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!
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” in Tamil.
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? Mine turned out: cool. My Mom would have been so proud.
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
…..and murukku. I love murukkus – they are quite heavenly tasting and anytime snacks. My Grandmother made the most divine ones!
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? He made the traditional little turmeric cone-shaped structure in the center with the thick thread around it. The puja is done with a special type of grass auspicious for Ganesha.
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.
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?