Baahubali, fitness freak, delivery agent: This Chennai woman has 3,500 Ganesha idols

Her collections spans over seven years and is now open for public display.
Baahubali, fitness freak, delivery agent: This Chennai woman has 3,500 Ganesha idols
Baahubali, fitness freak, delivery agent: This Chennai woman has 3,500 Ganesha idols
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If you thought Vinayagar Chathurthi was all about a gigantic pillaiyar (Ganesha) idol, poojas and delicious eatables, you could not be more wrong. Baahubali pillaiyar, Fitness freak pillaiyar and delivery boy pillaiyar can also be spotted at this home in Nolambur, Chennai, where more than 3,500 different kinds of Ganesha idols are kept for public display. This year, the special attraction is a theme depicting ‘Chennai water crisis’ with a sad Ganesha looking at a dry, parched pond.

The woman behind this mammoth task, Nandhini beams with pride as she starts talking about her collection of Vinayagar dolls. The passion began early on, she says.

“My parents used to celebrate all religious festivals in a very grand manner. That habit stuck on to me,” she says. Nandhini relocated to Singapore immediately after wedding and lived there for a few years. However, she missed living in India and opted to come back the first chance she got. It happened in 2011.

“I wanted my children to study here and grow up here, knowing our festivals and the colours around it. So, when an opportunity came, I relocated to India with my kids,” she says. In the same year, she set up a golu, a decorative arrangement of dolls in south Indian households during Navarathri (Dusshera) festival, in a grand manner. That kicked off a tradition, and every year Nandhini planned and pulled off a grand golu at her house in Nolambur.

The craze for Ganesha idols spiked up when she received a lot of Ganesha idols as housewarming gifts. “I got a lot of them. So, I just thought that once I collect 1008 idols, I will do a pooja for all of it and make 1008 kozhukkattai (a sweet dish) and distribute it to people living around our house,” she explains. 

In 2014, her collection completed 1008 idols and she fulfilled her wish of making sweets and distributing to guests. That was also the first time her Ganesha idol display was opened for the public to visit.

Since then she has collected over 3,500 different varieties of Ganesha idols and has also made the display a permanent one at the second floor of her house. “I am very careful of not collecting the same kind of Ganesha idols. Since beyond a point the rate of collecting became slower, I started ordering specific designs to the manufacturer and got them done,” she says.

Nandhini also picks up 30-40 new Ganesha dolls from Mumbai every year. However, this year, that did not happen due to the floods in the mega city.

“Since I couldn’t get that consignment on time, I wanted to make up for it somehow. So, I planned this water scarcity theme and got it executed,” she says. She regularly takes the help of a few art directors from Kollywood to execute her project every year. She points out that the presentation and the finishing is perfect when it is done by professionals. Her doll arrangements have also earned her prizes regularly in Golu competitions during Navarathri season every year.

These efforts, over the years, has earned her house the moniker of ‘Golu house’. “Most people know the house in this area since I have been doing this for years during Navarathri and now during Vinayagar chathurthi,” she says.  

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