6 October 2016

2016 Navaratri Kolu Display at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram

One very fascinating aspect of the Navaratri Festival, is the Kolu (Tamil = Golu) which means “Divine Presence”. This celebration incorporates the exhibition or display of dolls and figurines at home and in some cases at Ashrams and public halls. 

Below are photographs of the very elaborate, beautiful Kolu display at the ashram of Yogi Ramsuratkumar. If you are hereabouts, do visit the Kolu display, its really quite lovely. So much time and attention has been spent in creating beautiful displays of legends and leelas of Gods and Goddesses. 

Kolu figurines can be simple or very complicated and based upon Gods and Saints, depictions of the Epics and Puranas (i.e. Mahabharata, Ramayana, Krishna Leelas etc.), Demigods and National leaders, marriage occasions, musical instruments, shops, current affairs and scenes from everyday life; such as shops, bus stop, cars, street scenes etc. 

Historically Kolu had a significant connection with the agricultural economy of Ancient India. In order to encourage de-silting of irrigation canals the Kolu celebration was aimed at providing demand for clay that was needed for the celebratory dolls. It is believed that the tradition of Kolu has been in existence from the reign of the Vijayanagara kings. 

There are several sections at the Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram within the Kolu displays depicting the abodes, life and legends of various Gods and Goddesses. 

Devotees visiting the 2016 Ashram Kolu Display

Gods and Saints ranged on tiered platforms
Section dedicated to the story of Krishna

Various leelas and legends of the Krishna Avatar

All the displays have been loving and carefully created

Vishwarupa Dharsanam of the Bhagavad Gita
The Five Pancha Bootha Sthalams

From left to right the five pancha bhoota sthalams: 


Section dedicated to the Six Abodes of Lord Murugan

Lord Murugan is much beloved in these parts and in the Kolu Display there is a special section dedicated to His six abodes. 

Those six abodes are: 

Thirupparamkunram: Located on the outskirts of Madurai on a hillock where Kartikeya married Indra's daughter Deivanai. 

Tiruchendur: Located on the sea-shore near Tuticorin. The Temple commemorates the place where Murugan worshiped Lord Siva and won a decisive victory over demon Soorapadman. 

Palani:  Located south east of Coimbatore, the Temple is build on a hill top where Murugan resided after his feud with his family over a divine fruit. 

Swamimalai: Located at 5 km from Kumbakonam, the Temple is built on an artificial hill and . commemorates the incident where Lord Murugan explained the essence of "Om" to his father Lord Siva. 

Thiruthani: Located near Chennai, Murugan reclaimed his inner peace after waging a war with Asuras and married Valli here. 

Pazhamudircholai: Located on the outskirts of Madurai on a hillock with a holy stream nearby called "Nupura Gangai". 

Section dedicated to the history of Yogi Ramasuratkumar

Yogi Ramsuratkumar's Ashram

Blessed Arunachala

[Photographs courtesy of Mr. Hari Prasad]

There is so much more to see than what I have posted. As always the Navratri Kolu Display at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram has been created with great love and devotion. If you are either living at Tiruvannamalai, or visiting at this time, do please visit this wonderful and inspirational Display.

2016 Navaratri Alangarams at Tiruvannamalai

Each year Navratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. The Navratri festival or 'nine day festival' becomes a 'ten days festival' with the addition of the last day, Vijaya-dasami (day of victory) as its culmination. The 2016 nine day Festival of Navratri started on Saturday, October 1st and will complete on Sunday, October 9th, 2016. 

A legend explaining the origin of Navratri is that Adi Shankaracharya gave upadesa at two primary locations during the installation of a Sri Chakra at Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) and at Koolurmugambika (Karnataka). At the time of the installations he directed women folk to worship the Goddess and seek her blessings for wealth, prosperity and long life for their husbands and overall happiness in the family. 

This Festival is celebrated in a wide variety of ways, depending on region, local history and family influences. Some see it as a way to commune with one’s own feminine divinity. A widespread practice honours the Goddess in every woman by inviting young girls to the family's home, feeding them and offering new clothes. During the Festival, women also perform tapas and selfless acts. 

Families in Tamil Nadu traditionally prepare in their homes a kolu, an exhibition of small dolls, figurines and small artifacts on a stepped, decorated shelf. At least one murti of Shakti must be present, as well as wooden figurines of a boy and a girl together to invoke auspicious marriages. 

In South India the Goddess is worshipped in three forms. During the first three nights, Durga is revered, then Lakshmi on the fourth, fifth and sixth nights, and finally Saraswati until the ninth night. Durga ("invincible" in Sanskrit) is the epitome of strength, courage and ferocity. Her devotees approach Her, sometimes with difficult penances, for those qualities and for the protection she Bestows. 

A more gentle worship is observed for Lakshmi also called Annapurna "Giver of food," Lakshmi is the Goddess of abundance, wealth and comfort. She is the ever-giving mother, worshipped for well being and prosperity. A traditional way of invoking Her is chanting the Sri Suktam. In Her honour, food is prepared and offered to neighbours and all who visit, thus strengthening community ties. On the full moon night following Navratri, it is believed Lakshmi Herself visits each home and replenishes family wealth. 

The last three days of Navratri, exalt Saraswati, the form of Shakti personifying wisdom, arts and beauty. Her name literally means "flowing one", a reference to thoughts, words, music and the Saraswati River. Mystically Saraswati is believed to be the keeper of the powerful Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted during the festival to invoke Her supreme blessings. Devotees meditate for days on this mantra alone, as it is considered the door to divine wisdom. 

Tiruvannamalai has many beautiful Temples dedicated to the Divine Mother and the photographs of this posting are of alangarams of the Shakti Goddess during the first five days of Navratri at: Arunachaleswarar Temple, Durga Amman Temple, and Kamakshi Amman Temple. 

Parakshakthi Amman at Arunachaleswarar Temple

Aarti is offered to the Goddess

Goddess Gajalakshmi

Goddess Gajalakshmi is offered aarti

Goddess at Tiruvannamalai Shakti Temple

Goddess at Tiruvannamalai

Goddess on Kamadhenu at Durga Amman Temple

10 September 2016

Pictorial Report Ganesh Chaturthi 2016: Immersion

Many devotees use their own or local tanks and ponds for immersioin of their family statues of Lord Ganesha. But for the bigger, public statues, the major tank for immersion is at Tamari Nagar, which is located a short distance from the Big Temple. 

Previously the occasion was very thrilling with never-ending columns of gigantic Ganeshas coming down main thoroughfares in carts and carriers on their way to Tamari Nagar tank. However nowadays a new system has been introduced and groups with large Ganeshas are given a specific time to bring their statue to the Tank for immersion. 

The immersion occurred on Wednesday, September 7, 2016. 

Boys bringing their Ganesha for immersion

Larger Ganeshas need a little extra help!

Up he goes
A statue of Lord Ganesha in Tamari Nagar Tank

Tamari Nagar tank with Arunachala in background

Statues beginning to back up for immersion

Lord Ganesha ready for immersion

In He goes

Lord Anjaneya with Lord Ganesha aloft coming for immersion

Constant stream of statues going into the Tank

Immersion complete for 2016, getting ready for 2017


Important Information

Don't want to be a killjoy at such a happy celebratory time, but remember that immersion of toxic statues into our community water bodies (the most popular dunking ground in Tiruvannamalai during this season is the Tamari Nagar tank in the Housing Board) affects us all and will impair our health and our children's health. 

Think before purchasing eco-unfriendly statues in future that are destined to be immersed in a water body. To find out more about this, go to an earlier post at this link here

Pictorial Report Ganesh Chaturthi 2016: Making Clay Idols

As well as locally produced statues of Lord Ganesha made from synthetic materials, traditional clay statues of the Lord are made throughout  Tiruvannamalai. 

Devotees bring their own bench from home to carry their personaly created Lord back to their home and Puja Room. 

Craftsman creating clay Ganesha statue

Lord beginning to take form

Completed, traditionally created Lord Ganesha ready to go to Devotee's home

Craftsmen who create handmade statues of the Lord, are becoming scare and being increasing replaced by those who create God statues with moulds.

Large mounds of clay on the streets where the moulders will be working flatout for several days creating a multitude of statues for the homes of devotees

The Mould to be used creating Statues

Devotees will purchase a Lord Ganesha made in this way and take it home to their Puja Room

Preparing the Mould

Pressing the Clay into golden laid moulds

Finishing touches

Beautiful golden covered clay Ganesha

Pictorial Report Ganesh Chaturthi 2016: Darshan and Puja

Whether home-made or purchased in one of many mandapams throughout Tiruvannamalai, statues for public display are moved to specially created pandals where they are adorned and graced later in the day with a puja. 

Lord Ganesha in specially created Pandal ready for adornment

Huge number of Pandals dedicated to Lord Ganesha throughout town during the 2016 Festival

Statues of Lord Ganesha in different colours and representing various legends

Lord Anjaneya holding Lord Ganesha aloft

Some additionally decorate Lord Ganesha statues with money

Some statues are immensely elaborate

Statues beautifully on display after Lord Ganesha Puja

Statue of revered Lord Ganesha in compound of private home

Lord Ganesha from Arunachaleswarar Temple on procession around town