Ganapati festival is an integral part of our culture, but it is celebrated in different ways across the country as each region has its own traditions. However, many non-Maharashtrians, who have relocated to Pune and perform Ganesh Puja, have embraced the local traditions. Many again add their own regional flavours to make Ganeshotsav more exciting and diverse.
Pawan Bhatnagar, who has been celebrating Ganesh festival for the past couple of years, says that combining the rituals was an organic step. “I have been celebrating the fest for four years now.
Back in Uttar Pradesh, we celebrate it with equal enthusiasm, so adjusting to Maharashtrian traditions wasn’t a difficult task. It was quite organic. But more than traditions and rituals, it’s about your devotion to bappa,” he says.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
Every region has its own rituals. In fact, every household has its own tradition. But it is not always possible to follow tradition to a T. The younger generation, which keeps moving from one place to another, is open towards different cultures. That’s because when a person leaves home at a young age and starts staying in a different city, state or country — either for higher studies or better job opportunities — s/he is likely to adapt to the new environment.
Chaitali Sinha says that she has adopted a few local rituals. “In UP, we don’t celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi but only Anant Chaturdashi. However, watching it on TV and living in Mumbai for four years, we knew that we would be welcoming bappa to our home some day. Our parents also encouraged us. When Ganapati comes home, you feel like ‘ghar ka koi member bahut din ke baad aaya hai milne’,” says Sinha.
She adds, “We bring home Ganapati bappa all covered and welcome him at the door with aarti. We keep the idol on rice and after visarjan, bring back the maati (clay) home as good luck. We offer prasad twice a day and never leave him alone unless it’s urgent. We have also learnt Sukhkarta Dukhharta, which people chant during Lord Ganesha’s aarti.”
Tarana Agarwal and her husband are from Bihar and they celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at their home with a lot of enthusiasm. “That’s because we fell in love with the festivities here and decided to bring Ganapati home,” she says, adding that in their culture, they make rangoli at the entrance of their home using aeipan — a blend of soaked rice and turmeric paste, and she follows the tradition here too.
Joyita Debnath, who has been celebrating Ganesh festival at her home for the past three years, says that in the past she had travelled from Kolkata to Pune, along with her six-month-old child, just because she didn’t want to miss the celebrations here. Talking about Bengali and Maharashtrian traditions, she says, “In Bengali households, we place the mangal kalash typically in front of the idol but here they place it on each side of the idol. I have adopted a few local traditions. The blend of traditions happens gradually. Sometimes, it happens unconsciously and at times, consciously because we love to explore different cultures and find commonalities. We also imbibe them because this helps build a strong sense of belonging.”
Even though Ashu Kale belongs to a Punjabi family, she loves celebrating all Maharashtrian festivals including Gudhi Padwa, Sankrant, Navratri and rituals like Munja (thread ceremony). “During Ganapati, I love cooking Maharashtrian food and even draping a nauvari saree, even though I never wore a saree before marriage. I adopted the tradition gradually. We do Gauri Puja at home and drape her a beautiful saree and adorn her with jewellery. We are a family of 25 and it’s a lot of fun celebrating the festival together,” says Kale.
In 2009, Anindita Chaudhuri went through a difficult period and Ganapati helped her tide over it. “In 2009, I was alone at home and my father-in-law was in ICU. When doctors gave up hope, I started chanting bappa’s name. It gave me strength and I promised to get a silver statue of bappa and worship him with devotion if my FIL got well. On the third day of chanting, I got news that he was out of danger and as promised, I got bappa home and started offering him prasad and worshipped him for 10 days. However, my twin kids are very keen on following every ritual and they are very enthusiastic, so we have been getting an idol of Lord Ganesha for the last three years,” says Chaudhari, who will also be participating in the Maharashtrian Lezim dance this year.
Sonali Mishra makes sure that bappa’s sthapana is done by a Maharashtrian pandit. “We also perform Satyanarayan Puja on one particular day within the 10-day period when bappa is home,” she says.
No festival is complete without delicious food. From preparing bhog to different delicacies, we Indians make sure there is variety. In a typical Bengali household, Ganesh puja means Khichdi bhog or Luchi-tarkari, and in the North, Motichur ke Laddoo are offered during the festivities.
In Maharashtra, Ganesh festival is incomplete without modak because that’s what bappa loves. Puran Poli is also part of the traditional meal. Though preparing the authentic Ukdiche Modak is challenging, many non-Maharashtrians have mastered the art too.
“Despite belonging to a Bengali family, I have learnt to prepare modaks because Ganesh Puja feels incomplete without it. Modak is an intrinsic part of the festivities. Initially, I struggled to make the coconut-jaggery stuffed steamed modak but then I managed,” says Debnath, adding, that her family does not cook non-vegetarian food at home during the 10-day festival.
Since Agarwal starting celebrating the festival, she has learnt to prepare modak. “I have learnt it from my Maharashtrian cook. Besides, I also prepare halwa because no puja is complete without halwa bhog in my culture. According to popular belief, bappa also loves laddoo, so I get laddoo from a North Indian store which tastes like the ones prepared back home.”
Kavita Dudhagi Maidargi, who belongs to Karnataka, says that she had modak for the first time at the age of 14 or 15 at her neighbour’s place and immediately fell in love with it. “It tasted awesome. Also, because of my faith in bappa, I decided to learn how to make it,” she says.
Chaudhari too is fond of modaks because of its shape and variety. “I learnt to make Bhapa Pithe which is a traditional Bengali dish. This steamed sweet dish made of rice has the same modak-like filling which we make during Sankranti, so learning to make modak was like the first step towards learning true traditional sweets of Maharashtra,” she says, adding that initially it was tough to get the shape right but after a few errors, she perfected it.
Adding further about how she blends bhog of two regions while performing Satyanarayan Puja at home, Mishra says that they prepare a mix of prasad including sheera, modak and shinni (made of wheat flour, milk, sugar, banana and dry fruits). “On the same day, I also invite women friends from my society for haldi kumkum. We bring home eco-friendly Ganapati made from shadu clay and the visarjan is done at home,” Mishra adds.
This melange of traditions and cultures helps unite India.