From Mylapore to Madurai

The Mylapore Trio (S. Surendranath, S. Aparna and S. Amarnath) and Sugathan. Photo: R. Ashok   | Photo Credit: R_ASHOK

The abode of Madurai’s reigning deity, the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple is all decked up now for one of the most important festivals, the Navaratri. And people waiting in the queue to enter the premises are asking if the grand Golu – the hallmark of the celebration -- inside the temple prakaram is as elaborate and fascinating as the previous years.

It is not without a reason that The Mylapore Trio is back in town for the fifth consecutive year with its range of old and new dolls, a new theme and a host of designs and tales. People can’t wait to catch a glimpse because it is the team of three siblings, S.Amarnath, a history professor, S.Surendranath, art director with an ad agency and S.Aparna, a chartered accountant that combines its skills, efforts, knowledge, values and upbringing to make their Golu arrangement a legend. The way they seat the pantheon of gods and goddesses and thread a story not only brings back the colours of nostalgia but also takes the buzz to a whole new level.

As the foster children of philanthropist couple from Mylapore, Chennai, the late Sumukhi and Rajasekharan, the three were brought up in an orthodox household. The five-room Golu at their house, a 70-year-old legacy is immensely popular and is visited by thousands every year. Aparna calls it a ‘Housefull Golu’. “We have a personal collection of over 1000 dolls at home, some of them are antique and nearly a century-old. Every year, we take up a theme and design the entire display on it,” she says.

The trio has now adopted a young classical dancer, Sugathan, the youngest member of the team who feels it is beyond his dreams to be here setting up the dolls with such reverence.

Literally on the Dasami day every year, the Mylapore team starts thinking about the next year’s theme. With limited doll makers and skills available, the ideas are conceptualised and the list of items needed are drawn up at least three to four months ahead of Navaratri, they say.

The idea of thematic Golu started when a small girl visited the Golu at their Mylapore House a few years ago and was intrigued by the Dasavatharam dolls.

“After observing the display for some time, she, however, ended up asking, ‘Where is Kamalhassan?” recalls S. Amarnath, “That is when we realised our younger generation is drifting away from our culture and heritage and felt Golu would be an excellent way to teach value education to children,” he says.

The team says they stick together not just because they are siblings but because they are like-minded individuals. To each of them, Golu is a hobby, an artistic indulgence and a soul satisfying experience.

They have the distinction of setting up eye-catching Golus at some of the biggest Temples in the State, including the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore, Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane and Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam.

The Meenakshi Temple authorities acknowledge that ever since the trio has taken up the task of setting up the Golu, the number of visitors to the Temple during Navaratri has swelled. Last year, more than 5,00,000 people walked in and this year they expect more.

Ask them what is so special about their arrangement, and they are at a loss for words. In simple words they explain they write down the concept first describing it like a story, make story boards, sketch them out and once the illustrations look good, they are given for printing on flex boards. The arrangement of dolls is based on the stories they know, have read, heard and learnt about in religious texts. It is their utmost devotion that makes things fall into place and their Golus earn such respect and applaud.

The Mylapore Trio does the Golu as a service and does not charge any money. The temples provide the fund for the purchase of dolls and making of sets and other decorations.

“Sometimes when the temple does not have the specific dolls to suit the theme, we bring the dolls from our own collection,” says Amarnath.

But we never say these are our dolls. They belong to the deity. For instance, in Madurai, Goddess Meenakshi is making us execute the work to the liking of all, adds Surendra.

It is important to link every element of the decoration to the overall theme with an understanding of our culture and heritage and then put our heart and soul into it to make it all the more appealing, says Aparna. It is the enthusiasm, purity of passion, humility, synergy and the work in tandem that makes their Golu a scene-stealer year after year.

The Golu at Meenakshi Temple

The Golu at Meenakshi Temple this year is themed ‘Panchabhoota Mahatmyam’. The five natural elements of Air, water, soil, sky and fire have been depicted artistically. With 16 bays that tell separate stories from mythology and over 1000 idols on display, the Golu is much bigger than the previous editions.

The decorations and display has been done at a cost of Rs.5,00,000. The dolls are sourced from Panruti, Vilachery, Kadalur and Chennai. There’s also a line up of the Temple Vahanams which are taken out during processions. The previous themes were ‘Jayamangalam Subhamangalam’, ‘Sarvam Bhaktimayam’ and ‘Shanmatham’. ‘Dasha Mahatmyam’ is the theme at Srirangam this year.

Volunteers for Golu

Every Navaratri, 75-year-old Pitchaiammal travels from Villapuram to the Meenakshi Temple and spends the entire day, lending a hand in fixing a doll or setting up a step or cleaning the corridors. “I derive ‘tripti’ out of it,” she smiles. About a dozen women, mostly homemakers belonging to the Madurai Bhakta Peravai Uzhavra Panikuzhu, volunteer for services inside the temple during the festival. From drawing kolams, smearing cow dung along the pillars and sweeping the prakarams to draping the Golu steps with silk clothes and arranging the dolls on them, they willingly take part in the preparations for the 10-day show. M. Angayarkanni, 47, says, “Living in Madurai and bearing the name of Goddess Meenakshi, I feel attached to the deity and do the service for the sake of ‘Bhakti.”

Sri Sumukhi Rajasekharan Memorial Foundation

Under the Sri Sumukhi Rajasekharan Memorial Foundation, The Mylapore Trio also conducts Golu competitions for women and Golu workshops for children to teach them how to make dolls from wax and clay and how to arrange them thematically. Set up in 2003 to promote Indian traditions, culture, history and heritage, the Foundation also conducts programmes throughout the year. These include Margazhi utsavam, Thyagaraja Aradhanai, monthly Kala Poshakams, Balar chithirai kalai vizha, vishesha kala poshakam utsav

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Who said what:

From just random exhibition of dolls, there is a huge improvement in the Golu arrangement during Navaratri celebrations at Meenakshi Temple now. The thematic presentation for the past five years by The Mylapore Trio has significantly enhanced the visual effect and aesthetic appeal and also brought in an order and discipline in the arrangement. Ever since we shifted to the theme-based Golu, it is also attracting more number of visitors, particularly youngsters, women and children. In a way we are also trying to incorporate the learning of our Puranas and Shastras through this kind of elaborate and thematic Golus – Karumuttu T Kannan, Industrialist and Thakkar of Meenaskhi Temple

Earlier when I visited Meenakshi Temple as a child, I would wait in a queue for the darshan. Now it’s my great bhagya that brings me to Madurai for the doll festival and I am right in front of the goddess all the time setting up the Golu with her blessings. It is like great punya. – S.Amarnath

We consider it an honour and blessing to be able to design the Golu at Goddess Meenakshi’s durbar. It is a meteoric rise for us and the feeling is inexplicable . -- S. Surendranath

All of us are professionals and save our leaves for Navaratri. We take month-long breaks from work just for the purpose of setting up Golus. – S. Aparna

It’s a gratifying experience to see people appreciating our efforts and when devotees get ecstatic seeing the Gods on display. – Sugathan

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 3:32:19 AM |

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