It is that time of the year when one sees Hyderabad and other parts of India soaked in the flavors of fanfare, joy and pomp to celebrate the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi which marks the birth of lord Ganesh. Ganesh is the patron of arts and sciences and the deity of intellect and wisdom, also known as Remover of Obstacles. The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi falls on the fourth day of the Shukla paksha (the bright moon fortnight) in the lunar month of Bhadrapad (coinciding with the English months of August/September). The festival is celebrated for about 7-10 days. On the day of the Chaturthi, i.e. the last day dedicated to the elephant-headed god, shrines are erected, firecrackers let off, and huge images of Ganesh are carried in grand procession for immersion of Ganpati, known as ‘Ganesh Visarjan’, accompanied by the sound of devotional songs and drums.
Houses are cleaned as devotees prepare to bring the Lord Ganesh into their homes and install the deity. Special prayers, devotional chanting and singing are performed for all 10 days. Fasting, feasting and distribution of sweets offered to Lord Ganesh are important aspects of Ganesh Chaturthi rituals in India. Hindus pray to images of Lord Ganesha. Praying to Lord Ganesh during the festival will bring good luck and prosperity for the family.
A period of fun filled devotion to the lovable Lord Ganesha begins with the tinkling of bells and chants of ‘Jaidev Jaidev Jai Mangal Murti, Darshan majhe man kamana purati, Jaidev Jaidev’. Lord Ganesha has always been portrayed with a sweet in his hand and his figure has been synonymous with delicious food. After the Lord ‘tastes’, the naivedya (offering) is enjoyed by his devotees.
All Indian festivals are incomplete without some really delicious sweet dish recipes. There are a variety of sweets made on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, with the most popular one being Modak. People visit Ganesha temples on this day, to perform puja and offer sweets to idols of Lord Ganesha. Ladoos and other sweets are usually kept in the house after offering them to Lord Ganesh. Visitors and neighbours share these sweets. They are offered as prasad to whoever visits the Ganesh temple The most common sweets are Besan Ke Ladoo, Motichoor Ke Ladoo, Raghavdas Laadoo, Kaju Ke Barfi, Puliyodarai, Karanji, Puran Poli, Modak, Rawa Ladoo and Moong Dal Ka Halwa. In South India, Vella Kozhakattai is the most famous dish to be prepared on this day and is one the favorite of Lord Ganesha. Kozhakattais are rice flour dumplings stuffed with a mixture of coconut, jaggery, condiments and flavors. In Tamil Nadu it is steam cooked. In a few other states this is fried.
Ganesh Chaturthi sweets are different. Lord Ganesha loves to gorge on these special delicacies. That is why, these Ganesh Chaturthi sweets can be presented to Ganpati Bappa as well. As Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival that is mainly celebrated in Maharashtra and Karnataka, most of these sweets belong to these two states. However, some Ganesh Chaturthi sweets remain common. For example, we all know that Ganesha loves ladoos and ladoo’s are more or less universal. Another important dish for Ganesh Chaturthi is modaks.
Raju is a specialist in preparing Ganesh Chaturthi sweets. He is well known as Raju bhayya. He prepares sweets with the help of the other members in the Tarnaka colony. Raju bhayya’s modaks are very famous. These include banana nachni modak, motichoor modak and chocolate modak. He also prepares bellam thalikalu, bellam kudumalu, undrallu, venna appalu, badam halwa, puliyogare, ladoo, channa usal and thalipeeth. He revealed the secret of the vinayak chathurthi recipies.
Raju bhayya prepares modaks especially on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. Modak is known as Lord Ganesha’s favorite sweet. Thus, majority of the people consider it a must to make Modak on the very first day of Ganesh Chaturthi. During the Ganesh worship ceremony, the puja always concludes with an offering of twenty-one modaks to the deity and as prasad. A modak can be of various flavours. The most popular among them being the plain one, kesari (saffron flavoured), moong dal etc. Modaks made with rice flour shell are preferred for this purpose, however, wheat shell version are also used.
Bellam Thalikalu is a classic Andhra style festival dish that is usually prepared for Vinayaka chathurthi. Thalikalu are small and thin noodles prepared with either rice flour or whole wheat flour or a mixture of rice flour, whole wheat flour and semolina. These handmade noodles are cooked in cardamom flavored jaggery syrup and garnished with nuts and roasted poppy seeds. It also goes by the name Thalikala Payasam. Another popular version is to prepare thalikalu with rice flour and simmer it in jaggery syrup. Both the varieties are tasty.
Bellam Kudumulu also called Teepi Kudumulu is a traditional Andhra sweet dish prepared for vinayaka chathurthii. Rice flour, jaggery, coconut and cardamom are cooked together to a mixture that is shaped into flattened discs and steamed. The steamed dumplings scented with cardamom have a subtle sweet flavor and are quite addictive like bellam undrallu.
Badam Halwa is a melt-in-the-mouth creamy delight prepared with almonds, sugar, milk and ghee. Venna Appalu is a favorite rice flour based sweet with a crisp exterior. Each home has their own version of preparing Appalu. . Puliyogare is a very famous vegetarian recipe from South India. It’s not only relished as a main dish, but is also served as ‘prasad’ in the South-Indian temples. Puliyogare is nothing but tamarind flavoured rice cooked up with some tasty and fragrant spices which makes this recipe an absolute delight for all. Ladoo is considered as one among the Lord Ganesha’s favorite food. The ladoo is even mentioned in the Ganesha Aarti “ladoo ka bhog lage, sant Karen seva“. Channa Usal is a tangy Indian snack and has a fair amount of spices in it. It is not just a festive dish. It is a safe dish even when you are having a casual get together at your place.
Thalipeeth or masala roti is a Maharashtrian dish made with multi grain flours. It is a complete nutritional breakfast that not only fills the stomach but is equally healthy as multi grain flours go in to the making of the roti. It is a spicy and delicious breakfast that can be eaten with or without side dish.
Raju bhayya also shares his childhood memories about Ganesh Chaturthi that are very dear to him. He used to go for shopping with his parents and buy all the pooja materials, cute clay idol of Lord Ganesha and a book narrating the story of the Lord and the significance of conducting this auspicious puja. He wake up very early and get prepared to adorn the Paalavalli with fruits and flowers and place the clay idol of Lord Ganesha below it and place his school books before the idol, along with fruits and naivedyam as its believed that the Lord would helps to do well in the studies and overcome all obstacles in life. He used to be impatient for the pooja to finish so that he could eat all the different varieties of undrallu and festive foods prepared especially for Vinayaka Chaturthi.
Raju bhayya’s four years old son, Sree Ram, is also fond of sweets. He said: “Ganpati Bappa’s favourite sweet is modak, it has to be my favourite too. I excitedly wait for Ganesh Chaturthi every year and pray to Lord Ganesha and after serving him his favourite modak, I relish on it. I really enjoy eating besan ke ladoos during Ganesh Chaturthi. It is also interesting to watch the innovative decorations during this occasion”.
Ganesh Chaturthi celebration witnesses with the preparation of lots of delicious dishes. Whichever part of the country Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated, it is done with much fan fare and each region and community has their own distinct festive delicacies to offer Lord Ganesh.