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Marathis, Bengalis, Kashmiris: Everyone is celebrating Ganeshotsav in Pune

Pune is the birthplace of the Ganesh Festival and such is the strong bond between the people and the elephant-headed god here.

pune Updated: Aug 29, 2017 15:47 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Saurabh Gadgil (second from right) along with his wife, sons and parents, celebrates the Ganesh festival at home. The Gadgils have been bringing Bappa home for a day-and-a-half since 1958.(Pratham Gokhale/HT PHOTO)

The festival celebrates Lord Ganesha as the god of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles. The festival is now in its 125th year since the celebrations were started by the freedom fighter, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, in 1894 to rally the masses during the Independence movement and bypass restrictions by the British rulers. It is observed throughout India, especially in the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. Our HT Correspondents spoke to some of the families from different state and communities about their celebrations.

A 59-year-old tradition at the Gadgil residence

For one of the most well-known families in the city, the Dajikaka Gadgil family of the PNG Jewellers fame, Ganeshotsav is yet another occasion to bring together the family, friends and people from the PNG group. The Gadgils have been bringing Bappa home for a day-and-half since 1958. Saurabh Gadgil, who’s taking the tradition forward, said, “We have been following this tradition of one-and-a-half day Ganpati at our Pune home since 1958. It is a 59-year-old tradition and we bring Dajikaka back into our lives with his memories in every celebration. We conduct a ‘maha puja’ before the visarjan (immersion). This is attended by families, friends, karagirs and the entire PNG team. We all come together and make this a fun-filled, devotional and spiritual experience.”

Saurabh’s parents, wife and kids also ensure that they put in their best to welcome Bappa at home. “We have typical Maharashtrian delicacies on these days which are coupled with a number of sweets. Bappa’s favourite modak is also made at home and relished by all of us,” he added.

The Gadgil family has been religiously involving the team at their workplace in every festive event. “We are an extended family of many members, which includes relatives and people at work. So, Ganeshotsav is just another way of bringing together the entire family and having a devotional and energetic time,” he said.

Bonding platform for Chatterjees

Ganesh pooja at Dilip Kumar Chatterjee’s house always has a typical Bengali touch. ( RAHUL RAUT/HT PHOTO )

Ruby Chatterjee has been celebrating the festival for the past 48 years now. As a Bengali living in Maharashtra, she has picked up on the celebrations from her Marathi neighbours.

“Ganesh puja, anyway as per Hindu scriptures, is essential to begin any religious ceremony. So, Bengalis do it as part of the Durga puja, in a small way. But, only after I shifted to Maharashtra, I began worshipping the deity in a prominent way, with the help of my Marathi neighbours, as I didn’t know much about the customs which have to be followed,” she said. According to Mrs Chatterjee, it was the faith she observed in people around her, on Lord Ganesha, that inspired her to ceremonially worship the deity.

But, Ganesh puja at her place always has a typical Bengali touch. As essential to all religious festivities, a grand Bengali bhog is served with Khichdi, a mixed vegetable delicacy called Labra, along with sweet dishes like tomato chutney with papad and a rice pudding called Payesh. ‘Luchi’, which is a deep fried flatbread made of wheat flour, along with ‘aloo dum’, is what she serves as the morning snack.

Celebrated as a three-day event, she believes the Ganesh puja has become an integral part of her and her family’s life. “Faith inspired me to begin this, but it was this social effect the ceremony had on us, that helped us continue it for this long. Now, the ceremony has become one of the biggest social gatherings in my household, which creates a platform for bonding between people of all ages, like no other. This is something which inherently most Indian festivals do, but personally for me, it is Bappa’s puja that does it,” she said.

Lord Ganesha is a family member for the Purswanis

It is a multi-cusine fest during the Ganesh Festival at Preeti Purswani’s home. In terms of Sindhi cuisine, Ganesha is welcomed with a Koki, instead of the traditional Maharashtrian Thalipeeth. ( HT PHOTO )

For Preeti Purswani, a resident of Kalyaninagar, the festival of homecoming of her adored Bappa, is extremely important. For the past 11 years, she has been welcoming him with 11 modaks (sweet) and ‘sheera’. “We also have Bappa’s parents, Shiv and Parvati welcome him to our humble abode,” she said.

The ceremony is, then, followed by Mantra Pushpanjali, and a Sindhi prayer called the Palav, whereby the women spread out the end of their saris towards the deity and pray for the well-being of the family and their friends. Pronouncing aloud the 108 names of the deity, they conclude the ceremony with the Palav.

“Also an integral part of the Sindhi Ganesh puja is the Satyanarayan puja. It can be done on any day within those 10 days of the Ganeshotsav,” Purswani added.

At her house, Lord Ganesha is not just treated with love but as a family member. She shared, “We give him whatever we eat. It’s a multi-cuisine feast that we have at home. Just not Maharashtrian delicacies or Sindhi cuisine, but even Italian pasta is served to Bappa. I believe for Bappa, whatever you do with a true heart is acceptable, and so it becomes pious.”

In terms of Sindhi cuisine, she said that the deity is welcomed with a Koki, a savory pancake made of wheat flour, onion and spices, instead of the traditional Maharashtrian Thalipeeth. Then, the ceremonial ‘prasad’ includes a Sindhi version of ‘sheera’ called Karao, which is made of wheat flour instead of suji (semolina). The festive feast is completed with a special Sindhi rice kheer with dry fruits.

Bhamidipatis always celebrate an ecofriendly festival

Ganesh pooja is very important in Andhra Pradesh and celebrated in an ecofriendly way. VV Harish and his kids made the Ganesha idol at home this year. ( SANKET WANKHADE/HT PHOTO )

Much like Maharashtra, Lord Ganesha is highly venerated in Andhra Pradesh, points out Sirisha Bhamidipati, originally from Hyderabad, staying in Pune for the past 13 years.

She, her husband, V V Harish Bhamidipati, and two children, along with parents, have been celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi for the past nine years now. But, she specifically mentioned that they do so in an ecofriendly way.

“Ganesh puja is very important in Andhra Pradesh. However, it is much more ecofriendly there as most people worship metal idols, mostly silver. Plaster of Paris or PoP idols are not very popular, and we follow the same tradition at home,” she said. This year, they took it a step forward by making the clay idols at home along with their children. “We will immerse the clay idol at home and then, use it the next year again to build another idol. It is a great learning experience for the children.”

Traditionally, the ceremony begins with building a mound of turmeric shaped as the deity Ganesh which is worshipped and then the Lord is invoked in the clay or metal idol. Storytelling, she said is an important part of the religious ceremonial customs, whereby the eldest member sprinkles a mixture of raw rice and turmeric, called Akshintalu, on the devotees to protect them from bad luck and begins the storytelling session.

“Five stories from every Yuga, about Ganesh is recited during this time. Also, we follow a simple custom, whereby no one looks at the moon before the completion of the puja. It is believed that if done otherwise, one would be exposed to false allegations, as was experienced by the Moon, in one of the Ganesh stories,” she added.

In terms of prasad, lemon rice is prepared along with Undrallu, savoury balls of beaten rice. For sweets, they prepare their own version of oval-shaped modaks called Jilledukayalu, and an Andhra style rice pudding or kheer with liquid jaggery.

Festival held with Kashmiri rituals

AThe rituals of narrating a ‘Punn’ story (traditional ritual in Kashmir) by the eldest lady in the house is an integral part of the Ganesh festival in the Nehru household in Baner. ( AFP )

During Ganeshotsav, Kashmiri Pandits of Pune, observe their traditional ritual of Punn which means thread in Kashmiri, whereby a sweet delicacy, Roth, wheat bread deep fried in ghee is served as prasad to the deity and then to the family and friends.

Celebrated on any day during the 10-day festival, the ritual Punn is observed as a day of abundance, said Rajan Nehru of Baner. Although Ganesh Chaturthi and Punn are two distinct ceremonies, he said, “With time, the originality of this ceremony has been slightly coloured with local influences. For instance, getting idol of Ganesh is included in the ceremony now by many Kashmiri Pandits here. They have been weaved together into one.”

Explaining the rituals, he added, “Tradition speaks of a story of an old woman, Beeb Garabh Maej, who was alive to see at-a-time all nine generations of her descendants. In the Punn puja, she is represented by a water pot which is placed in the centre of the place where the puja is to be performed and a cotton thread is tied around its neck with a handful of dramun (runner grass) kept inside it.”

Nehru said, “The ritual of narrating a Punn story by the eldest lady in the house is an integral part of the festival. This is done while offering rice grains, flowers, grass and tying a red thread, Punn, around the wrist of one another as a symbol of unification.This is, then, followed by the serving of Roth as prasad or naveed along with steaming cups of our traditional fragrant tea, Kehwa.”

Usually, a community affair back in Kashmir, the ceremony now comes with a waft of nostalgia, and in Pune, he says, it has become a more private affair. “We have been trying to keep our traditions alive through this, as they keep us connected to our land,” he expressed.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 10:20 IST