Navaratri is the celebration of the shakti . This festival is devoted solely to the Mother Goddess. In Tamil Nadu, people set up steps and place idols on them. This is known as golu .In the evening women in neighborhood invite each other to visit their homes to view Kolu displays, they exchange gifts and sweets. These nine days are filled with special pujas, yagnas, homas, fasting, meditations and singing. Golu or Kolu is the display of dolls during Navratri in South India especially in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Kerala.
‘Marapachi’ Bommai is an important part of Kolu. During display, the wooden couple is beautifully adorned with colorful attires and jewellery. The Marapachi dolls are made of Red Sanders tree . Earlier days this is the toy given to kids as a teeth soother when they were teething . Kids are exposed to the wood which has high medicinal value. As a child I remember playing with these dolls. I used to never get tired dressing them up with clothes and beads.
The Marapachi dolls are a proud possession for many people and are handed down generations. There is also a tradition of parents gifting their married daughter Marapachi bommai so that she can start Navratri Kolu display in her house. And also it holds the monuments of the marriage occassion when there were no photos.
Pterocarpus santalinus Linn.f., commonly known as Red sanders, belongs to the family Fabaceae. It is endemic to India and considered globally endangered, with illegal harvest being a key threat. The plant is renowned for its characteristic timber of exquisite color, beauty, and superlative technical qualities. The red wood yields a natural dye santalin, which is used in coloring pharmaceutical preparations and foodstuffs. The heartwood can accumulate various elements and rare earth elements like strontium cadmium, zinc, copper and uranium having potential applications as control rods and moderators in nuclear reactors.
Medicinal values of Red Sanders:
- It has been used in inducing vomiting and treating eye diseases, mental aberrations,rheumatic pain and ulcers.
- antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, tonic, hemorrhage, dysentery, aphrodisiac, anti-hyperglycaemic and diaphoretic activities.
- A paste of the wood is used to give cooling effect, applied externally for inflammations and head-ache.
- The wood in combination with other drugs is also prescribed for snake bites and scorpion stings in traditional medicine.
It is really amazing to know how this valuable tree has been incorporated in our traditions.
But sadly indeed illegal felling and smuggling of red sanders sandalwood trees has been generating huge money for the past decade. Increased demand in the global market is the reason for its large scale smuggling.
For a detailed report on smuggling of Red Sanders click here
Image credits : Lalithamba from India (Pterocarpus santalinus L.f. (Red sanders)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.