What India Cooks for Ganesh Chaturthi
This food-loving deity is easy to love, and is greatly pampered across the country. Our rich and varied culinary heritage ensures that we have a plethora of offerings ready for the elephant headed god. There is, of course, a strong link with the season’s contributions—the new rice, the creamy coconuts, the fragrant turmeric leaves, and a plethora of flowers and fruit that bring colour, aroma, and health to our lives.
The most popular food that the ancient texts seem to indicate is the Modakam, or the modak, as we know it. While Khoya or milk-based modaks and chocolate modaks seem to have taken over the market now, coconut and jaggery filled steamed or deep fried modaks are the more traditional offering in homes. In South India, the modak is known as Kozhukattai, and it is almost always offered along with a savory version that uses an urad daal filling. These savory Kozhukattai are shaped like gujiyas, and look a lot like east Asian dumplings!
Panchkhadya or Panchkajjya is another neivedyam that is typically made for Ganesh Chaturthi. It is a sweet, spiced powder made from roasted gram, desiccated coconut, puffed rice, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, rock sugar, etc. and is mildly flavored with green cardamom, etc. and small spoonfuls of these are offered to the faithful after the Aarti.
Karnataka also makes a puranpoli-like bread, known as Obattu—this is a thin flatbread stuffed with a coconut and sugar/jaggery filling, roasted carefully on a tava with ghee.
Sticking with the coconut theme is the Gujiya, which, in the north, is made using dried or desiccated coconut and khoya, whereas along the west coast, it is made using fresh coconut. Little crescents of deep fried pastry filled with a cardamom and saffron laced filling, these make for bite sized treats and can be made in advance.
And how can one forget the laddoos our country so loves—besan, suji, khoya, choorma, coconut, motichoor—you name it, and it can be made into a laddoo!
But, there is more to Ganpati than the sweets—take for instance, the Puli Aval (tamarind poha) that is made as an offering, or the elaborate feasts that women prepare in honor of Ganpati’s wives—16 vegetable sides for one meal alone! All of these use regional, seasonal produce—greens that return to the market as the monsoon retreats, corn and gourds that are aplenty, legumes to reintroduce tough proteins to our hitherto sluggish metabolisms, and fragrant rice dishes to celebrate the harvest. Tradition has a wonderful way of showing off to us the land of plenty we live in!