Friday, August 28, 2009

Ganesh Pooja in India: A Memoir

(Ganesh Pooja Memoir was just too huge a post. So thought of posting it separately. Special thanks to my friends S and N from Goa who were kind enough to share their pictures from their personal family collection. I appreciate their enthusiasm in sharing the rich culture and local festivities with the rest of the world)

While I was cooking, I tried to recall the wonderful moments I've spent at Udupi & Goa, my two native places helping my granny and other aunts, elder ladies prepare Modak, Karanji, Phodi. It also took me back to the gigantic Ganpati processions we used to yearn to visit and see in Goa and Mumbai.

All the major places of celebration in Metro, have Saarvajanik Ganpati. This concept of mass celebration was initiated by famous social worker Lokmanya Tilak. Gigantic sized statue of the lord is placed at a central point of vicinity in the town/ city/ metro. The Ganpati's here are kept for worship for around 7, 11 or 21 days. One famous example of this community style celebration of Ganpati would be Dagdusheth Ganpati at Pune, Maharashtra. While in Goa, we never had Ganpati at our home, we used to rejoice visiting all the Saarvajanik Ganpatis. I used to regret that we never had an opportunity to invite the Lord to our place. Here below is a picture of Mass Ganpati Immersion held by the banks of Betim River, Panjim - Goa.

In Konkani custom, the intial day celebration is known as Teyi/ Vainaa Pooja. This day holds symbolic significance for married women and we mark the celebration with Decorative Coconuts or Vainaa which are offered to married ladies once pooja is performed. This is also called as Gauri Pooja.
On the main day, the place of worship is decorated with Maan-tav (konkani term for an elevated decorated plank full of fruits, vegetables and things which Lord loves which is elevated at 1 feet distance from the Lord's idol) or Maatholi (Goan konkani term for the elevated decorated plank). As kids we used to spend hours together helping uncles and elders build the Maan-tav. I used to love handing over the fruits and pondering why Lord needs so much of fruits. Mom's answer was simple, "Lord has a big appetite". I smile today thinking of all the funny moments we used to enjoy during festivities.

Ganpati idol is bought from the vendor, traditional Ja-gaan-ta, Shanka-vaadya is performed and the lord is ushered in. There are two Arathi (konkani term for prayers and hymns offered to the lord) sessions which takes place one in the noon and another one during the night. After Arathi, there are three Keli paan (term for plaintain leaf) which have food laid out on it. These are also called as Devaa/ Parbey Paan, and is offfered as Naivedyam (term for holy home cooked food offering) to lord. We make Khotte/ Hittu (Rice dumplings steamed in Jackfruit leaves), Tomato Saaru-Sheet (Rice-Rasam: a soupy curry of lentils, coriander leaves, tomatoes and spices), Phodi (5 types of vegetable fritters), Modak (steamed dumpling stuffed with Jaggery and spices), Karanji/ Nevri (semi-circle savoury sweet stuffed with Semolina and Cashew nuts), Poori (deep fried Indian flatbread), Usal (white peas cooked in Coconut and spices), Patrodey (a pin wheel roll of Calocasia leaves smeared with Rice-Chilli paste and steamed and served), Koshambari (light salad), Payasam (Vermicelli Indian sweet dish) and the main prasad - Godu Phovu (Flattened rice treated with Jaggery, Coconut and Spices).

Some traditional konkani houses have the concept of Mool Ghar. Individuals who come under this clan, have their traditional homes where the Ganpati is worshipped; during festivities they come together as families and worship the Lord together. These houses are huge and belong to the family legacy. This is also a good opportunity to meet long lost cousins, aunts, uncles and loads of Pan-chaa-rika (famous konkani term for gossip and chit-chat). :)

The festival food is a banquet and we used to enjoy eating the food as kids and even as teenagers and adults. Once Arathi is done, everyone enjoys the festival food and Parbey Paan food is partaked by youngest kids from family. We used to keep Ganpati for a single day at my Granny's place however some individuals keep the Ganpati idol for 1.5 days, 7 days and some even 21 days. I do know the logic to this however presume there is some rationale and science behind this. Post second Arathi, which generally happens at mid-night we used to head to the local Ba-ye-ee (konkani term for well) in the vicinity of our house and immerse the Lord's idol. The lord is ushered with traditional Jagaanta vaadya, Shankavaadya, Ghantaa vaadya. The well where the idol is immersed is prayed and blessed and then the idol is immersed in the well. This marks the end of the Chaturthi festival.

I always have a lump in my throat when the idol is immersed. Its a good bye to the Lord only with a promise that we would meet him again next year and celebrate the festival with songs of praise, food, crackers and lots of love.
Ganpathi Bappa Moryaa!!! (Praise the lord)


  1. Wish you a very happy ganesh chaturthi! I had been last yr to Dagdusheth ganpati :)

  2. @ Parita - Thanks a bunch lady! Happy Ganesh to you too! I have never visited Dagdusheth, its on one my to-do lists on my visit to Mumbai-Pune, but heard the shrine is quite a beautiful thing. My Mom n Dad have been there. :)

  3. Ashwini, That's a wonderful discription of Ganesh pooja. Ganesh chaturti is the main festivel at my place. But miss it all now. BTW, I have something waiting for you at my site....

  4. @ Swetha - Thanks for the comment. This was a small way for me to recall the good old days which I miss quite a lot. Thanks for the lovely award. That's a sweet surprise. Knowing that its my first award I am all the more elated and jubilant! Thanks dear!!

    I will post the taggged answers to your questions and tag along few more people (as per the rule very soon).

    You made my day!



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