While the Central Government is going to celebrate the birth centenary of musician Dr MS Subbulakshmi with Rs 100 coins that bear her portrait, Navratri is giving some Indians a more festive way to celebrate the woman who filled their childhood with her music.
40-year-old Kamakshy Ram, who has lived in Dubai for the last 17 years, has based her golu on the idol who introduced her to the world of music.
"I read that it was her birth centenary and it immediately struck me that I should base my Navratri theme this year on her. It was not pre-planned," she says. "Not a day has gone by in my childhood in Palakkad where I did not wake up to her songs. This was my chance to educate everyone around me about her as well," she adds excitedly.
In her apartment at Alqusais, Kamakshy has prepared an elaborate display that celebrates MS Subbulakshmi and the songs she is so well known for. The display starts off with circular 'golu steps' with pictures of the singer decorating the last step. The colour blue was chosen, she explains, as the 'MS blue' sarees are as famous as the legend herself.
On a table next to this display, were carefully cut out pictures and write-ups about the some of the singer's most famous renditions including – Hanuman Chalisa, Kurai Onrum Illai and the Vishnu Sahasranamam.
"MS Subbulakshmi is known across the world but somehow she seems to be contained to the south Indian community," says Kamakshy. "Dubai is a place that hosts a multitude of cultures and I wanted everyone here to understand her music as well. I've been playing her songs whenever guests arrive and they can't help but appreciate it, even if the language is not common to all of us. It is just simply divine," she adds.
To Kamakshy, Navaratri is a festival that signifies women empowerment, since it is a celebration of goddesses for nine days. And displaying MS Subbulakshmi along with these deities, she believes, is a way for her to pay tribute to a woman who dominated the Carnatic music sphere for decades.
While Navratri golus still mostly stay within traditional religious and mythological themes, many people have begun to innovate with the dolls on display. This year, Jayalalithaa and APJ Abdul Kalam dolls have grown vastly popular. Some golu arrangements have also begun to celebrateIndian sports heroes or army soldiers alongside the traditional idols.