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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Navaratri 2009 - Day 3

The third day of navaratri coincided with Id, giving us an extra holiday. Samhith’s exams starting on Tuesday meant that we were expected to use the holiday to catch up on studies, but we threw everything to the wind and spent the day at Thane, visiting my mom and Shankar’s aunt. Both keep beautiful golus and are extremely enthusiastic about the arrangements. Here are a few photos…..

First, at my mom’s place, here is the main golu…..

Look at the variety of marapachis on display!

This is the newest addition to their kolu- a band playing music!!!

Here are some more toys kept near the steps due to lack of space on the steps themselves….

The Krishna is beautiful, isn’t he? The Panduranga and Rakumai in front are also marapachis dressed up!

This year, they decided to have a theme based Kolu, and decided on Games, to begin with. Instead of using up the floor like I did, they have used the dining table for the other games – ancient Indian games….. there are too many of them to explain, so if you are actually interested in learning about these games and how to play them, I would refer you to the site Traditional Board Games of India which has done a great job trying to restore interest in ancient Indian board games.Here are a few of those on display....

Here is the part with the outdoor games – cricket, of course, takes pride of place,….

And here are a couple of others – gilli danda, pittu and marbles…

Finally, here is the decoration they have come up with this year……Plaits! Yes, all those are different kinds of plaits….. False hair plaited in various ways….. This again is an age-old technique fast fading into oblivion!

Moving on to Shankar’s aunt’s place, here is her Kolu, full of old and beautiful dolls. Personally, I would much prefer the old dolls to the newer ones. They are much more beautiful and detailed, unlike today’s mass produced ones, which barely resemble the gods/goddesses/scenes they are supposed to represent.

Take a closer look at some of the dolls, and you will see the work that has gone into each one of them, though they are now old and their colours are fading!

A Wedding in progress....

The rotund Chettiar with his wares.....

A vegetable seller...

Shiva and Parvati with Ganesha ans Kartikeya..

All faiths are one..... icons of all religions... from Christ to the Paramacharya, Adi Shankara to Sai Baba, and even one of Sathya Sai Baba.... This was my favourite part of this kolu...

Last, but not the least, the decoration at the temple was that of Lakshmi – Hayagriva. Hayagriva was the horse-faced form taken by Lord Vishnu to recover the Vedas from the demon of the same name and form who had stolen them. Hayagriva is said to be the lord of learning and knowledge, an equivalent to Saraswati, so to speak.

There were just too many photos to put on this blog, so here is a slideshow of all of them...


  1. This is amazing! We've never come across such detailed golus.
    Bindhu & Unny

  2. Hi nice post. I am glad that you visited our blog and used the ideas from it to make your golu different this time. Thanks for also giving the link to our blog.

    We also have a blog on dolls this blog deals with our annual exhibition of dolls which we conduct every dasara. We are currently in the thick of the exhibition. Do visit this blog as well and leave your valuable comments. Thank you.

  3. Bindu and Unny.. Thanks a lot! I just love these dolls, and since last year have started looking out for more of them to capture on camera !!!

    Raghu : THanks... your blog is great... do post more pictures...

    Chitra; THanks a lot!

  4. hey,

    Your photography is just awesome.

    Actually I also have that hobby. But there is no time.

  5. Wow.. amazing post.

    Anu, I lived in India for a very long time but was not very familiar with this tradition. I think It was last year when I saw pictures of Gulu on Laxmi’s blog!

    Once again very well written/thought out post!

  6. You have been tagged!

    Follow the link for more instructions!

  7. Programming Language FAQ : thanks a lot,,..try to indulge in your hobby at least when you take a break or are on vacation,, all of us need an interest in life...

    Sujata :: thanks a lot..... good that you are seeing so many kolus on the net now :-))

    thanks for the tag too.. shall respond asap...

  8. Programming Language FAQ : thanks a lot,,..try to indulge in your hobby at least when you take a break or are on vacation,, all of us need an interest in life...

    Sujata :: thanks a lot..... good that you are seeing so many kolus on the net now :-))

    thanks for the tag too.. shall respond asap...

  9. Just looking at all the lovely dolls and arrangements makes me wish i could come n visit them....

    Keeep posting Anu!!!

  10. btw,loved the idea of old game boards... and also the slideshow at the end with pics.. so sweet!!

    Anu- u sure have loads of patience.. here's more to that!!:)

  11. Great pictures of the different kinds of Golus! Fun to watch...!

  12. Thats a lovely set of pictures and writeup, Yes I do love the old dolls better than the new ones, the details are fantastic. I loved the shiva and parvati doll, quite unique. I like the idea of china chettiyar in comfortable sofa ;)
    The kalyana set bommai s were adorable :)

    Thats very interesting to have games displayed and false hair decoration! so creative and interesting.

  13. And the Slide show idea was good, I shd follow the same i think

  14. Hi, anu, the golu was really nice. More so ur explanation for each doll. and lastly the slide show was excellant . Raghu, Delhi


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