October has always been my favorite month of the year with a spread of joy, festivities, and happiness. This is the time when the significant festival of Navratri or Nine nights is celebrated as a prayer to the goddesses of power, knowledge, and wealth. The tenth day called as ‘Dusshera’ marks the end of the festival of Navratri. As I recall the memories of the ten days where the celebrations were galore and lights brightened up every household, I cannot, but share a fragment of the festival where simplicity met appeal. golu

During this ten-day period, there are artistic displays of dolls at houses arranged in steps of odd numbers with lowest being one step and highest being nine steps (to the nine forms of goddesses of power). The width of the steps also vary and are organized in descending order from the top.

A pre-set arrangement also defines the type of dolls one displays at each step. For example: Idols of gods form the basis of the first step at the top, followed by subsequent lower steps highlighting saints, philosophers, and social workers. This is followed by ordinary human beings, and then animals, birds and insects. The thought behind such an arrangement is that the “good deeds” that humans do will raise them to be great men, while bad deeds and evil will diminish a human from animal to birds to insects.

I visited several places to look at the displays and below are three simple but different scenarios that left a lasting impression.

Three Step Display – India (Upper Left picture) Elaborate five step display – India (Upper Right Pictures) Three Step Display – USA (Lower Middle Picture)
My aunt and uncle usually make their displays with simple novelty. The lower part had Rangoli or Rice flour patterns and decorations with flowers floating in water which spread an aroma over the entire house. The wooden planks above had small figurines of animals, food products and statues of gods and goddesses above it. A lamp lit the place, rendering a divine aura around the arrangement. Another arrangement I saw was a five step ladder with a neat display of dolls. There were many eco-friendly dolls made of Terracotta, recycled paper, cardboard, natural earth clay etc. There was an additional arrangement on the table depicting the lifestyle of people in villages with animals, and a forest. A simple orange lantern adorned the center of the room with colorful paper hangings completing the show. Traditions and cultures carried 8872 miles from Chennai, India to a house in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, reflected a simple, yet an impactful array of dolls. Same concepts applied, same rules followed with a touch of wooden carvings and handicrafts that people adore in the States. Kudos!

It made me wonder about how the roots of culture and heritage are carried on from one place to another and replicated with a passion that conveys the essence of tradition. The festive season also brings memories of the smiles of children (who are happy at school being closed), the coming together of close relatives and friends to celebrate a festival and the spread of happiness among the people that makes one wish even a stranger “Happy Dusshera!”. I can only smile and say ‘I wish another season of happiness comes soon’!

Happy Festive Season.

Blog contributed by: Rekha Chellappa, Craft Hobbyist, Chennai, India