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!

 

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.

  • HARRY

    LOL, I see you are using a steel plate as well for your modak. It would be easier to make a Ladoos. He loved them just as well. What’s the story with the measuring tape on the floor?

    Making Indian sweets (Mithai) is an art, every time when my Mrs went to help in Mandir when they were making sweets, to learn, what old women were doing, they gave her donkey work ( clean, mix, blend, grind stuff ) but never they let her see what they were doing. The old generations of Indian women are crafty. :) But she still learned few things just by observing.

    • Ambaa

      I’ve made Gulab Jamun very successfully before. I’ve made Kheer and Barfi and Halwa. For some reason Modak is too difficult for me!

      The floor is just cluttered cause I’m not good at keep a tidy home ;)

    • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

      I had to learn to make my own mithai when I moved to Nowheresville since there were not 234098234 Indian sweet shops like there are in Dallas *cry cry*

      On a recent trip to Kolkata, I found I do not like real, actual kalakand : And that rosgollas are actually awesome if they do not come out of a can. And that gulab jamun are pretty good everywhere (but I like my secret recipe the best)

      • Ambaa

        Oooooooo…secret recipe?

        • HARRY

          Well, one thing I can say is you and Andrea both know how to make certain kind of mithais but I know lots of Indian women who can’t even cook and relies on takeaways. So that is the best plus point. :) I think some of them have became to westernised ( can’t cook won’t cook or is this unfair).

          Anyhow.

          Before I got married, my wife to be came to our house first time and my mother asked her two questions, A:- can you cook, and B:- can you drive, and to both those answers she replied YES, and the rest is history. Happy days.

          • Ambaa

            lol. Well, I can’t speak for Andrea, but I think for me a lot of what I know is because I’ve always felt like I had something to prove. I learn to do these things in order to feel more connected to Hinduism in any way that I can. :-/

          • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

            I started cooking Indian food in college. My friends taught me. It was the simplest way to get a nutritious and well-balanced meal without a lot of effort, at least that’s how I saw it! I’m still only *okay* at making nonveg and I panic when people want “American food.” I can bake, and make pasta, and biscuits and gravy, and a couple casseroles.. everything else I gotta pull the Betty Crocker out for and it makes me nervous. Indian food is more mix and match. Make 2 dals, 2 sabzis, and rice/roti and you can have lunch/dinner and leftovers for two more days without boredom :)

        • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

          Simple syrup for gulab jamun is not simply simple syrup. that is all i will say. (It’s not alcoholic don’t worry)


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