Ganesha and his love for Modakam
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.