Thursday, September 10, 2020

Everything you need to know about setting up a Navaratri golu, golu dolls, DIY golu stand, kolams & more.

Navaratri is one of my favorite festivals and I always look forward to it every year. In my mother's house, there were huge golu steps that start near the ceiling and end up in the ground 10 feet from the starting point. Since it was a huge process that we couldn't manage as years went by, my mom donated it to a nearby temple. But the storage of the dolls and stands were in our house when I was growing up. Every year, a group of friends and I take those dolls from my house to the temple for the golu setup. That was one of my fond memory. After all those transporting stuff, I used to set up a mini-park with a sand base with items available from our house golu collection. There wasn't any big change in this setup every year, we do little tweaks here and there. 

After getting married and coming to the US, I totally missed celebrating this festival. While I was in the Newyork the first four years of my marriage we didn't have many friends and I was told not to accumulate stuff as we would move anytime anywhere and lugging things is not practical. Due to this statement, I was hesitating to start getting golu dolls. One year, just for the sake of getting the vibe I set it up with the polymer clay dolls that I made during that time. 

Then one year, I think 2015 I decided I wanted to keep golu and I will do in such a way I will pack all my golu things in one small carton box, which is the birth of my mini golu. Traditional, even if people can't set up a big golu, they usually set up a mini one with 5 or 6 golu dolls but personally, I wanted to do something in a unique and different way. So, I said my mother-in-law to keep all the big usual golu dolls made of earthen clay & some with plaster of Paris that my mom gave me and I started with a fresh idea of this mini golu. This mini golu is something different and I have moved 3 times with this golu without worrying about my dolls getting damaged or anything and I am happy that I decided it. 

If you wanted to follow my route of setting up a mini golu, I will share all the details of how I have been doing it. This is not a one-time thing and it definitely takes years to slowly build your golu dolls collection but for that, you need not keep holding off from setting up golu. I promise this golu is so easy to pack, worry-free, lightweight, fits in your palm, and dolls don't occupy much space if you decide to bring it from India. This golu is perfect for the apartments and also with younger kids around as you can easily set it up on the top of a table. Now let's get into the details. 

How to make golu steps from cardboard:

First and foremost to set up any type of golu, you need to make golu steps. I initially made a simple set of cardboard steps and secured it with tape, later when my friends and family started asking for a how-to I decided to make a better one and shared it in detail. Check that for a detailed explanation on how to make golu steps using cardboard

Even if you are not going by the mini-golu route, this cardboard steps will be suited well for lightweight dolls. If you are using normal golu dolls, please add one more cardboard piece in the middle with same measurements as the sides.  I definitely do not recommend making cardboard steps for heavyweight dolls. 

Procedure to keep dolls in the steps:

The number of steps always has to be in odd numbers (1,3,5,7,9). Refer here for a detailed explanation of what dolls to keep on which steps.  

Where to source small lightweight golu dolls in the USA & India:

Some of my important golu dolls are purchased in the USA.To be exact, I got the Saraswathi, Krishna & Shivan dolls from Divine Collections, 418 S Broadway, Hicksville, NY 11801 

Murugan doll(Picture later in this post) is from Flushing Ganesh temple- gift shop, New York, USA

The Ganesha with musical instruments set and Krishna Leela set are from Giri Trading, Chennai. India. 

The Ganesha on the top shelf was from my pooja room. 

I made my own kalasam the first year with polymer clay. This is how my first mini golu in 2015 was born. Since, I had very little doll collection the first time around, I did not have enough dolls for my last step, so I made a park/zoo connecting the last step to the base of the table using a Dollar tree doormat. I used animals that I got from our vacation trip from Mexico to fill the park. I used my silhouette portrait cutting machine to make a fence and a little office room for the park. 

In 2016, I added a few more to my collection. I did a little shopping in my mom's and my mother-in-law's showcase and found a few dolls. 

 I got a big Kalasam, Lord Lakshmi, four men playing instruments from my mother's showcase. 

The other dolls like lanterns, a small laughing buddha, Rama Pattabishekam, Perumal in Ananthasayanam were from my mother-in-law's Showcase.

Marapachi (Wooden dolls on the left of the fifth step) is from my wedding gift that is traditionally given to the bride from her parents during the wedding. 

The highlight of the year was I made a miniature grocery store for golu to display on the side. You can get the how-to details on the link. 

In 2017, I just kept the same golu as my son was only 3-months old and I didn't have enough time to make anything elaborate. 

In 2018, I made new steps and increased it to seven from five. This time the new addition was Kondapalli dolls. Lord Venkateswara, Hanuman in the second step, Ladies with musical instruments on the sixth step. These three were bought at Motherland Emporium, Madipakkam, Chennai, India by my aunt. The Ganesha was gifted by my aunt from the same place a few years ago.  Again, I didn't have enough dolls to fill some spaces. So, I made a few guru dolls on my own to fill the fifth step. (More details later on this post)

Except for the doll addition, All the other setup was the same as we moved to a new place. 

In 2019, The golu part was the same. I did buy a new Rama & Sita doll during the Navaratri time from Bridgewater Venkateswara temple, gift shop, New Jersey, USA. but I saved it for this year. I wanted a change from the C-mart display. So I made the C-mart as mini- farmer's market and made an elaborate display inspired by a famous song " Maadu Meikum Kanne". This was my son's favorite at that time. So I made the scene inspired by the lines of the song. 

Since making a doll inspired by the theme is not easy, I printed my favorite picture and cut the outline of it. Added the rope to Yasoda's hand to create the scene of Yasoda churning to make butter. Made the pot using polymer clay. 

For the river scene, I used water beads to mimic the Yamuna river. The sand I used is Kinetic sand.

For the Mountain, I used a pack of air-dry clay, used acrylic paint to color it. Then added moss to give the look of trees in the mountain. 

I made this tree using wire, moss, and hot glue. Then painted the tree trunk with acrylic paint. Added a swing using a popsicle stick as a base and a rope. 

This is the top view of the whole display. 

The animals I used in this display are mostly from the Dollar Tree. The black and white cow alone is from Michaels. The leaf garland string light is also from Michaels but I will add a similar one here

How to make your own golu dolls 

My easy and simple hack to fill up any space is with handmade dolls. Simply print them in the size you want, cut the outline, and add weight at the back to make it stand. 

Sri Kanchi Maha periyava and Swami Dayananda Saraswati were made from magazine cutout pasted on cardboard and glued few foam dots together on the back to make it stand. 

I came across these beautiful DIY dolls of cute gods idols from Viji's studio in a Facebook group and I have to share it here. I love how she made these dolls with an empty paint bottle and air dry clay. 

The Lord Venkateswara looks the same as the one I have which is made of wood. 

Kolams for Carpet floors:

All the apartments I lived in these past years has carpet floors, So I always made the Kolam on cardstock or use a readymade kolam display from India. 

The first year I made my Kolam using my silhouette machine. Now I use this Kolam in my Pooja shelf so I made a quick Padi kolam for the last year Golu. 

I have used a white marker and red marker on a green cardstock to make this padi kolam. Otherwise, I use a plate to make the Kolam and display it. 


I hope I have covered every detail of how I set up this mini golu, each year. Let me know if you need any more details, I will be happy to share. If any of the information was helpful to you, please share it with your family and friends and share your picture or tag us in your golu if you have followed any tips you read here. I would love to see and reshare with everyone. 

Happy golu!

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