Tuesday, September 10, 2013

a different start to ganesh chaturthi

Unlike every year, this year the ganesh chaturthi started differently. And there is more than one reason behind it.

But for those who are unaware about this festival, it takes place to celebrate lord ganesh’s (son of shiv and parvati) birthday. It lasts for ten days. The celebration includes setting up new idols, street processions and finally immersion of the idols. It is quite popular in the states of Maharashtra and Goa in the south-west, Orissa in the east and Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh down south.

Coming back to the reasons behind the difference in celebration this year, firstly, unlike my family before marriage, my new family does not set up a new ganesh idol in the house around this time of the year. Though they are followers of arya samaj (which believes more in Vedas, and the elements of earth) they are quite supportive of my beliefs in worshipping idols. So if not a new idol, on my special request, my mother-in-law got me two different kinds of modaks (an Indian sweet) and flowers to offer to the already resting ganesh idol in the cute little temple of our house.

After coming back from work, I gathered everyone. I placed the flowers in the temple and lighting the agarbatti (scented sticks), sang a Punjabi bhajan (devotional song) for lord ganesha finishing the religious ritual by offering modaks (this will continue for another ten days).

Once we were done, we had to head to my father-in-law’s very close friend’s place (the second reason for the celebration being different).

My father-in-law’s friend (I will refer to him as uncle in the remaining post) is a simple, down to earth maharashtrian man. Like I earlier mentioned that ganesh chaturthi is very popular in the state of Maharashtra, hence the festival is celebrated with great zeal in their family. My father-in-law is like family to him and therefore every year, my new family follows the tradition of going to their place on the first day of the festival to participate in the religious ritual held in the evening.

I had heard a lot from my husband about the celebration at uncle’s place while we were in the courtship period, but it was yesterday when I got the chance to witness it. We reached uncle’s place and I was surprised to see a room vacated and decorated specially to set up the new ganesh idol. The idol was beautifully hand painted with intricate details being taken care of. It was sitting in a corner of the room against a festive red and gold background, well lit with strings of lights. Looking at my amazed glittering eyes, my uncle’s wife informed me that after two days an idol of mahalaxmi (hindu goddess of wealth) will also be set up in the other corner of the room.
ganesh idol set up in a corner of the room

In no time the gathering got bigger, with uncle’s extended family joining in. Uncle then changed into a saffron coloured dhoti (lowers) to perform the ritual. Everyone sang together. It was a Marathi devotional song. I tried singing along while my family added background music by clapping religiously. Then came my turn (when you are slightly better than a bathroom singer you are asked to sing in almost every family gathering *eyes rolling*). I contributed towards the celebration by singing two Punjabi devotional songs while everyone else clapped and repeated a few lines with me. It was not the most harmonious group song yet it sounded sweet. The feeling it brought to the place was divine and pure. 
this is the only picture of the ritual that i could take standing towards the end

It made me realize that one’s cultural background does not matter as long as people share the same feelings and sentiments towards god. Present in that one room we forgot that uncle comes from a maharashtrian family and we are punjabi.

After the spread of sweets were offered to lord ganesh, it was distributed amongst everyone. It was then that I got to taste the real homemade maharashtrian modak.

The modak looked quite different from the ones we get from the sweet shops in the north. The ones available at the sweet shops taste more like laddus and pedas (Indian sweets), which have been given a different shape to look like modaks
modaks commonly available in the sweet shops in northern india (image source:google)

However the maharashtrian modak is like a fried momo, and tastes somewhat like a gujiya(another Indian sweet). It was crunchy from the outside (outer layer made from a dough of all purpose flour, clarified butter, ground sugar and water) and had a sweet filling comprising of sugar(many use jaggery too), coconut, ghee (clarified butter) and ground dry fruits. I took a bite and saved the remaining for dessert after dinner. 

fried maharashtrian modak (image source:google)

The dinner was simple and delicious. There were white chole (grams), bhindi (okra), rice and roti (Indian flat bread) with loads of love and family bonding on the side. I quickly finished dinner and then enjoyed every bite of the modak. I enjoyed it so much that I forgot taking a picture.

With happy and full bellies, we started our drive back home promising uncle and his family to visit them on Thursday, the 12th of September for the mahalakshmi ritual which too is celebrated with great enthusiasm. I am looking forward to experiencing the new culture.

P.S.: also looking forward to trying all that homemade yummy maharashtrian cuisine on Thursday. (Confession: I am a BIG foodie).

1 comment:

  1. Add to the d├ęcor of your home in the best ever manner with the aid of hand painted Ganesha. Refer to the internet to find the latest info about the idols and figurines.