This year in Melbourne
Ganpati Bappa came to my brother’s home, exported over seven seas in sleek packaging, with bar coding and export quality stickers. He wore a jasmine garland that comes in a cardboard carton pack and was installed proudly amidst temperate fruit like apples and pears and a medley of flowers like orchids, gerberas and arum lilies. My nephews had decorated an altar with beautifully crafted bejewelled decorative pieces of rangoli and fairy lights from Singapore!
Lord Lambodar, a legendary foodie, was treated to modaks made by Nani, and a sumptuous and delicious lunch kheer puri, saar, masaley bhat, tomato pudina chutney, pumpkin raita, sundal and alu sabji prepared by my sister-in-law Sharwari Rajurkar!
The whole family took time off work for the festivities and in the evening close friends of the family gathered for a fitting finale of festivities and made merry!
We sang the Sukh karta dukh harta’s arati- amidst the rhythmic clanging of the cymbals, the enthusiastic clapping and the sweet sound of the little silver pooja bell! Ah, the very familiar little pooja silver bell - a relic of my childhood, when we fought to take turns to sound the bell!
Dekho… who mandir ki ghanta… in a very filmi way, my mind went back 30-40 years, to my childhood …
In the India of my childhood
Every birthday, we would fetch Ganpati Bappa lovingly from the market- we knew exactly which idol was our Bappa the minute we looked at so many of them! It had to be the idol with a smiling face and twinkle in his eyes! I could never fathom the orientation of his trunk- didn’t matter to us! But the Gajanan’s countenance was most important.
He would arrive with fanfare in a shiny copper tamhan or platter and would be installed reverently and affectionately on his magnificent throne, decorated with banana leaves, flowers and all our child like craft endeavours with crepe paper and gilt paper!
Ganpati would get a new cotton sacred thread or yadnopavita, a little colourful garland made of silk fiber and a little malavastra made of cotton wool and stained with haldi and kumkum. He loved red hibiscus and the white nandivardhan or prajakta flowers. He preened around sporting the fragrant sandal paste and vermillion. Adorned thus, he would sit back and survey the family home in the beautiful light thrown by the lamps and the fragrance flowers, and dhoop or agarbatti.
The Ganpati bappa of our childhood relished rustic natural delights. Bananas, custard apples, wood apples, dhatura (YES! Dhatura- the infamous poisonous fruit) and guava were his favourite fruit. Occasionally he would chew on five kinds of leaves called patri and nibble at the 21 trident spears of tender grass called ‘durvankur’. He was partial to coconuts and had two whole grand globes with handlebar tails as sentinels.
Ganpati loved a little something by way of a piece of copra and a rock of jaggery nestled in it. On the side, there was some panhakhadya in a silver bowl to tuck into. This delectable mix, distributed as khirapt or prasad comprised raisins, chopped dry dates, almonds and other nuts, copra, sugar crystals- all scented with cardamom and if we were feeling rich, saffron. These dry nibbles would be rounded off by the panchaamrut- a delicious concoction of yoghurt, milk, honey, sugar and ghee.
He would then indulge in little pedhas in the shape of modaks, till it was time for lunch after the aarti and naivedya.
For lunch, he preferred, of course the steamed modaks drenched in golden ghee. But he also loved the savoury chana dal sundal, the beans poriyal, koshimbir and batata bhaji. For some reason, a shevayachi kheer and poori also found favour with him, so the plate was loaded with it. For some strange reason, as kids Dada and I didn’t like steamed modaks, so Aai made fried modaks for us- saying Bappa liked those as well! In case he missed rice, there was sadha varan bhaat and dahi bhaat! Ghee, ghee!
He would then nap for a while and get ready to receive visitors in the evening. He was unable to resist trunking a piece or two of barfi or laddu that was offered to the guests. But after this, he was happy with a supper of milk and sugar offered during the evening arati!
Each of the seven days he stayed with us was a celebration. The peak of this revelry was on when his consorts arrived on the 5th day, had a magnificent feast on the 6th day with panchapakwanna or five sweets, 16 varieties of vegetables, pooris, rice, bhajjis, et al! When they left on the 7th day along with Ganpati Bappa, they were offered only some dahi-bhaat to keep them light during their journey!
Ganesh Maharaj ki Jai! Ganpati Bappa Morya! Mangal Murti Morya!
The choral singing ends on a most cheerful note.
I am brought back to the now and the here! Time to dig into the delicious food!