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No Entry For Obstacles

And that’s what the deity Ganesha is all about.  He is the remover of obstacles, which is why all prayer beings with an invocation to him. Yesterday we celebrated “Ganesh Chaturthi” where we wished the Lord Ganesha a very happy birthday. Personally, this is a festival very close to my heart (and not just for the yummy menu of the day). On this day, which is a public holiday, we have a special puja at home. We make a clay model of the deity, which is then immersed in water on day 11 after the puja. This makes me sad, but tradition can be so …um…you know what I mean!
Vidya Sury Ganesha
This Ganesha – made of black stone is the one in my prayer room. See the garland? Special for Ganesha.
The day was just perfect yesterday, you know – and I’ll tell you why. You see, every Hindu festival is unique for its menu for the day. Ganesh Chaturthi is no exception. We get fruits, flowers and all the other things associated with this festival. At home, we make a special dish called “modaks” or “kozhakkattai” as we Tamilians call it. 
As simple as it sounds (I mean the recipe – not the pronunciation) – this dish can turn out great or pathetic. It is all in the way we prepare the rice flour outer covering. It has to be just right. Even if it looks just right when the little cups made from the dough are filled with the jaggery+coconut mix and placed in the pressure cooker to steam, after it is done, when you open the pressure cooker expecting picture perfect dumplings, you could very well be faced with the horrifying sight of split cups with the filling all over the place. Okay, so it will still taste fine, but looks matter, no? Here’s how mine turned out: cool, no? My Mom would have been so proud. 
Vidya Sury Modhak
I must say that I am eternally grateful that so far, I’ve  never had a mess on my hands. It is like Ganesha loves me, you know? Everything turns out perfect. So: here’s the menu we enjoyed yesterday: kozhakkattais, vadas, a laddu made of roasted and ground sesame seeds, jaggery and flavored with cardamom, and the usual lunch.  Since my nephew celebrated his son’s first birthday a couple of days ago and visited yesterday, we also had the traditional laddus
Laddu
Laddus – some people love it. I am not a big fan
…..and murukku. I love murukkus – they are quite heavenly tasting and anytime snacks. My Grandmother made the most divine ones!
janmashtami-murukku
So, anyway, a great time was had by all – with special thanks to Vidur who was a big help in the kitchen. (Wait. I just had a “Mommy moment” of sentimental sniff sniffs) He also performed the puja and I wondered – when did he grow up so fast? See the little yellow cone shaped structure in the center with the thick thread around it? That’s made of turmeric powder – and the Ganesha of the day. The grass is a special type of grass auspicious for Ganesha.
Vidya Sury Puja
Sigh. It is a fact that children absorb by watching and doing all those little things – and it is the little things that matter, you know?I have a special affinity for Ganesha – and I auto-recite slokas (sanskirt prayers) whenever I am anxious. I am programmed that way. In my house, wherever you turn, you’ll see a statue, painting or rendition of Ganesha. Yes, you guessed it – I am a big fan. I have a huge collection.
Now, let me tell you the story of how Ganesha was born. There are various versions, but here’s my own favorite, in its simplest form. Gosh, I’ve embellished it in so many ways and told it to Vidur when he was little!
Once upon a time, the Goddess Parvati (Shiva’s consort) while bathing, created a handsome little child out of the sandalwood paste she was using. She loved him as her son and asked him to stand guard outside and stop anyone from entering the house, while she bathed.  Now, Shiva returned home and was surprised to be stopped by the little boy Ganesha at the gate. He was enraged that anyone would stop him and cut off Ganesha’s head, assuming he was some outsider.  (Talk about being hasty!). When Parvati came to know of this, she was upset. (naturally) To console her, Shiva ordered his disciples to bring him the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head facing north. The disciples found only an elephant in that position. And so Ganesha got the elephant’s head. 
That story makes me feel sad in parts. When Vidur was three or four years old, I used to go on and on about how Parvati made Ganesha, while massaging him with oil. There are other interesting ones. But that’s the beauty of Hindu Mythology.
Vidur has written a comprehensive post about Ganesha and you can read it here. Oh, but he does his research – and I quite enjoyed reading the post, even though I know most of it. 
Today, our country is closed. Yep. There’s a “bandh” which means “closed” – with political parties showing their objection to fuel price hike and FDI in retail (FDI = foreign direct investment). Life will come to a stand-still in major cities, like where I live.  No public transport – and this includes local and intercity. Exams which were to be held today have been rescheduled. 

I am hoping to take pictures of the “public” Ganesha celebrations tomorrow and the day after.  

Hope you’re all having a great week folks! 

What is your favorite festival?






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Cheers!

Vidya

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    Terri Sonoda
    September 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    What a lovely celebration! And the food sounds heavenly! Thanks for sharing Vidya. I have learned so much about your culture through your blog. You are such a blessing. XOXOs!

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      Thank you, Terri! 🙂 Festival times are such fun! The whole atmosphere is one of joy – even if it means hanging out in the kitchen for hours making the yummies. I hope I’ll have you over for a festival meal some day – Hugs and love to you!.

  • Reply
    Harleena Singh
    September 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Awesome pics and loved the post Vidya!

    Oh yes…how well everyone celebrates Ganesh Chathurthi this end is so well known. I remember the time we were in Bombay and how the whole city comes alive for these few days. And the final day of the immersion of Lord Ganesh there is just no place to step foot!

    Yes, those “Modaks” are always so mouth watering and so are the other things that our neighborliness used to make. Of course, it was years later I tried them out.

    I loved Vidur’s descriptive post about Lord Ganesh too and left him a comment as well 🙂

    Thanks for sharing and wishing you a belated Ganesh Chathurthi. Guess today’s bandh gives everyone a time to relax. 🙂

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks Harleena – I love Ganesh Chaturthi – has so many lovely memories for me. How I wish I had a camera those days to take pictures of our grand puja at home and the clay models all of us sculpted! 🙂 Yesterday we had the additional pleasure of extended family joining us and that made it even better.

      Mumbai’s Ganeshas – oh! I remember. I spent the first ten years of my life there and then a couple of years after I got married. I once accompanied the procession from Dadar to Chowpatti beach and remember being scared of being lost in the crowd. Great memories. I still have the black and white photo of the Ganesha I went with.

      And yes, the bandh is definitely giving us a much needed off, even though Vidur’s exam scheduled for today has been postponed to 24th Sept.

      Thanks so much for coming by and commenting – and special thanks for visiting Vidur’s blog 🙂

  • Reply
    vanita
    September 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    this is wonderful. i tell this story too, but the way i know it, when Parvati finds her son’s head is missing, she manifests into the all powerful Durga and strengthens to destroy everyone in heaven unless they save her son. Ahhh, a mother’s love, hell hath no fury like a pissed mama. 😀

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      hahaha…you’re absolutely right, Vanita – nothing like a pissed mama – nobody would dare to face that one! Hugs!

  • Reply
    Bill Dorman
    September 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Great story and thanks for sharing; after Shonali got me ‘in to’ cricket, I’m learning more and more about your culture.

    And now I’m hungry too……..

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      🙂 Cricket! Ah, we do love it. I remember, some time back, when a major series was on, we would see this banner everywhere “Sachin is our God and Cricket is our religion”.

      Shonali is very cool! You do keep good company! As for being hungry – you know you can walk in at my place anytime!

    • Reply
      Bill Dorman
      September 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      And I’ve seen Shonali twice in real life. I linked one of those meetings in my latest post. She’s fun and interesting……

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      Yes – I read that post 🙂 And loved the photo, too. I love Shonali’s blog.

    • Reply
      Bill Dorman
      September 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm

      Like you love butter chicken?

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 22, 2012 at 2:20 am

      🙂 Like I love plain yoghurt and my blogging friends, Bill. No chicken for me – I am a vegetarian. But if my friends wanted it, I’d get it from the best place in town for them 😀 (I believe I can’t live without yoghurt. I am the sort whose favorite icecream flavor is vanilla, Bill, followed by butter scotch)

  • Reply
    Zephyr
    September 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    This the kind of festivities that I love — simple and yet suffused with so much fervour and devotion. We too do the puja to the little stone pillayar in the puja since generations. I make the kozhukkattais and some vadai and appam. Of course sundal. This year I dispensed with the fried items since hot oil is not good for my eyes. I am sure Ganesha enjoyed the sweet and savoury kozhukkattais! Lovely pics, made me want to eat it all 🙂

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Zephyr, the mention of appam has me drooling – I just love it, especially the taste of the banana in it. Ganesha loves everything (through me :D)

      Hugs. I’ll make kozhukkatais for you when you visit.

  • Reply
    Elle
    September 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Vidya, you enthrall me with your stories. And as for the pics…the food looks mouthwatering. Just love your stories dearest Vidya.

    Love Elle
    xoxo

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Thank you, Elle! Huge hugs to you, and get well soon! Love you!

  • Reply
    Betsy at Zen Mama
    September 21, 2012 at 3:26 am

    Loved your story. You festivals are so amazing! I’m not sure we have anything like it here. Maybe the 4th of July…

    Thanks, once again Vidya, for making your culture come alive!! Can’t wait to see the pictures.

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      🙂 Betsy – we have so many jokes about the frequency of our festivals 🙂 I sent you an email! 😀 Hugs!

  • Reply
    Cathy | Treatment Talk
    September 21, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Thank you, VIdya for sharing this lovely tradition.

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      I am happy you liked it, Cathy! Hugs!

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    September 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I absolutely love learning about your culture. I really do.
    I hope that you have a wonderful festival and make sure you eat some of that food for me. Yes, I am giving you permission to eat for 2.

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Oh my God, Kim! I already ate for three 😛 Hugs, SO good to see you! I’ll be able to hug you for real in a few months!

  • Reply
    Priya Sreeram
    September 21, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Seasons greetings vidya. Nice post

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      September 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Thank you, Priya! Happy days to you, too!

  • Reply
    Unknown Mami
    September 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Love the mythology and that particular story makes me a bit sad too.

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      October 1, 2012 at 6:24 am

      🙂 Yes. And I’ve told it to Vidur countless times. Sigh!

  • Reply
    Galen Pearl
    September 21, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I’m telling you, and I mean this in the most respectful way, Hindus know how to worship! Worship is filled with celebration and joy and food. The Bible is full of encouragement to sing and celebrate and delight in the love of God, to “make a joyful noise to the Lord,” to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” But we Christians can be a dour group sometimes! We just don’t know how to throw a sacred party! Ha!

    Anyway, I look forward to more stories and photos. Now I’m hungry and I have to go find a snack!

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      October 1, 2012 at 6:25 am

      🙂 I say that all the time, Galen – we’re all about the enjoyment with any festival. Grand traditions and such fun. It is a social event. Love the phrase “Sacred Party”. Hugs! Thanks for your lovely comment!

  • Reply
    My Inner Chick
    September 23, 2012 at 5:22 am

    You are AMAZING. I want to come visit you…so I can soak up every. single. word.

    Xxxx

    Love you more than melted chocolate on vanilla bean ice cream.

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      October 1, 2012 at 6:40 am

      I would so love that, Kim! It is one of my favorite fantasies! I love you too!

  • Reply
    Nikky44
    October 13, 2012 at 3:26 am

    I usually love music festival on June 21st!

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      October 13, 2012 at 3:35 am

      I love music festivals too! 😀 Hugs, Nikky!

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