Happy Birthday, Ganesha! (Ganesh Chaturthi)

As we know, Ganesha is one of the most beloved of Gods and seems to reside in every Hindu home regardless of sect or region and it’s his birthday today!

The festival of Ganesh Ghaturthi stretches over ten or eleven days starting today. Different sites are giving different dates for the final day, Ananta Chaturdasi, so it is either September 18th or 19th.

However, preparations have already been under way for weeks. People are busy creating new Ganesha statues from clay and on the last day of the festival, they will be carried to rivers and submerged. This symbolizes Ganesha returning home and carrying your troubles away with him.

My faux-mother-in-law is from Maharashtra where, she says, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with particular enthusiasm!

Ganesha’s Birth Story

Parvati, wife of Shiva, was preparing to take a bath when she decided she needed someone to guard the door while Shiva was away. She crafted a boy and breathed life into him, then asked him not to let anyone pass while she bathed.

Shiva came home and wanted to see his wife, but the child at the door would not let him in. Enraged, he cut off the child’s head and entered. Parvati discovered her dead son and was so distraught that Shiva brought him back to life, but he needed a new head. So Shiva used the head of a nearby elephant.

From that day on Ganesha was the son of both Parvati and Shiva.

{There is a more detailed version of the story, with some variations, and commentary on its meaning here: http://www.amritapuri.org/3714/ganesha.aum}

Ways To Celebrate

* Craft your own Ganesha. Make it environmentally friendly by using a biodegradable clay (or make your own with the recipe below). This is a wonderful festival to celebrate with children, as they can create their own Ganeshas.

* Today is the day to install these new Ganesha murtis in your home mandir. Offer pujas to Ganesha every day between September 9th and September 18th. Decorate more elaborately than usual, maybe with fresh flowers and strings of lights

* Find a nearby river or lake to take your statue to (you could also use a bucket of water, but it’s more dramatic and fun when you use a real river) for the last day. Make sure to whisper your wishes and hopes into his ear before he goes!

* Bake lots of sweets! Ganesha loves sweets, particularly modak (which, as I learned the first year I did this, is tricky to make!)

Clay Recipe

Air Hardening Modeling Clay

      (makes about 2 pounds – the recipe can be halved).
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch (cornflour)
  • 1.5 cups cold water

Baking soda and cornstarch make a smooth, pliable play clay that can be colored with everyday food coloring – or left white and painted once it hardens. When you have made your model, leave it to air dry - turning every 12 hours or so.

Place ingredients in a pan and stir until smooth. Set the pan over a medium heat and stir until boiling. Stir out any lumps and cook until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Turn out onto a plate and cover with a damp, well-wrung kitchen towel – let cool. Dust a work surface with cornstarch and knead until pliable.

- From: http://www.homeschooling-ideas.com/how-to-make-clay.html

Modak Recipe

First these special sweets are prepared and offered to god as “naivedya” and then distributed as “prasad” to family and friends.

Prepare the filling first. 

For the filling

2 cup shredded fresh coconut
1 cup jaggery or sugar
1/2 cup a mixture of unsalted pistachios and unsalted cashews.
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 a pinch of cardamom powder
To prepare the filling, mix the coconut, milk & jaggery or sugar together and cook on a medium flame. Stir continuously until they are mixed properly. If you are using sugar the mixture will start to caramelize and bubble. Add the cashews and pistachios. Cook for another minute. Lastly ad the cardamom powder. Mix well. Let it cool. Set aside. 

For the outer cover

1 cup rice flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon ghee
1/2 teaspoon salt

Boil 1 cup of water. When it has reached a steady boil, add ghee, salt and oil. Now immediately add the rice flour and stir quickly so as to remove all lumps. Cover with a lid for some time. Remove the lid & stir again & again, cover again. 

Note : The dough should be neither too sticky nor too dry. 

Now remove pan from the heat. Take off all the mixture on a flat plate. Knead it thoroughly while hot. Make a soft dough. Keep covered aside.

To make the modaks
It is best to make the modaks when the dough is slightly warm.
Grease the palms of your hands well. Take a ball of dough. Flatten the dough to form a cup shape.  Place about  3/4th teaspoon coconut filling into this cup. Dip thumb & index finger in the oil & make 5-6 small pinches side by side on the outside edges of the cup. Bring them together on top and join to form a peak. Your modak is complete. This should look like a whole garlic pod. .

Place the modak on a pre greased plate. 

Make the rest of the modaks. Place them on a pre-greased plate. Steam for about 15 minutes. Serve with ghee.

 

My homemade Ganesha and some very pathetic modak!

 

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About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.


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