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Ganesh Chaturthi – A foodie’s perspective

Written by Shree of Shree's Blog.

A very popular festival in India, Ganesh Chaturthi is the festival celebrating Ganesha, the elephant God, who is quite a popular and well known figure. He is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The large elephant head of Ganesha is symbolic and representative of the actual elephant which is known for its intelligence and patience. He thus represents the God of wisdom and learning. This might surprise some people who are not aware of the Hindu religion or its many Gods. By having more than a thousand Gods, the deities are not seen as being rivals, they are simply different aspects or manifestations of the same to allow for different view points and backgrounds (Cross). Thus some Gods are seen in the form of a hunter, some in the form of an elephant, some represent education, the value of truthfulness, and some represent wealth.

The festival is celebrated starting the fourth day of the Bhadrapaada month of the Indian lunar calendar. This means it not during held during the same date every year per the Gregorian solar calendar. Ganesh/Ganesha/Vinayaka Chaturthi is celebrated in grand splendor in Maharashtra, Karnataka, South India and other states of India.

The festival spans ten days with the last day being the grand and final ‘visarjan’ i.e. immersion or procession day. Ganesh idols are brought to private homes and communities on the first day of the festival and prayed to, on each day. Other communities and households are invited to worship along with the hosts. One of the favorite parts of such a community based festival, is going from one place to the other, or one house to the other, offering your prayers and feasting on the various sweets. Each year every community tries to outdo itself and others nearby. The idols themselves are very impressive in their size, outfits and designs. Many such competitions are held where the best Ganesha outfit, the best design motif is awarded and recognized.

The idols are worshiped with offerings made of honey, raisins, bananas, jaggery, coconut, milk and other foods. Ganesha is bathed with lots of milk, water and turmeric or sandalwood paste.

Now the best part (for us foodies of course), the food and sweets! Ganesha is known to be a lover of food and sweets and his image is always seen as clutching a Modak in his left hand. Jaggery is palm sugar and is one of Ganesha’s favorite and is a very important ingredient in the sweets prepared. Unfortunately substituting sugar or brown sugar just does not suffice.

During the festival, kitchens and houses are filled with wafts of melting jaggery, coconut, sugar and frying vadas (lentil fritters). Households prepare for the festival by preparing such amazing sweets.

Kozhakottai - A steamed dumpling filled with jaggery, coconut and cardamom. Specially made for Ganesha Chaturthi, the steamed version is a South Indian specialty.

Modak – A fried version of kozhakottai, this is a Maharashtrian specialty.

Kheer – A sweet rice pudding which is made with milk, condensed milk, sugar and rice. Kheer or rice pudding is a dessert for all occasions. This is usually always made during any festivities including birthdays.

Medhu Vada – Fried lentil fritters made with a mix of dals (lentils), curry leaves, green chillies, black peppercorns and other spices. I love these spicy fried fritters. They are made for a lot of festive occasions.

Puran Polis – These are a sweet maida paratha (AP flour paratha), filled with jaggery and coconut. Polis are made everywhere in India and normally each state has its own variation. In Maharashtra, they are made with soaking chana dal and the end poli is had with milk. In Karnataka, they add coconut and jaggery and chana dal. In Tamil Nadu, they tend to make more of the jaggery and coconut version. Most often had as a snack or dessert during Ganesh Chaturthi, both polis and modaks are considered the prime food items made during this festival.

Please take a look at the following link where I discuss how to make the polis and have photo instructions:

Have a wonderful time celebrating this festival. Enjoy!

References & Some Useful links on Ganesh Chaturthi

Image Information - All images belong to Shree

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