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Gallivanting with Ganesha!!!

Hey all..it’s Ganesh Chaturthi today…
so a small write up from me depicting my childhood celebrations of this most awaited festival..I am sure all my friends would relate to this.
Pardon my lingo for today…I will be typing few words in Tamil,Telugu, Marathi and Kannada.
My very own South Indian integration!!
I am proud to be a Banglorean wherein one gets used to hear all languages being spoken.

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It’s the Ganapati season and I am missing the celebrations at my hometown or should I say the most happening place for me in the world, my dear dear dear Bengaluru!!!
Far far away from home….Ohhh I miss the pomp and grandeur which always accompanies our dear Golu Polu..our Lord Gajanana…on his Mooshika Vahana (for those of you not familiar with the South Indian lingo…it’s the vehicle/friend on which all our Indian deities are associated with, in this case the Mooshik or the Undir as Maharastrians call it or in plain simple terms..The Mouse..)

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So coming back to our friend, our saviour and the beginner of all auspicious things, our lovely, chubby, elephant headed God, in a cute attire, balancing Modaks( also called Kozhukattai in Tamil) visiting our houses according to the mythology and the tradition of bringing in a statue of the Lord and celebrating his birthday.
I won’t go into the details of the exact origin and the importance of this festival, just want to emphasize how important the birthday of this Ekadanta (Single tusked), Skandapurvaja (Elder brother of Lord Karthikeya), Parvathi Putra, Varasidhhi Vinayaka (Bestower of boons and success) is to us.
I have grown up seeing the celebrations in my city and in the  southern parts of India and once had the opportunity of witnessing the pompous celebrations in Mumbai, where the Lords birthday is the most important thing for any Mumbaikar akin to the way the Lord’s mother, the Goddess Durga is worshipped and celebrated in Kolkata as Durga puja.
Talking of the celebrations for Vinayaka Chaturthi, I am sure all my friends will relate to…
My childhood memories…..
The celebrations would begin much  before the actual festival, in the form of cleaning the puja room and  the murtis (idols) of the gods and the goddesses and the preparation of mouth watering  savouries… aahhhaaaaaa the crispy murukkus..the sweet tasting adhirasams,the kajjikaais and laddoos specially made out of rava….the list is endless.
The previous day would be spent in cleaning up the house and the  veranda( In my native place in Andhra, special cow dung mixture would be delivered to our houses in the evening which would then be splashed onto the front porches of our homes and set to dry with special instructions given to us  kids, to not step on it and dirty the house ;-p )
A traditional, bigguhhh Kolam (rangoli) sometimes with a small Ganesha picture in the centre or with wishes of Happy Ganesh Chaturthi writings would be drawn out with expertise.
The festival would begin with us waking up early morning, and  having a nice leisurely bath, while mummy and granny would be slogging in the kitchen having woken up at the break of dawn and making the necessary arrangements for the puja and also making sure we are ready in our new clothes on time for the puja, with hot mugs of Kaapi…(that is  how we like to pronounce our coffee!!:-p ) doing the rounds to dad,with mummy and granny fasting till the puja ends. Adorned in our brand new dresses, it was our job to place the flowers on the Gods which was undertaken by us  children with the utmost feeling of a grown ups responsibility and then we would accompany our dad to go to the Market to select and bring our Ganesha home. Wow what a sight at the market!! Ganeshas of all sizes,small,medium and big,  name it and you get it sizes!! All colourful and with accompanying accessories of the sacred Durva
grass used for puja and the colourful lights, sometimes being sold as a package complete with marigold flowers, puja  grass,coconuts and banana plants. My favourite fruits, pears and wood apple ( bael fruit ) would be available only during the ganapati season (as kids, we would rub in salt and chilli powder and gulp it down..the tasty, tangy flavour….oohhhh makes my mouth water even now with the mere thought of it.)
We would quickly go about choosing one idol of the Lord and bringing him home. Mummy and granny would be waiting having kept the prasadams ready.
The Lord would then be seated in a special place made for him similar to the Crib made for Lord Jesus Christ, sometimes on a larger scale as seen in a pandal specially erected for the Lord. The puja would begin, normally done by the elders or at times a priest would be called to conduct the rituals.
The entire house would be filled with religious chants, the most famous shlokam being “Shuklam baradharam” amidst the ringing of bells and the sweet smelling fragrant agarbattis and dhoop sticks.

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The offerings to the lord would begin…
The kitchen would have been a crazy sight….with Uddina/Masala vadais been fried and Kozhukattais with sweet fillings, ranging from groundnuts and jaggery to freshly grated coconuts, stuffed and steamed in rice flour, to the sweet smelling Payasam/Kesari bath and the famous Sundal ( that’s boiled and fried chickpeas) a very very very famous south Indian prasadam and not to forget the main menu..steaming hot freshly made Lemon rice..( a standard dish made during all festivals and offered in all temples as prasadam, which curiously always, always, tastes best when served in temples and try as much as we can, can never get the same taste when made at home 😦 Followed by the ever so tempting Sambhar loaded wid drumsticks, brinjals and all vegetables,you name it you have it, served with steaming white rice followed by the humble potatoes at their best, accompanying the menu to please the Lord and not to forget the varieties of salads, called as  Kosambri in kannada..( a tasty mixture of moong dal and cucumber)
How can I forget our ever loving, the two main items, without which any south Indian meal would be incomplete…The eternal Papad and the tasty mango Pickle ( both of which are sometimes home made or sometimes store bought), the papad so lovingly fried by our granny, always ensuring we keep our hands off it while it’s been fried :-p
Each item would then be placed in a special plate adorned with a banana leaf in small small quantities and offered to the Lord..The lucky God, who gets to taste all those yummy foods would then be invited to our houses with a song and an aarti.
Mummy would then help us arrange our school books in front of the Lord and apply Kum kum to the them and place flowers and worship the books.
The puja would end with us taking the aarti and us children falling at the Lords feet ( a Shastanaga namaskara…and maskafying the lord to bless us with good marks so that we would get the much awaited video game) and also touching our elders feet for blessings and be tipped by our grandparents with small pockety money and then the festivities would begin…

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We would be given prasadam from the Lords offerings and then plates would be arranged with all the savouries accompanied by fruits and sweets and then we children would be given the task of running off to our neighbours houses with the mouth watering delicacies to distribute them. The neighbour aunty would then give each of us a Kozhukattai /modaks and we would run off to catch a glimpse of the Ganesha decorations at their home and go home with plates filled with the return sweets.
Once this was completed and all the neighbours houses covered, we would go with our friends to visit the nearby pandals and see the idols decorations, running back home in time for the special lunch. Our already filled tummies would try to stuff in more of the food…and end up like mini Ganeshas, followed by an afternoon seista for the elders but never ending chatter and games for us children and stories told by granny about the origin of this festival.

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The evening aarti would be carried out and the Ganesha idol taken for immersion, the Ganesha normally is kept in houses sometimes for a week or in huge pandals it’s usually a few days. It was told to us that the  number of days you keep the idol at home, the Lord should be treated with delicious prasadam or offerings and tasty treats of some kind as it is not good to keep the Lord hungry. The Lord would be then be immersed the same day or the next day after the puja.

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There is a famous spot in Bangalore called Ulsoor lake…with hundreds and hundreds of people going in to immerse the Lord and praying to the Lord to visit us again next year, knowing that the Lord is ever prevalent and with us always and thus we always evoke the friendly elephant Lord and seek his blessings at the beginning of all occasions…hence rightly said….
Sarvakaryeshu sarvada!!

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Pssssttt…special thanks..
1.To my MA…for the term “Gallivanting”..having never heard of it..which when was used by her, had me scurrying in search of a dictionary or wiki to find out what it meant..:-p
2.To Revathi, Ruchi and Rashmi…yess the three Musketeers who lent me their pictures…thank you guys…
3.My friends for always making time to go through my crazy random writings and giving their expert comments…;-)

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