Memories are what we hold onto with fondness. Ganesh Chaturthi puja celebration is something very close to my heart . As per our Hindu tradition I pray to all the Gods and Goddesses, but Lord Ganesha holds a special place in my heart. The festival of “ Vinayakar Chaturthi “is one which I enjoy the most. The elephant headed God is widely worshipped as the supreme God of wisdom, prosperity & good fortune. My first shloka that I learnt was also on Lord Gajanana. “Gajananam bhoota ganadi sevitham…..”
My parents have left me with memories of this festival for a life time . Appa would take clay from our garden and make the idol of Ganesha .We would be excited to watch Appa make the idol, then sticking our sticker bindis for eyes, rice grains as tusk, a sacred thread too would be placed on the idol !! As a kid we would be given the job of rolling out the tiny balls for “ammini kozhakattais” (Kozhukattai are rice flour dumplings that are steamed, cooked and tossed in a tempering to make this Ganesh chaturthi snack).
It used to be a super fun activity , the more we roll, the more we get to eat!!
The jaggery & coconut modakams were something we would gobble up so fast .The entire process would be a real bonding time for the family. Amma would make so many yummy items for the Lord. During Puja time Amma would say to us kids, “ Pray for good health, wisdom to the Lord!”
We would be waiting for the aarti , so that post offerings we could feast on the yummy modakams, salted kozhakattais, vadais, appams, ammini kozhakattais, payasam (kheer). In the evenings when we would go out to see the different pandals, our eyes would want to catch a glimpse of the moon. As per the story Amma had narrated she had told us not to look at the moon on that day!!
The clay ganesha would finally find its way back to the garden.
Apart from that visiting the various sarvajanik pandals of Ganesha always added to the charm. Visiting friends houses who bring in Lord Ganesha is also something to look forward to .During school days I used to have a pact with Ganesha too especially whenever I wanted some favour!!. Super brain yoga posture was always for this Lord whenever I wanted good marks in my exams. The numbers would vary from 12 to 108 !!
There used to be a Ganesha temple close to my college and I would often visit the temple and maybe that is how my fondness for Siddhi Vinayaka grew. I moved to Mumbai soon after college when I got a job and again there was a tiny Ganesha temple near my house. I bumped into one of my friends ( who is now my husband) in a Ganesha temple on a Ganesha Chaturthi day !!!
The making of different Kozhakattais , modakams etc is something I look forward to even today as an adult. My husband & son are entrusted with rolling ammini kozhakattais. My little one will compete with his Appa to do a better job in rolling the tiny balls. These days we hardly sit cross legged on the floor & this is one task for which they sit in the kitchen cross legged & my son will say “ Amma , my legs are aching”, to which I will reply –“Bear the pain for Ganesha & he will surely be happy with you & shower you with blessings!!”. Its real family fun time.
Vinayaka Chaturthi celebrations has its own charm. Lord Vakrathundaya’s arrival is special as its after the onset of rains. There is greenery all round. The entire place is clean & free of dust. Vinayaka seems to be saying, “I will arrive once the entire city & vegetation has been cleaned up after receiving the heavenly showers !! ”
It feels nice to participate in the building Ganapati puja celebrations. It is a very nice feeling as if Ganesha is amidst us. There is an air of festivity all around. I look forward to the morning & evening aarti time. It is also the time to wear saris, to have a look at all the lovely colourful saris & other outfits clad by others. The Mahaganapati Homam is a time when the chanting of holy mantras seem to bring positive vibrations around. I feel lucky to have learnt sanskrit while at school. I never liked the studying of third language while in school. But since I can understand, make out a little meaning when the shlokas, mantras are being chanted, I find it enjoyable. I thank my school for having introduced sanskrit.
The prasadams that we get after the evening puja are something I love. The quantity served is quite sufficient & filling as there is no need to prepare dinner. And, yes if someone in my family does not relish all that then it is time for DIY in the kitchen for them.!!!
On the Ganapati visarjan day a part of my mind would want time to tick slowly so that Ganesha could stay a little longer. As we bid goodbye to the Vignahartha I know I would be missing him all the more when I would see the place where he was sitting blessing one & all.
“Ganapati Bappa Morya , pudachi varsha laukarya”.