Let's start with the main display; the steps are always an odd number, 3,5, 7, I guess the days of 9-step Kolus are gone,except in the homes of large joint families!)
On the floor is the "rangoli" done with coloured powder, flanked by silver lamps on both sides.
The first step contains a tableau of Kailasa, the abode of Shiva; the whole family, Shiva, Parvati, Karthik and Ganesha, are there.
The second step tickled me mightily. It contains the ten avatars of Vishnu, but flanking those are: a Ganesha in a suit...and a figure of Winston Churchill, complete with cigar (to the left as you face the kolu.)
The third step has dolls of Karthik, and Krishna flanking various others.
The fourth step has, amongst the other dolls, the "kalasham" (pot filled with rice and other auspicious stuff, and surmounted by a coconut set amongst mango leaves) that many people install and worship, all the nine days.
On the top step are various forms of the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, the wife of Vishnu.
To the right of the main kolu is a tableau that includes a zoo, but what really caught my eye was the new tableau of...Mahabalipuram! Hema apparently bought the set along with the painted backdrop of the sea; please note the camera-toting tourist in front of Arjuna's Penance!
There is also a small navagraha (nine planets) temple at the left-hand corner of the picture.
To the right of the Kolu is this wedding scene:
The bride and groom, wearing garlands, sit before the sacred fire with the priest; other guests are approaching with the nAgaswaram and thavil players.
On the ground under the wedding scene are two more tableaus:
One is, of course, a cricket match, cricket being the unifying religion of India!
The other one is "garuda sEvai", the procession of Vishnu and Lakshmi astride his vehicle,Garuda (the brahminy kite, we think!) You can see the palanquin bearers, the decorative umbrellas, the devotees and the musicians in the procession.
Outside her home, at the front door, and at the gate, are these two beautiful kOlams done by her housemaid:
Guests (usually ladies, but men do join in sometimes) get to eat some sweets and savouries (including that Navaratri speciality, sundal, a different one made every day!) and take home vetthalai-pakku, that is, betel leaves, areca nut, some fruits and a coconut, with vermilion and turmeric.
Happy Navaratri/Saraswathi Puja/Durga Puja/Dusshera to you!