Bommai Kolu (dolls display) celebrated in Tamil Nadu is yet another aspect of Navratri celebrations forming an integral part of the festival.
What is Bommai Kolu?
The term Bommai in Tamil means 'Doll' and the term 'Kolu' means 'giving audience in a royal court', now come to be understood as simply giving audience. Bommai Kolu is a display of dolls made out of clay or wood on a series of steps. It is basically the depiction of aspects and culture associated with Hinduism. It is customary to observe it for all the nine days of Navratri. An aspect of celebration for women and children, the artistic abilities of the homemaker is portrayed through the arrangement of dolls. The dolls that are preserved in the attic is brought down for Bommai Kolu dolls display. It is also an interesting fact to note that in the olden days, the bride was gifted with a box of dolls to her new home at the time of her marriage to continue with the tradition. To brief up, Navratri dolls fall under the category of
It is a social get together with invitations extended to friends and neighbours. Invitees visit the place beautifully attired. Earlier when festivals and feasts were the only opportunities to socialise, Bommi Kolu (during Navratri) served as one of the best days for socialising. With arranged marriages being almost a custom in India those days, Bommai Kolu (during Navratri) served as one of the ways to engage in matchmaking. The culinary expertise of women also find an expression when they employ their best skills to impress the guests.
It is also an exciting time for children during Bommai Kolu where they are dressed as Hindu deities or other prominent figures in History.
Traditional arrangement of Bommai Kolu
The traditional arrangement during Bommai Kolu during Navratri involve nine steps for the nine divine nights. The first three sets of steps are reserved for (dolls display) of Gods and Goddesses. (dolls display) Dolls of Gurus and saints occupy the second three set of steps. On the last three steps are displayed dolls representing the Hindu tradition and lifestyle like marriage, temples, farming, traditional women etc. Dolls display of animals, birds and other species also find place in the last three steps.
Apart from Navratri Bommai Kolu being a social event, it also conveys a spiritual thought. It represents the the essence of creation in the display of dolls. The world in itself is a creation of Mahamaya or Devi, the creative aspect of the Supreme truth. It thus showcases creation from Gods to humans, animal species to inanimate things. It conveys the truth about the presence of a source from which creation emerges. The dolls represent the fact that when forms and figures vary the essence or the inherent material remains the same. Navratri Bommai Kolu thus conveys the purpose of creation and existence and truth of spiritual oneness.
Let us thus observe Navratri Bommai Kolu, understanding the spirit of it.