An Auckland based migrant family has taken its love for the unique regional festival from India’s southern part, which involves a display of beautiful dolls and figurines in a set pattern – Bommai Golu – by opening doors of their home for the general public last week.
Community members Ram Govind and his wife Yogi B hosted an exhibition of human figurines and idols of gods and goddesses as a part of the famous South Indian tradition ‘Bommai Golu’ during the festive nine days of Navratri.
About six years ago the Kiwi-Indian couple based in Epsom started the tradition of celebrating ‘Bommai Golu’ – a festival popular in some rural communities in South India, and since then have become passionate to take the festival out of the confines of private space within their homes to possibly attract more public attention.
In this festival, which is celebrated along with the widely popular festival of Navratri – where nine different goddesses are worshipped in nine successive auspicious nights, several dolls and human figurines created by rural artisans are colourfully decorated in thematic set patterns as per a legend from a Hindu text to court life, weddings, everyday scenes, miniature kitchen utensils, anything a little girl would have played with.
The festival which has many regional variant names such as Kolu, Gombe Habba, Bommai Kolu or Bommala Koluvu has a significant connection with the agricultural and handicrafts professions in rural India and offers the opportunity for socialisation.
Pursuing the passion for celebrating this festival from deep rural south Indian communities to their new home in the Pacific region the husband wife duo have been trying to generate attention from their immediate neighbourhood in Epsom and friends and work colleagues.
“Every year, my husband and I would prepare for this festival, create a theme, add new characters and idols to the display, draw, decorate and invite friends and colleagues, mostly non-Indians to view the exhibit and give a few anecdotes about the festival, religion and the significances of this practice,” Yogi B, a marketing person by profession and passionate silversmith making jewelleries and lead in this project told The Indian Weekender.
Elaborating more on the thematic pattern of dolls and figurines during this festival Yogi B said, “As per tradition, the steps have to be in odd numbers with the top-most step displaying figurines of gods and goddesses such as Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Ram and goddess Sita and the bottom step with traders, devotees, and everyday human beings.”
Ms Yogi adds that the couple brought all the idols from India, some in one go and a few over the years, and had to pay dearly to NZ Customs for the clay and cement made figurines importing into the country.
Ms Yogi and family hosted four evenings of visits from their friends, colleagues from the workplace and parents from the children’s school to see the ‘Bommai Golu’ display.
“We hosted approximately 60 guests this year who were mesmerised by the sheer colours and the display of dolls, and they also take back a small gift as a token of appreciation in the form of Thamboolam which consist of colourful bangles, bindis and few more traditional values.
“We have shared our culture with lots of Kiwis and taken them through an evening of storytelling and narrations followed by some divine music on tabla played by our children and a wholesome saatvik dinner,” Ms Yogi added.
Expressing satisfaction on their efforts to celebrate such smaller festivals Mr Govind said, “We have moved to New Zealand ten years ago and since then had kept the traditions of Hindu festivals alive within our family by observing the small and big festivals every year.”
“It gives us immense satisfaction to open our doors for family friends and members of the public to come and enjoy our beautiful culture,” Mr Govind said.
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