In a country having many cultures, cuisines and over 1000 varieties of sweets, Ganesha’s love for modakam is noteworthy. A sweet dumpling made of rice floor and filled with jaggery (or molasses) is Lord Ganesha’s favourite. On “Ganesh Chaturthi” (Lord Ganesha’s Birthday) the celebration is incomplete if the deity is not served these sweet dumplings made of rice flour and coconut. It is not just an important offerings to Lord Ganesha but also serves as a reward given by him to his devotees. Lord Ganesha holds the modakam in his left hand.
There is a fascinating anecdote about how Ganesha fell in love with the modakam. Once some “Devas” went to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati with the modakam. The Devas claimed that the divine modak, when consumed by anyone, will give immense knowledge and wisdom. Parvati went to her sons, Lord Kartikeyan and Lord Ganesh. Goddess Parvati was in a fix when it came to deciding who to give it to. Hence she asked her sons to compete in a race, wherein each one had to encircle the world three times. Lord Kartikeyan (also known as Skanda) immediately mounted on his peacock (his vehicle) and began to encircle the earth but Lord Ganesha kept loitering around. Sure of his win, when Kartikeyan was encircling the earth the third time Lord Ganesha got up and went around his parents three times. When asked by his parents why he had done that Lord Ganesha answered that to him, the world meant his parents and hence he encircled them and accordingly won the race. On this display of sincerity and wisdom Lord Shiva and Lord Parvati presented their son Lord Ganesha with the modak. The modak hence represents not just Lord Ganesha’s win but also wisdom and dedication that he exhibited during the time of the race.
We also learn that a simple sweet dumpling made of rice flour holds significance in everyone’s life. Lord Ganesha’s obsession with this sweet is depicted in his idols as well. He is shown with a plateful of modaks in pictures. Legend has it that on his birthday Ganesha was devouring on the modaks made by his mother Parvati. The overeating made his belly swell. Seeing this, the moon started mocking and laughing at him. On hearing the laughter, Lord Ganesha cursed the moon saying that its beauty will never be constant. Also on Ganesha’s birthday (Ganesh Chatturthi) anyone who would look at the moon shall have bad luck for a long time. Perhaps this story is also a reminder of Indian culture’s passion for food.
The passion represents Lord Ganesha’s constant quest for wisdom. The modaka, though a sweet is believed to be divine not just by the deity but all the Hindus in general. What was given by the Devas as a gift to the Lord of wisdom is believed to be a blessing from Lord Ganesha to his devotees.
Several stories of Ganesha’s childhood and adulthood are depicted in the scriptures. These help in learning important lessons in life that may be implemented. One of the stories that goes back to the childhood of Lord Ganesha teaches us to take onus of our action and try to control them lest the actions cause harm to someone.
One day Lord Ganesha was wandering in the forest in search of an activity to amuse himself. In his childhood he was known for being naughty and impulsive. In the forest of Mount Kailasa he took his bow and arrows and decided to hunt.
While wondering what to hunt for Ganesha came across a white cat. Lord Ganesha started to pursue it and the cat made a run for his life. Ganesha had no intent to hunt the cat and just wanted to play. He thought the cat was playing along and chased it with more vigour. The cat in its escape got scratched off by the branches of the tree. When Ganesha saw the cat hiding behind a tree he shot arrows at the cat. Ganesha got hold of it and flung it to the ground. The cat got mud all over him and Ganesha’s feet were also immersed in mud. As Ganesha tended to his feet the cat made a run for his life and got lost in the woods. Ganesha was now too tired to pursue it and decided to go back to his mother.
At the doorstep he saw goddess Parvati waiting for Ganesha with a plateful of food. Lord Ganesha stopped in his tracks as he saw that Parvati had mud stains all over her and scratches oozing blood. Ganesha got upset and asked the reason behind his mother’s wounds. On being questioned Parvati asked Ganesha if he had done this to her. A perplexed Ganesha answered that he had been playing with a cat in the forest and must have hurt it in the process.
Parvati then explained it to her son that all life on earth constituted her body. As the protector of life she and her father had the onus of taking care of all life on earth. The scratches inflicted on her were because Ganesha had hurt the cat.
When Ganesha was upset and expressed remorse, Parvati explained that it is not possible not to harm anyone or anything. Sometimes we do it without the intent of harming something and sometimes we do it unknowingly. But it is possible to take onus of our actions and think hard before acting on them. It is possible to bring our mind to a state where it is aware of all the actions and cause as little harm as possible.
Ganesha thanked his mother for the lesson and promised to gain the wisdom of controlling his mind. He decided to advocate the same to his devotees and went off to nurse the cat back to its health.
Lord Ganesha has always been considered the ‘happy go lucky’ God. His ever smiling and effervescent face reflects positivity. He was happy with his elephant head and a huge pot belly which he became popular for. Although he happily accepts whatever his followers and devotees offer him, he, like we all do, has his favorite dishes. His all-time favourite food is ‘Modak’. Modak is a form of a ladoo which is made up of flour,stuffed with jaggeryand grated coconut which can either be deep fried or steamed.The steamed version is served hot with ghee and is popularly known as ‘ukdiche modak’.It is the most popular sweet during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival and is often given as the Prasad after it has been offered to the lord. Lord Ganesha’s name ‘Modakpriya’ which actually means the one who loves modaks was coined after seeing his great fondness for modaks.According to Indian tradition and mythology it is believed that the food should first be offered to God and then that particular food item becomes divine and is considered as ‘Prasad’. During Ganesh Chaturthi, devotees make different kinds of sweets and offer then to Idols of Lord Ganesha. These sweets are then distributed as Prasad among the loved ones.
These days the traditional modaks are served with a modern touch. Initially they were made at home, but with the fast paced world everything is available in ready to eat format. Some of the sweet shops in Mumbai sell sugar free modaks. The other variants that are seen include – strawberry, kesar (saffron), khajoor (dates), cashew nut, boondi. Although the traditional ones are still the most common and most popular but these new variants seem to be knocking onto the hearts of people slowly. The one variety which children seem to be completely in love with is –Chocolate Modak.
The other foods that Lord Ganesha lovedare – Boondi Ladoos and Peda.
Boondi Ladoos are considered to be an all-time favourite sweet of Lord Ganesha and thousands of his devotees. Boondis are very small deep fried balls that have been soaked in sugar syrup. After the boondis have been soaked in the syrup for some time, they are drained and made into small bite size balls which are known as Ladoos.
Peda is a traditional sweet of the Indian subcontinent and is extremely popular in the northern part of the country. It is a soft chewy sweet made up of khoya, sugar and dry fruits. The sweet is believed to have originated in the state of Uttar Pradesh but now its popularity seems to have crossed the boundaries of the state to reach far and wide. Peda is one of Lord Ganesha’s favourite sweets and is thus made during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.
The next in the list is – Puran Poli. Puran Poli is a sweet flat chapatti which is common in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. The main ingredients are – split yellow gram (chana dal), flour, jiggery or sugar and ghee. The stuffing is known as the puran whereas the outer coating is called the poli. Although it resembles a chapati, it is not actually a chapatti. The puran poli is made on auspicious occasions and festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Holi. It is usually served hot with milk or ghee. With the time the traditional recipes are also going through an evolution to suit the taste of today’s masses. Some ingredients are being replaced by their healthier counterparts but the love and affection of the recipe remains the same.
It is said that everyday can be an occasion and when you are together with your family and loved ones it surely is an occasion. So make these special dishes and share them with your entire family.
The remover of obstacles, the Lord of wisdom and knowledge, Lord Ganesha embodies many virtues. All the artefacts that Lord Ganesha holds have a symbolic meaning. As mentioned in the Ganesha and the Mudgala Purana; the incarnations of Ganesha are born as Lord of Brahmans. By virtue of this he is believed to be the Lord of sages.
The philosophies advocated by the deities of Hindu culture appeals to one and all. The teachings advocated by Lord Ganesha are not just preached to act upon but also attained with rigorous meditation. Ganesha in his appearance and his various avatars has been shown to overcome vices such as greed, anger, jealousy and arrogance. These vices have appeared as demons in mythology and the twelve avatars of Ganesha were born to perish them.
Lord Ganesha embodies wisdom and over comes obstacles. It is this quality that makes him the God to worship before starting any major work. Riding on the mouse he symbolizes his triumph over ego and advocates his devotees to let go of the same. He bears the elephant head and the elephant is perhaps the most powerful animal. The mouse on the other hand is the animal that features lower in the food chain. A mighty God riding a humble mouse advocates the modest nature of one of the most powerful Gods.
These aspects of Lord Ganesha are quite well known. The other philosophies of Ganesha are subjective as well as objective in nature. The symbolism in the weapons he carries and also the artefacts have been scrutinized by many philosophers. This deity has dedicated religious texts in the Hindu religion that cite his philosophies to his devotees. The shankh (or the shell) calls Ganesha’s devotees and understand his teachings for implementation. This is seen in his hand.
Lord Ganesha’s philosophies are what the wise engage in to eradicate personal and collective suffering. The patron of arts and crafts also advocates the same. Lord Ganesha also preaches to his devotees to rise above material pleasures and preaches that religious belief requires submission to a specific discipline.
Lord Ganesha also represents AUM, an important mantra for Hindus. He is also the leader of the devotees of Lord Shiva. Both these characteristics advocate leading by example and humility. Lord Ganesha may be one of the most powerful Gods but Lord Ganesha’s humility teaches his devotees to not let arrogance rule them.
These aspects of Ganesha are the most subtle and do not require a level of intellect to decode them. These philosophies however require an extreme understanding and devotion to implement. Though menial in amount their implementation is certainly to be held in high regard. The triumph of Lord Ganesha over the vices is not an easy feat but it is the humility that makes his devotees worship him and try to follow his path.