The southern states of India typically celebrate the festival Navratri with the traditional “golu” – this is the display of dolls, figurines and ensembles in several tiers or “padis”. It is also customary for women to create thematic landscapes or installations: for instance, a garden, a forest or a market place. Volunteer Sheela, from Navi Mumbai, shares her experience of the golu this year:

Sheela Iyer

As I was decorating our golu padis with my mother this Navratri, my mind wandered to the original purpose of golu padis, its relevance today, whether it’s has become a blind tradition…. I thought of the conventional return gifts that we, as women, exchange when we visit each others’ homes: a tiny comb, a mirror, a couple of betel leaves, coconut and nowadays, plastic containers or dabbas, if we’re a bit more fancy. Perhaps these were the immediate needs of a woman then?

Then I thought of the initiatives by Sadhguru and volunteering. And I zeroed down on Project Green Hands (PGH) and its enormous work. What could an urbanite do for this project, I wondered? What could I do, sitting at my home in Mumbai? Then I saw a poster for the “World Environment Day” campaign. I knew instantly how we could be a part of that initiative. I also knew what would be the best return gift for all the ladies who came to our place to view the golu padis – I was going to give them each a PGH sapling.


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A brief discussion with the PGH resource person Archana enthused me so much, that I sat down to list all those people whom I must thank for whatever they have contributed in my life. The first list was ready in 10 minutes! My two nieces (just one-year-old) received the sapling with a note saying “You now have a sibling in the form of this cute, tiny sapling. With love from your athai (aunt).” I felt thrilled at having written this, especially when Archana akka told me she would be actually sending a certificate in the name of the recipient, telling us where our sapling is being planted and the name of the farmer who is growing it for us! This is like being a parent and taking responsibility, despite the distance.

The thought didn’t stop there… I went on to actually create a small miniature forest along with the golu padis, displaying the growing of trees as an immediate and tangible solution to this seemingly eternal problem of drying river beds, parched earth, soil erosion, decreasing green cover and increasingly hotter summers and untimely rain. I collected images from the Internet and set out to make a collage displaying these glaring problems. And as for solutions, why invent the wheel again? Give Isha!

Then I put together a series of other reasons:

  • A small amount of Rs 50/-per sapling would make us contribute to the lives of the farmers – to whom we also owe a great deal, as they are the ones who toil so hard to bring food to our tables.
  • Why should we think small and only do things for our immediate community or area we live in? Why should we not own up accountability for things beyond our sight?
  • Why can’t an anonymous act of generosity be experienced by the receiver?
  • Why can’t we gift something like a tree, educate others about the joy and necessity of such an act, as well as do our duty towards Mother Earth?

I bow down to Sadhguru for having initiated me and for inspiring me.