month Shravan (Aadi) and it is observed on Friday before Shravan (Aadi) Purnima.  This year (2014) Varalakshmi Viratham falls on the 8th of August.

In North Indian states Varalakshmi Puja is not as popular as those of South Indian states. Shravan Purnima is observed as Raksha Bandhan in most Indian states.


Varalakshmi Puja is performed by married women for the well-being of  their husband and the other family members.  It is believed that worshipping Goddess Varalakshmi on this day is equivalent to worshipping the Ashta-Lakshmi – all the eight Lakshmis’ namely Adi Lakshmi, Dhana Lakshmi, Dhanya Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi Santana Lakshmi, Veera Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshmi and Vidya Lakshmi.

Varalakshmi Vratham is one of the most appropriate ways to propitiate and seek blessings of the Goddess Lakshmi.

The Story

According to Skanda Purana, once Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva about a viratham that will be beneficial to women. Lord Shiva then mentioned the importance of Varalakshmi Viratham­­­­, which is most beneficial Viratham for women. To illustrate the importance of the Varalakshmi Viratham,  Lord Shiva narrated the story of Charumati.

Pleased with Charumati’s devotion to her husband and family, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and asked her to perform the Varalakshmi Viratham. She explained to her the procedures of the Viratham.

” Padmaasane Padmakare sarva lokaika poojithe
Narayana priyadevi supreethaa bhava sarvada ”

The pious Charumati invited all her neighbors, friends and relatives and performed the Varalakshmi puja as directed by Goddess Lakshmi. Soon after the puja, all the people who participated in the puja were blessed with wealth and prosperity.

Puja procedure

During this auspicious day, married women wake up early in the morning and decorate their front yards with Kolams (Rangolis). They take oil bath and prepare neivedhyam (offering) for the puja.

General Neivedhyam Items for the puja

Items Description
Salyannam Plain white cooked rice
Kruthakula Payasam Paruppu Payasam(Dal Kheer)
Mashapubam Ulundhu vadai (Urid dal vada)
Kudapubam Appam
Lattugam Pacharisi Idly
Sanagam Kondaikadalai Sundal(Chick peas sundal)
Modhagam Kozhukattai
Nalikerakandam Coconut break into half
Vazhaipazham Banana
Patharepazham Ilandhapazham (Ber)
Jambupazham Navarpazham  (Indian blackberry)
Peejapurapazham) Guava fruit
Narthapazham Orange/ sweet lime

Then all the women in the house wear new clothes and jewellery and get ready for the Puja.  A Varalakshmi silver pendant is required for performing the puja.

Preparation for the Puja:

The following items are required for the puja:

  1. Coconut
  2. Beetle leaf with nut
  3. 5 varieties of fruits, if not, at least banana
  4. Flowers (especially lotus petals and Ganera (Sev arali poo) are considered to be very auspicious)
  5. Neivedhyam Items ( Annam (Rice with dal and ghee), Pacharisi Idly, Kozhakattai, Payasam, Vadai)
  6. Nonbu Saradu (Holy yellow rope with a small flower tied in the middle of each rope). This nombu saradu has to be placed in Varalakshmi Amman’s Feet.
  7.  Panchapathram with water and udheerani.

Decorating Varalakshmi Amman

In a thambalam (Plate), plantain leaf (Vazhaiilai) is laid and over the leaf, put 1 cup of raw rice and spread it evenly. Keep a silver pot (Sombu) and decorate the silver pot with sandal and kumkum. The silver pot is filled with rice or water, coins, turmeric, betel leaf and a nut. Take a coconut, apply turmeric keep the coconut over the silver pot, decorate with karugumani bangles and cover the silver pot with blouse piece.


The Varalakshmi silver pendant is placed over the coconut and tied tightly to the back of the coconut to avoid falling.  Amman is decorated with different colors of flowers and gold chains.  Decorating the Amman with Cotton thread garland (Panju thiri malai) is very auspicious. A small table is decorated with thoranam (banana tree trunks) and maavalai(Mango leaves) and the kalasam (pot) is also placed.

On the morning of the Varalakshmi Vratham, the Amman is held in a thambalam and is placed on top of a clean floor that is decorated with kolam.

Songs are sung in the glory of “Varalakshmi” and then the  Amman thambalam is taken to the Puja room where a decorated table is kept  ready with thoranam and maavilai (mango leaves) on which the Amman thambalam is placed.

Perform Puja


Varalakshmi Puja stotrams are to be recited with devotion. These are available in books, CD’s or on the internet and can be used to perform the Vratham.

After the puja is done,  neivedhyam is offered which is followed by maha aarathi (deeparadhanai). Once the Neivedhyam is offered and the Aarati (Deeparathanai) has been performed,  all the women in the house including babies are tied the nombu saradu on their right hand.

Generally, the husband of the married woman ties the nombu saradu on the right hand of the wife. The elderly women will in turn tie the nonbu saradu to other unmarried girls at home.

After the saradu is tied to their right hand, everyone prays to Goddess Varalakshmi and seek her blessings.


As a conclusion to the festivities, bhajans and keertans are sung in praise of the Goddess and the Prashad is shared  with all the members at home.

In the evening, women from the neighbourhood are invited and offered tamboolam.  The women sing hymns in praise of Goddess Varalakshmi.

Varalakshmi is believed to be the one who grants boons (Varam).  It’s one of the auspicious days to seek the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi.

Vithoba Temple – The Stories of Pundalik, Namdev and Narahari

SyayambhuvithobaVithoba temple,  Pandarpur is the main centre of worship for  Vithoba, form of Vishnu or Krishna and Rukmini (Rakhumai). It is the most visited temple in Maharashtra. Vithoba or Vitthala of Pandarpur has lured many a great saints and the place stands testimony for the unparalleled devotion to the great Lord Panduranga.  On the banks of river Chandrabaga,  the Almighty Krishna, along with His Consort Rukmini, stand atop a small brick for the sake of his devotee Pundalik.

vittal-pandharpur-puja-prasadEvery divine place has devotees revel in the bliss born out of singing the Divine Names of the Lord, and Pandarpur is no exception. The Divine Name of ‘Ramakrishna Hari Vasudeva Hari’ is ever reverberating in this holy town. Devotees are delighted to see Lord Panduranga, the enchanter of the Universe, wearing the ‘Makara Kundala’ (fish shaped  ear stud) in his ears, Peethambara (clad in yellow silk), wearing exquisite ornaments, a bewitching smile playing on His lips and having the insignia of Goddess Lakshmi on His chest, His two palms on His hips, as if awaiting Abhangs and Nama Kirtans of the Saints and devotees.

Pandharpur-Photos-On-the-bank-of-River-Chandrabhaga-Pandharpur-10721-3-jpg-destreviewimages-500x375-1324603887Great Saints like Namdev,Tukkaram who had immense love for Vitthala, spent their entire life immersed in Kirtans and Bhajans.

Undeniably, Lord Vitthala is an embodiment of love and devotees offer their love profusely, seeking in return, only enhanced love for Him!

The Legend of Pundalik

The saga of Pundalik is one of the most important Mahimas (legends) about Vithoba. Pundalik is a devoted son to his parents Janudev and Satyavati, who lived in a forest called Dandirvan.

But after his wedding, Pundalik begins ill-treating his parents. Tired with their son’s misbehavior and ill-treatment, the elderly couple decide to leave for Kashi. Upon hearing his parents’ plans, Pundalik and his wife decide to join them on pilgrimage. While the youthful son and his wife ride on horseback, the frail old couple walk in bad weather and the ill-treatment continued. Every evening, when the party camps for the night, the son forces his parents to groom the horses and do other jobs.

On the way to Kashi, the group reaches the ashram (hermitage) of a pious and venerable sage, Kukkutswami. Exhausted, the family decides to spend a few days there. That night, when all were asleep, Pundalik by chance is awake and sees a remarkable vision. Just before dawn, a group of beautiful young women, dressed in soiled clothes, enter the ashram; they clean the floor, fetch water and wash the venerable sage’s clothes. After finishing their chores, they go to the prayer-room. When they reappear after prayer, their clothes are spotlessly clean. Then, they vanish as inexplicably as they had appeared. Pundalik feels a deep sense of peace witnessing the scene.

It remains on his mind the whole day and he resolves to remain awake the next night, and confirm it was not merely a dream. Pundalik is very curious and approaches the beautiful women and asks them of their details. They reply that they are the Ganga, Yamuna and other holy rivers of India. Pilgrims wish to take a dip in their holy waters to wash away their sins, and that is soiling their clothes. Then, the women say: “But O Pundalik, with your ill-treatment of your parents, you are the greatest sinner of them all!”

Pundalik is utterly shocked and his conscience transforms. He realises his misdeeds, becomes entirely devoted to his parents and ensures their comfort. Devotion in any form reaches God swiftly and impressed by Pundalik’s devotion to his parents, Lord Vishnu plans to bless and pays a visit to Pundalik’s ashram. Lord-Krishna-comes-in-search-for-Rukmini-in-Dindirvan

Vishnu knocks at Pundalik’s door, while he is busy serving his parents. Pundalik does realise that God is at his door, but such was his devotion to his parents, he wants to complete his duties and then attend the visitor. Then, Pundalik does something strange but out of real devotion. He pushes a brick outside for God to stand on and wait for him until he finishes attending to his parents. Vithoba_Pundalik

Seeing this act, Vishnu is extremely pleased and the ever-loving God waits for his devotee.

When Pundalik comes out,  he begs for pardon from the Lord but far from being displeased, Vishnu is overtaken by Pundalik’s love for his parents and grants him a boon. Pundalik requests Vishnu to stay back on Earth and bless all his devotees.

The Lord agrees to take the form of Vithoba, or God who stood upon a brick, and a temple was built there. Along with Vithoba, Rakhumai (Rukmini, the consort of Krishna) is also worshipped here.  

The Story of Namdev Chi Payari (Step of Namdev)

namdevAn interesting tale is that of the temple’s first step called “Namdev Chi Payari” (step of Namdev). The child and future saint, Namdev was an ardent devotee of Vithoba. One day his mother asks him to complete the ritual of “naivedya” (food made in the house is first offered to God, the ritual comprises placing the offering plate before the deity and sprinkling water around the plate and with a prayer to God).

Namdev faithfully does “naivedya” and waits for God to appear and take the offering. But he is disheartened. He keeps praying and requests God to come in person and accept the offering. With no answer, the child starts banging his head at the feet of God.

Seeing this utmost devotion and innocence of a child, God appears, eats the offering and blesses Namdev.  Namdev asks for being present as the “first step” at His temple, so that his innumerable devotees will touch him before having the “darshan” of the Lord. So, this first step is called “Namdev Chi Payari”.

The significance of Ashadi Ekadashi – Dindi Yatra

Ashadi Ekadasi is a religious procession and is celebrated during the months of June- July (Aashaadh Shukla paksha). It consists of a beautifully decorated Palkhi (Palanquin) having the “padukas” (feet) of the Lord and the Palkhi procession consists of people collectively walking, singing and dancing the glory of the Lord in what are called as ‘Dindis’. This custom of taking out a holy procession is said to have started in 1810.

Tradition has it that two of the greatest devotees of Lord, Sant Jnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram had set out on a pilgrimage to Lord Vitthala from their respective places and reached the Divine Abode in fifteen days time on the auspicious day of Ashadi Ekadasi. Following this set tradition by these great souls, even after their merger with the Divine, devotees from different parts of the country set out for Pandarpur, wearing basil beads and singing His glory on a pilgrimage to reach on this auspicious day to have Divine Darshan. This pilgrimage is traditionally called Dindi Yatra.

pandarpurUpon reaching Pandarpur on Ashadi, these devotees take a holy dip in the sacred River Chandrabhaga before proceeding for the Darshan of Lord Vitthala.

The Palkhi procession has remained unbroken since it began despite wars, famines and floods. More than Fifty Palkhis of saints assemble at Pandarpur every year.

The ‘Bhakti Marg’ (the path of devotion) as propounded by Sant Jnyaneshwar, teaches us to forget the physical self in pursuit of the Lord. When the Varkaris(farmers from the region) sing and dance during the pilgrimage, they forget the material world around them. A dip in the holy river Chandrabhaga on whose banks Pandarpur resides, is believed to have power to wash all sins.  All the devotees are allowed to touch the feet of the idol of Vithoba. In May 2014, the temple has begun to invite women and people from backward classes as priests.

Along with the Dindi procession, Seva to the poor and needy is done reflecting that Lord is in all forms. This is called ‘Seva Dindi’. Participation in Ashadi Dindi and Seva Dindi helps an individual in many ways by bringing good health, peace and prosperity in his life.

Chanting the continuous glory of the God in the Ashadi Dindi procession and Seva Dindi purifies an individual, an inner cleansing that takes place in Mind, Body and Spirit and the participants tend to lose their individual identities and experience bliss. It develops all aspects of human personality and helps us understand the true purpose of Life.  

The Story of Narahari

Once, there lived in Pandarpur, a devotee of Lord Shiva by the name Narahari. He was a goldsmith, a craft man par excellence. He was known for his skill and craftsmanship in the art of jewel-making and renowned for his wonderful ornaments. Though he lived in Pandarpur, he never had the darshan of Panduranga.

He was such a staunch and ardent devotee of Lord Shiva that the glorious form of Lord Vittal did not fancy him at all. He would never listen to Vitthala Nama Kirtan and would shut his ears if a group of Saints engaged in Namakirtan ever passed by his shop. He would never allow anybody to sing the praises of Vitthala in his presence and would try to surpass them by his lectures on Lord Shiva. He used to visit a small shrine of Lord Shiva situated on the banks of Chandrabaga and offered his worship. He always envied the popularity of Lord Vitthal who had a huge crowd of devotees not only from Pandarpur but also from other parts of the country.

The Lord had his own plan of drawing Narahari closer to His lotus feet and making him His ardent devotee!

Once, a wealthy devotee desired to make an expensive girdle of gold studded with precious stones and gems for Lord Panduranga. He approached Narahari and expressed his desire assuring that he would adequately reward him for his befitting skill and craftsmanship. No sooner did he hear that the girdle was for Lord Vitthal than Narahari turned down his request. He said that he would never in his life make an ornament for anyone other than Lord Shiva.

The rich man argued that this was just a business deal and a business man should never allow his prejudices to intrude on his business. He further asserted that Narahari would be paid sufficiently just as any of his business deals and this would no way shatter his ideals. Narahari reluctantly accepted the deal but was very firm that he will execute based on the specifications given. As Narahari was very firm in not entering the temple premises of Vittal, he wanted the rich man to bring the measurement of the waist of Lord Panduranga. The rich man went to the temple with great joy and had the priests of the temple measure the waist size of the Lord and came back to Narahari with exact measurement.

Narahari made an excellent ornament studded with precious stones and gems of the same size and gave it to his wealthy customer on the promised day. The wealthy man had arranged for a grand pooja on that day and took the girdle to the temple in a big procession. Sadly, the girdle measured bigger and it slipped out of the waist of the Lord when offered! Crestfallen, the gentleman immediately rushed to Narahari’s shop. Explaining that it measured bigger, he requested Narahari to alter it to the exact size of the idol of Panduranga.

Though Narahari protested that this was exactly to the measurements provided, he immediately made the necessary adjustments. But when this was offered to Vittala, the girdle seemed small and it would not fit! The devotee rushed to Narahari. All attempts of Narahari to make the girdle fit Lord Panduranga proved futile. The devotee felt frustrated and was at his wit’s end. Narahari, who took great pride in his workmanship, was left flabberfgasted by the whole incident.

The rich man forces Narahari to visit the Temple and take the measurement himself.  Narahari was forced to accept this idea; but he placed a condition that he would not look at the Lord Panduranga and insisted that he should be carried inside blindfolded. Narahari was carried into the Temple Sanctum Sanctorum. Narahari had never, even in his wildest dreams, ever imagined entering the Vithoba Temple.

Though he entered the Temple with an air of indifference, the Lord of the Universe was highly pleased to see Narahari enter His Sanctum. Blindfolded, Narahari entered the sanctum and set to measure the Lord’s waist. When he touched the deity and started to feel it, he felt matted hair, the moon and also the third eye on the Lord’s forehead, snake in His neck and the trident in His hand! Narahari was startled. ‘How could it be Lord Shiva?, he thought and touched again. narahari-sonar2Overwhelmed with joy he cried out, ‘Oh! this is My dear Lord – Lord Shiva!” and immediately removed the cloth that blinded his eyes.

But he was dumbfounded to see the lotus eyed Panduranga standing along with His Consort Rukmini! Narahari was dumbfounded by the divine sport of the Lord.

He realised the truth that there was no difference between Lord Vittala and Lord Shiva. He at once fell at the feet of Panduranga.

He then took the measurement of the waist of the Lord and this time the ornament fit the Lord perfectly.

Adi Sankara, in one of his verses, says that Lord Panduranga is none other than the Nirguna Brahman (the formless Brahman) which has assumed a beautiful form by it’s sheer mercy upon the mankind and hence worshipping him would tantamount to the worship of all the other deities.

Narahari’s story stands as an illustration to this.  Both the Panchaksharam and the Ashtaksharam leads to HIM!

Om Nama Shivaya! Om Namo Narayanaaya!

Finite and the Infinite – A poem by Divya Anand


Flying high on top of the world,

Swelled with vanity and feeling proud,

Sings the colourful, bright kite  in beguile happiness,

Forgetting the subtle, string of life holding it rigid,

Down comes the strong wind of premonition,

Giving it a tight jerk in upbraid,

And  SNAP!! The string breaks as a reprimand…

The kite cries resentfully, deeply abashed,

Its tinkered colours of paper torn apart in the bushes of time caught,

The string laughing in mirth at the kite’s hard lesson,

Settles down on the cosy green garden of bliss beneath!



Flying high in this world of material riches,

Soaked in gushing spring of inferno and ego,

Dances this adorned body, mind and intellect in elusive happiness,

Oblivious of the subtle hand of GOD holding it behind,

Down comes the coerce typhoon of time, experiences and laws of Nature,

Giving it a fatal blow of pain and chastisement..

The vanquished body, mind and  intellect mourns in ignominy,

Its illusioned notions of  “I” ripped apart in the wheels of Karma caught,

God smiling ever sweetly at Man’s capitulation,

Blesses him with HIS grace abundant to lift him in the knowledge of the Infinite!!

At His feet,
Divya Anand