Friday, September 26, 2014

Navaratri In Mylapore: Maamis, Manjal And More!

I was in Mylapore yesterday. The neighbourhood is synonymous with tradition in Chennai. The area surrounding the ancient Kapaleeshwarar Temple is the hub of activity during the ongoing festival season. One can get a flavour of culture and tradition here amidst colours, crowd, chaos and a cacophony of street sounds.

Yesterday was the first day of Navaratri, a festival lasting nine nights and nine days culminating on Dusshera, the tenth day. These nine days are especially marked for worshipping Shakti, the divine in the female form. In Tamil Nadu and some other parts of South India, families put up a display of dolls in their homes to celebrate this festival. These dolls are arranged on odd-numbered tiers, like three, five, seven or nine. Called Golu or Kolu, these decorations are the centre of attraction in any household. Friends, family and neighbours visit to admire them. They are treated with food and small gifts.

I walked in the market for some time and was overwhelmed by the number and variety of dolls and other pooja items on sale. The street was lined with makeshift stalls selling figurines in bright colours. Packets containing chunks of dried turmeric, accompanied with the cries of manjal, manjal were selling like hot cakes. I guess it is one of the important ingredients of the festivities. Maamis--as elderly ladies are addressed in this part of the country--were busy taking their pick from the huge stock available. I took many pictures and I will let some of them do the talking here.

See how stylishly she stands with one foot forward like models do at a pageant.

Krishna stands out amongst a multitude of other deities.

The stalls are so tightly packed that it is impossible to take a picture of just one figurine. This makes for some interesting visuals. See how Shiva is peeping from behind Krishna's shoulder!

Even Gods face the space crunch in this time and age. Here, Shiva-Parvati and Ganesha are balanced on top of another Ganesha and Saibaba!

Divine Grace!

Couldn't resist taking a picture of this fragrant basket!

Reclining Ganesha!

Poised to take on the demons.

Another form of Shakti.

These miniature figures are interesting, often depicting rural life in village scenes.

Some ritual or celebration. Perhaps for an expectant mother.

Another village scene.

These fruits look quite real! Not sure what they are made of. The sellers were claiming they are not breakable.

Lord Venkateswara in all his glory.

Lord Vishnu stretched on his Ananta Shesha...right by a Honda Activa!

Beautifully decked up! Aren't their features well-defined and sharp? They look lovely indeed!

Ma Saraswati with her Veena!

Some exquisite garlands. Isn't it amazing how tightly the flowers are packed in them?

And now, a couple of parting shots with more flowers. Fascinating!



  1. Lata, excellent piece. We too have Tamilian friends celebrating the NAVRATHRI with KOLU decorations as these are called. Your description of various statues of deities is very interesting and matches the current times e.g. space constraints, lots of crowds and also deities competing with modern times. Great lucid writing as usual. Keep it up.


  2. Thank you Sunil! It was fun taking pictures and writing this post. Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  3. Beautifully written as usual Lata. Enjoyed the visuals as well as the writing. Thanks.-- Deepa

    1. Thank you Deepa. It is good to know that you enjoyed it. :-)

  4. Lata,
    The event is very nicely described with excellent pictures. Enjoyed.

  5. Beautiful post Lata...loved it

    1. Thank you Rachu for your kind words. :-)

  6. Beautiful pictures with very appropriate captions. Your article is very well writen. Enjoyed it thoroughly!

    1. Thank you Vasuda! I enjoyed taking pictures and writing the post a lot. Glad to know that you liked it too. :-)