The festival season is finally upon us. A lot of us have fond memories of Golu or Navaratri. A lot of us like the festive 9 days for the sundal and payasam. But the absence of girth in me suggests otherwise. I love the festival for a day, The Saraswathi Puja, that makes not studying compulsory. What lovely insight from our forefathers! But over the last few years, and I don’t know if this is the case only with me, interest in festivals has been on the wane. This year, however, an article that I chanced across in a Tamil vernacular rekindled a lot of interest in Golu and here it is.
Every festival in our belief has a myth around it. This one is no different. Shakthi, the feminine form of the Almighty was into a war with a number of Asuras, Chanda, Munda, Rakthabeeja and many others. Over a period of 9 days, she vanquished all of them and set order in the World. On the 10th day, she triumphed over all of them and that day is called Vijayadasami. All of us know this. Every part of India has its own version of celebrating this event. In Bengal, Kali is a girl of the house who comes back home every year during New moon during this month. At the end of 10 days, she goes back to the Mount to her husband’s place. Her vacation is over. The people send her away in Ganga, thus forming an emotional bond with the Goddess. Down here, we place Golus on odd number of steps and celebrate the festival and the end of 10 days, worship the Goddess of learning for all success in all our endeavours. This is the myth around the festival. But why do we keep Golu?
Well this year’s Golu at home offers insight.
“From Aum, the five elements came into being. The first was space. From space came air. From air came fire. From fire came water. From water came Earth” says the Rig Veda.
Life started on Earth from water. Water from the sea creates shells. Sea shells are indicative of the first life that sprang forth on Earth. Indicative of the first life, it is a custom to keep shells. Step 1 here is indicatve of that and I happened to see a couple of dolls of Dinosaurs and placed them right away. From the first life to Pre-Historic life on earth. Also on display are a number of animals, one of the dolls showing a warring pair of bulls, to carry life forward. There are a lot of stone objects, with primary looking men and women (Pignaan and marappaachi bommais) that suggest first human settlements in the stone age, with huts and initial Gods.
Step 2 indicates progress and there arose settlements and more life and civilization prospered with animals and angels around. Men also started worshiping animals as Gods, indicated by Kamadhenu.
In step 3, man is civilized and starts business and complex Gods emerge along with wisdom. But however, he also starts having fun. Or to be precise, I want to have fun. So I wonder if Krishna is looking at Radha or Meera? Either of them is fine for him, methinks.
As he gets more civilized, he delves deeper into other realms and there is more of God. Well I still want to have fun and I wonder what Krishna is whispering into the cow’s ear. The cow seems interested. Also, there is Thriuvilayadal. Shiva gives the fruit of knowledge to Ganesha and Narada looks on while it is destination Palani for Muruga. My mom is a Muruga Bhakthai and to please her and her favourite deity, I place a mango from my stock near him. He looks appeased. What’s there between Shiva and Parvathi? Kaathula poo. Also, there are high minded saints in front of the Lord and his consort.
The final step is only for the Gods. The Dashavatar with other deities.
So what started as shells and prehistoric life ended up with the Gods in Golu. So what starts as a zygote or a single cell should ultimately end up merging with the Almighty. The various stages of life from the rudimentary to the sophisticated is the insight of Golu. And this fact is indiacted even in the Dashavatar. Starting from the Fish, it develops into an amphibian Tortoise, proceeds into a wild animal in the Boar and then we see a half-human and half animal. It proceeds to the first full human being, short and primary, and then to the savage. It transforms into the first fully civilized man and goes onto the various shades of grey in him and culminates at the zenith of life. Well who’s having fun here through such an insight? Vishnu?
PS: These were random toys and Golus bought at various points in time, which seemed to tell a wonderful tale together when placed thus.