Amongst all the festivals of Maharashtra, Ganeshotsav or Ganesh Chathurthi will easily take the top spot. Everyone starts planning well in advance and with all the thinking that goes on around the decorations, the murthi, the prasad; the whole range of traditional Marathi food also comes to mind. It is the time for families and communities to welcome the elephant God to our buildings and galis and in our hearts!
Even if you are not a Maharashtrian but have spent some time in the state, you cannot escape the enthusiasm for this festival. The preparation starts with cleaning the house and finding spaces to decorate them too. Choosing the murti of Bappa is another essential factor and requires intense conversations around the dinner table or the building community hall!
Did you know that not all families bring new murtis every year? They have family heirloom statues, which they take out yearly and perform all the rituals. These statues are typically made from metal and been handed down for generations.
The music, madness, and best Maharashtrian food are planned in great detail and families and neighbors come together for a 10-day celebration in which everyone participates, forgetting their daily grind and petty quarrels.
A little history
We cannot forget the importance of visiting the Ganeshotsav pandals during these 10 days. Pandals became prominent because India's freedom fighters wanted us to build stronger communities where ideas were exchanged, and people come together in prayer and service of the larger community.
Historical records indicate that the homecoming of Lord Ganesh was initiated by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to promote culture and instill a sense of pride in us. And since then, this tradition has continued through the times of Peshwas, and it remained a familial celebration till 1892.
The Indian nationalist and social reformer Balgangadhar Tilak changed it from a family affair to a grand celebration for the collective public. He observed all strata of society revering the elephant-faced God, and he wanted to awaken the crowds at the grassroot level. He realized that a community Ganeshotsav was the best way to do so. The 10-day celebration of the Lord became a melting point of people and ideas from all walks of life. The entire community was inspired to participate in various discourses, poetry and storytelling competitions, concerts, debates, etc. At a time when the Britishers forbade political and social gatherings of any kind, the festivities became the perfect garb within which it became possible to build the spirit of nationalism which our great leaders were instilling.
Now that you know why we celebrate Ganeshotsav lets concentrate on why some items are a must when we do the first Pooja or Staphna of Lord Ganesh.
Red Hibicus Flowers
They are Ganesha's favourite flowers and signify purity, beauty, fragrance and softness. These red flowers are offered to the Lord for their radiance and beauty.
Coconut is part of every small and big Hindu ceremony, in Ganesh Pooja it signifies the presence of Shiva. The coconut also attracts blessings from heaven. When we break the coconut, it tells us the Lord will help us break through the hurdles in our lives.
This grass is a unique offering to God and is considered a symbol of prosperity. The grass is known for its regenerative properties. It signifies rebirth, renewal, fertility, and all that the Lord stands for.
Betel Nut (Supari)
Betel nut is considered a pure substance connecting us with divine entities. The offering of betel nut also tells the Lord we receive our blessings from him with love and respect.
His favourite sweets are modaks, especially Ukadiche Modak. On the first day, an offering of 21 modaks is considered auspicious. Ganesha's mother, Goddess Parvati, understood that modak is the only food that satiated Ganesh and hence asked devotees to offer modaks to Him.
Our love for the Maharashtrian Sweet called Modak
Being a food brand, our love for food is obvious, but when it comes to Modak, it grows many folds. As we all know, making Ukadiche Modak is an art and skill which needs perfection and time. The covering made from rice flour needs to be kneaded well so that the modak's cover gets that smooth outer layer and carries the filling well. The filling, which is simple yet delicious, is made from coconut, liquid jaggery and cardamon. The filling is sauteed on the stove to reduce all moisture and the soft gooey mixture is then placed inside the rice covering and steamed. Its’ the final dollop of ghee on top of the freshly steamed modak which makes it go from good to great. No wonder it is considered one of the best Maharashtrian dishes.
We at Aazol wish you a very happy Ganesh Chaturthi and pray that Bappa always showers all his blessings on you and your family.
Author: Jinal Aidasani