Happy Vinayaka Chaturthi! I know this blog is late, I started it ages ago- but got busy with some work! May Lord Ganesh bless us all, and provide a new beginning to each one of us – a better life, with more peace, friendship and harmony.
Ever Since I can remember, Vinayaka Chaturthi has been one of my most favorite festivals. Part of the reason can be attributed to the fact that Amma made my 1st favorite sweet – Kozhakatai on this day. The other part of the reason being that this elephant-faced god has always been one of my favorite gods. Since ages, he has been the first one to be prayed at the beginning of any auspicious event – Aadhi moola bhagavan.
Vinayaka Chaturthi celeberation at my home has always been an elaborate one. It starts with the buying of the Mann(clay) vinayakar on the morn of the festive day. Appa would go to the market early in the morning and buy the vigraham – sometimes I would insist on getting a colorful one rather than the drab, plain looking clay puliyaar. Amma would be busy in the kitchen, making the poornam and maavu for Kozhakatai and grinding the urad dhal for vadai, while I went out to get flowers for the pooja or making the poonal and ears for puliyaar with cotton. While appa does the pooja, amma and me would make the choppu for kozhakatai and get all the prasadam done – kozhakatai, paayasam and vadai. I would feel so proud that with years my kozhakatai shaped much better. Little did I know what appa did for the pooja, because I always felt it was mostly guy stuff J. I would eagerly wait for the time that it was over – to eat my most favorite kozhakatai.
When we were in Andhra, there was more fun to the day. There would huge pandhals set up all over the town, with huge Ganesh vigrahams and loudspeakers blaring with the latest telugu hits (rarely did they play some devotional songs). While in school, it was a matter of pride to say how many pandhals you had visited on the day.
Amma would light the lamp and put flowers to the small idol – we did puja to – for the following three days. On the third day, we would take the idol and drop it off at one of the pandhals for immersion. Sometimes, when the third day was a Saturday or Sunday, we would go down to Ramakrishna beach and throw the paper bag containing the idol and flowers in it.
Over the years, when I went off to college, I would miss this day and pine for amma’s kozhakatais. When we moved to Chennai, we were so surprised to see the absence of Pandhals in the city (atleast in the area where we stayed). So, one evening we had to roam around for a long time trying to find a pandhal to give the idol – and finally ended up throwing it into our own well itself! One puja that we celeberated in Bangalore, after my marriage was even more bigger an incident – The Apartment committee had put up a small pandhal, with a big idol to celeberate the occasion. When we asked the organizer if he would take our idol also when he went for the immersion, he was so reluctant that we backed off from the idea. We thought we would take the idol along with us to the Bull Temple and see what can be done. On the way, we spotted a mobile water tank which was specifically for the idol immersion, had the auto stop and appa ran behind the auto to drop our idol in it. Initially I thought it was being so unceremonious to our dear god, but later I felt this was a much cleaner option than everybody dirtying a river/lake/well/sea with their own stuff.
Rajesh has never seen a ganesh puja at home, so I thought we would celeberate it (to the max possible extent) this year. I religiously made the kozhakatai and vadai. The former was my first attempt and for a first timer, it turned out to be fine. We set the idol and the photos we had on the table in the kitchen. Rajesh got an idea and created a chain of bells to be hung above the idols and we did our small pooja, me reading out some slokas and him repeating them after me.
Here is a small snapshot of our puja set-up.