Saturday, August 26, 2006

Getting ready for Ganesh Chathurti.

There is a curiously interesting tale about the birth of Ganesha. It is believed that once while Parvati was bathing, she created a human figure from some unguent and balm, gave him life and asked him to guard the door while she bathed. After a long period of meditation on Mountain Kailash (Shiva’s abode), Shiva chose that very moment to drop by to see his better half, but was abruptly stopped by the man-god Parvati had posted at the door. Outraged by the cheek of this stranger, Shiva cut off his head only to discover that he had killed Parvati’s son! For fear of enraging his wife, Shiva immediately dispatched his ganas (attendants) to get him the head of the first living creature they could find. Well, the first living creature happened to be an elephant. As instructed, the head was chopped off and brought back to Shiva, who placed it on Parvati’s son’s body, bringing him back to life. This elephant-headed god was welcomed into the first family of the Hindu heavens and named Ganesha or Ganapati, which literally means the chief of the ganas, or the attendants of Shiva. Ganesha is the foremost god of the Hindu pantheon. This brave guardian of the door to Parvati’s bath is beheld today as the most auspicious God of new beginnings. He is worshipped during every festival and before people undertake a journey or embark upon a new venture. You will also see him carefully guarding entrances to temples and homes, peeping out of calendars and happily gracing marriages and other such occasions.
During Ganesh Utsav, each locality makes its own special pandal with a themed decoration. People attribute considerable social significance to the pandals as communities compete with each other to put up a more outstanding one. Amidst much fanfare and revelry, the pujari (priest) installs the idol of Ganesha in the locality to the chanting of shlokas (Sanskrit holy verses). Special prasad and food (cooked without onions and garlic) are prepared to mark the first day of the puja. Aarti (a ritualistic puja with hymns) is performed twice a day – in the morning and in the evening. Most people of the community attend the evening aarti. They actually rush home from work to take part in the festivities and gather around the brightly-lit Ganesha. People offer prasad of modaks or pedhas (a type of sweetmeat),or sheera, coconut, hibiscus or any other red flower, sheaves of grass, vermilion, turmeric powder and rice. During Ganesh Chaturthi, in most parts of the country people offer prasad to the image of Ganesha in their mini temples at home. The entire family wears fresh and clean clothes and assembles in the sacrosanct area. As they sing hymns (aarti), everyone is given some flowers and rice in their hands. These are later showered on Ganesha. Sometimes a few families get together in someone’s house for the aarti. Each ceremony is rounded off with people tucking in modaks, in keeping with Ganesha’s style. Hindu mythology has a story to tell even about Ganesha’s modaks.
It is said that Ganesha loved modaks and simply could not stop himself from eating them. In fact he devoured them by the hundreds. Amused by Ganesha’s obsession with modaks, once the beautiful moon made fun of the chubby God. Ganesha was so furious with the moon that he cursed him, saying that his beauty would never remain constant. Since that day, way back in time, the moon reveals itself in all its magnificence only once in 28 days. Since the incident occurred on the fourth day of Bhadrapad, he also added that anyone who looked at the moon on the fourth day of any month, specially of Bhadrapad, would be falsely accused of some wrongdoing.

At home now, they would all be preparing for Ganesh Utsav! Mumbai wil be alive with pandals and beautiful decorations. Every where one will come across small sign boards. "Penche Ganpati" ," Subak Ganpatichya Murtya". Pen, is a small town in Raigad Dist. of Maharashtra where the idol making industry flourishes. Thanks to the dedication of the craftsmen of Pen, we have Ganesha idols of myriad shapes,colours and sized, individually crafted and mass produced, truly a labour of love.
Small children will be holding on to their parents hands and gazing at the Ganpati idols, trying to select one...
Ladies stock sweetmeats and dryfruit at home, to make 'Prasad' when people come home to take 'Darshan'.On such ocassions, sheera is the most common prasad that is made, in pure ghee.
Though I will not be having the traditional Ganesh Utsav in CA, somewhere, I feel that I do want to be a part of it!
So rolling my sleeves, I started the first task, making Ghee.

I pulled out :

2 sticks of UNSALTED butter
1 heavy bottom deghchi/ saucepan.

Heat the saucepan on medium flame, place the butter sticks in it.

The color of the butter will slowly change as the butter melts

The Final product... oh yes it looks kinda messy, but smells heavenly of home made ghee!

Strain the ghee and you are set!

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