Ganesh Chaturthi / Ganeshotsav Ushers In Festival Season In India

Stories about Ganesha’s love for modaks, the historical significance of this festival and recipes that you can try at home!

Revati Nargund

As a festival, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birth of the elephant-headed God in the Hindu pantheon and is marked with the installation of idols, privately in homes, or even publicly on pandals. 

This Indian festival is celebrated with great exuberance in the central and western states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa and the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha. 

In Goa, the festival holds a special significance, especially in Mapusa, which is famous for its Ganesha temples at Ganeshpuri and Khorlim. In Karnataka, the festival known as Ganesh Habba; it is enjoyed by performing aartis and large scale pujas that include offering delicacies to the deity on a banana leaf. In most places in South India, Gowri Habba is celebrated a day prior to the Ganesha festival, where Goddess Gauri is worshipped for blessings.

Every state celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi in its own unique way and the festival also features cultural activities such as singing, theatre and orchestral performances including community activities such as medicinal check-ups or blood donation sites. Many budding artists and industries get a significant amount of living from this festival. 

And if you thought that the festival is restricted to Indian shores, think again! The festival is also celebrated by the British Hindu in UK with the idol immersion happening at River Thames in Putney Pier. The Philadelphia Ganesha festival is one of the most prominent celebrations of this festival in North America and is also celebrated in Canada, Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore. The first Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesha opened in 1985 on continental France with a major procession of pilgrims and visitors happening every year. It looks like Lord Ganesha's birthday trends across the world, which might be new information for many. 

Ganeshotsav and Maharashtra

Ganesh Chaturthi and its celebration as a community festival was celebrated as a festival that was initiated by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and later again by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak by calling Ganesha ‘the god for everybody’ in his newspaper Kesari, in order to circumvent the British’s ban on Hindu gatherings.

Today, public preparations and festivities for Ganeshotsav begin months in advance. With local mandaps and pandals being funded either from donations by local residents or simply hosted by business communities, where the decoration and the lighting forms a huge part of the festival.

At home, festival preparation includes purchases of puja items and accessories which is usually undertaken a few days prior to the date of the festival. Local artisans spend the entire year curating idols of clay, ranging from 2 cms for homes to ones as large as 21 m for large community celebrations. The festival thus also helps many artists, industries and businesses to earn a significant amount of their living and gives a platform to struggling artists to show case their talent.

Ganeshotsav is not just celebrated with great enthusiasm in India, it is also celebrated in the UK, North America and even Paris! Mauritius even has a public holiday on the first day of the festival and devotees visit temples, offer aarti and even perform a traditional dance. From Thailand to Burma, Fiji and many others, the governments have declared a public holiday for the first day of the festival, with statues and shrines present all across to pay homage to Lord Ganesha.

Commercialisation of Ganesh Chaturthi

There exists sincere skepticism about how much religion has a part to play in the festivities in today’s day and age as we are bombarded with music blaring on loudspeakers and larger than life size idols being immersed in the ocean only to witness the remnants floating back to the shore the next day. But regardless of the chaos, the spirit and the emotion behind Indian festivals prevails.

Bappa and Modak

What comes to your mind when you think about food and Ganesh Chaturthi? Yes. The Modak! Now you may argue that there are a variety of other offerings and even food items that are prepared during the 11 days of festivity, but the modak is a clear winner. We listed down a few things that make modak’s sweet and savoury journey truly exciting and drool worthy!

Ukadiche Modak

The first fleeting thought that crosses one’s mind when someone mentions Ukadiche Modak is the arrival of Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrated with pride and splendour in coastal Maharashtra including Mumbai and Pune. Lord Ganesha’s favourite food, the modak has seen a variety of changes as it travels across regions: Ratnagiri makes a mango modak from fresh Alphonso mangoes found in the region, and the fried version is extremely popular in Goa. In the Southern state of Andhra, the modak gets a savoury touch. Made with ground urad dal and steamed with mild seasonings, these aren’t really modaks, they are more like dumplings. Here are a few recipes to try and experiment with at home, this Ganesh Chaturthi.

Home-made Ukadiche Modak

In Maharashtra, households stocks up on a decent supply of home-made ukadiche modaks. While these sweet mouthfuls are as much a part of lunch as they are treated as offerings to God, there is genuine pride in making these from scratch. Every grandmother will tell you her own recipe and every household will have a special anecdote attached to these modaks. We are talking loads of pure ghee that gets poured atop the modak! Rip off the top with your thumb and forefinger, dab the stuffing and pour in some ghee that seeps inside the modak. Break it open by hand and dig into the sumptuous goodness.

You can learn how to make ukadiche modaks at home by following this recipe by Ripudaman Handa:

Recreating the Classic Modak for Lord Ganesha

While there are plenty of regional variations of modaks, but there are umpteen variations that have developed over the years. From healthy modaks that include a nutritious stuffing of dried figs and nuts where brown sugar has replaced white, there is a lot of experimentation that has come into play. From modak Belgian waffles to modak ice cream frappes, the innovations are never ending! We put together a list of places where you can try quirky modak flavours.

(Learn how to make modak cupcakes

Why Do We Just Stick to Modaks for Ganpati? Check Out These Offerings!

Apart from modaks there exist a whole bunch of traditional offerings, during Ganesh Chaturthi, that do not get as highlighted. Every community has a distinctive recipe and a whole new way of approaching the festival. The Konkanis and Saraswat community is known to make Patoli, essentially a rice pancake filled with a mixture of jaggery, coconut and cardamom powder. While the 96 Kuli Marathas and Pathare Prabhu community is famous for their Rushichi bhaji, the Kolis are known to offer fresh roasted crab to Goddess Gauri. The stark contrast in the way each community approaches Prasad is evident in the way they prepare their offerings and what is considered auspicious. The Konkanastha Bhramin community prepares an authentic dish called Ghavan Ghatle, rice flour pancakes that are offered to Goddess Gauri.

Ganpati and the Ladoo

Our mythology is rich with stories of Ganpati’s mad love for sweets, especially, the famous motichoor laddu. Talk about being a God who lives to eat! Quite relatable, right? The laddu is a favourite amongst most of us and every festival brings with it a distinct laddu recipe. And with a number of motichoor laddu recipes floating around, we decided to end the confusion once and for all!

Also Read: Try this motichoor laddu recipe to make the bright orange laddus at home

With motichoor laddu comes the reference to Ganesha’s famous pot belly that represents his penchant for gastronomic adventures. Mythologically, his belly is believed to encompass all the universes of the past, present and the future. On the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, we put together some of the most popular mythological anecdotes that prove Ganpati was the first foodie.

Also Read: Gulab Jamun Inspired Desserts in Mumbai

Ganapati’s Favourite Motichoor Ladoos: The Home Fix

While the modak reigns over all other offerings, there is no denying the delicious flavours that a humble motichoor laddu brings to the table. Aptly translates to crushed pearls, this melt-in-the-mouth delicacy is a staple from North India and is one of the most popular sweets made across the country. While the ones you will find in the stores are lip smacking and yummy, there is something inherently joyous about making tiny balls with your hands and frying them in pure ghee. If you feel like making a laddu is not your cup of tea, think again!

We picked the brain of chef Gaurav Anand, Executive Chef at Courtyard by Marriott, Bengaluru Hebbal to bring you a step-by-step guide to making perfect motichoor laddus at home. All you need to do is follow the recipe and keep in mind the expert tips and tricks shared by chef Anand.

The Making of Lalbaugcha Raja’s Boondi Laddus

The Ganeshotsav festivities are glorious in every nook and corner of Maharashtra but there is something truly magnificent about the age old Lalbaugcha Raja. Known as the Navsacha Ganpati or the wish fulfilling Ganesha, paying this idol a visit is nothing short of an adventure in the heart of the city of Mumbai. Dominated by textile mills and single hall cinemas back in the day, there is a story that speaks volumes about why the Lalbaughcha Raja gained its name and the popularity and craze behind it. We got right down to understanding the significance of the idol, the process of how the boondi laddus are made and what the idol makers have to say about this large scale production.

Ecofriendly Chocolate Ganesha

With the use of plaster of Paris and various other chemicals that have resulted in extensive damage to the environment, a lot of people are actively ensuring that they change the way this festival is celebrated. Mumbai-based commercial designer-turned-baker Rintu Kalyani Rathod specialises in making life sized cakes and chocolate sculptures of Ganesha. Rathod has been working on edible Ganpati idols since 2011, trained as a commercial designer, she says she was inspired to do so after feeling intense dread looking at the visuals of idols strewn across the beach.

Ganpati Idols Made from Sumptuous Food Items

For many years, the Ganesh idols and its making comes with a large scale impact on the environment. With a number of activists advocating the usage of eco-friendly material that causes minimal damage to the environment, we have been seeing a massive change in the way the festival is being celebrated across the country. There have been a variety of installations that are not just eco-friendly, they are also made from food! We were inspired by the kind of creativity that idol makers are bringing into the job and decided to explore a few places that are doing quirky food installations, pani puri Ganpati idol being one of them!

Finally: Inside Lord Ganesha’s Kitchen in Sion

The GSB Seva Mandal in Mumbai’s Sion area celebrates this Indian festival for all of five days every year and attracts devotees and people from all across the country. Apart from the celebrations that are known to be extremely grandiose and worldly, there is a lot that goes on at the establishment. Serving community meals to visiting devotees made of traditional Konkani delicacies is a large part of the festivity. A meal at the God’s residence, what more would a loyal devotee want? The kitchen team who has to cook for 15,000 to 18,000 people starts as early as 3 am and that is just a glimpse into everything else that follows. Living Foodz got an insider's view of the making of the traditional Konkani delicacies served by GSB Seva mandal.

Banner image: Shutterstock


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