All around Maharashtra, in the countryside, across the fields, in the sheds of potters and craftsmen, you will catch sight of Ganapati idols, white as rice flour, waiting for the brush of colour and devotion in the joyful days ahead
Meanwhile, inside homes, preparation has begun to host the God and offer prayers and offerings. What better way to start than by making modaks, which are the deity’s favourite food? Sant Jnaneshwar identifies Ganapati with the totality of sacred texts and knowledge and even in the Padma Purana the modak is said to be the symbol of perfect knowledge. It is said that, just by inhaling its aroma, a man can achieve immortality because he would understand the essence of all sacred books and become proficient in the sciences and arts.
Traditionally made on the first day of the festival no other sweetmeat is as associated with Ganesh Chaturthi. Besides the 21 modaks traditionally offered to this most popular and beloved of deities, prepare to make plenty more, because his tastes have spread and most people cannot resist these sweets made, as they are, in perfect bite sized pieces.
Makes approximately 25 modaks
- 2 coconuts grated fine.
- 1 ½ cups pale yellow jaggery grated
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 1 ½ tsps elaichi powder, freshly ground.
- 2 tbsp cashew nuts chopped
- 1 tsp ghee
- 2 cups of rice flour, ready made or make your own in a grinder. I use two scented rices : Chinor and Ambemohr . This rice should be just harvested, young rice so that the dough becomes more pliable.
- 2 tbsps flour/ maida
- 2 tbsps ghee
- A pinch of salt
- 2 cups of water
- Pinch of saffron
Fry the chopped cashew nuts in a teaspoon of ghee till golden brown. Grate the coconuts and gur. Put both in a kadhai along with the sugar and raisins and cook stirring continuously till the mixture becomes soft and sticky and fairly dry.. Take off the fire, let it cool and then add the elaichi powder and the cashewnuts . Mix well and set aside while preparing the dough.
Mix the rice flour and maida. Heat two cups of water with the ghee and as it comes to the boil add the salt and the rice and flour mixture. Let it come to the boil twice, mixing all the while to dissolve any lumps and then remove from the fire. Now knead well till the dough becomes soft.
Roll out into circles of 3” diameter. The circles should be not more than 3mm in thickness like a fine chapathi. Grease hand with a drop of oil and place the circle on the centre of the palm. Fill each circle with a teaspoon of the coconut and jaggery mixture. Now gather the outer edges of the circle as if pleating cloth and swivel the modak in the palm as you close the edges. This takes some practice to get right.( You can also get little modak makers in metal or plastic but I cannot vouch for their effectiveness.)
Place the prepared modaks on a muslin swathed plate in a steamer, top with a bit of butter paper to prevent them from getting soggy, then cover tightly with the lid and cook for 10-12 minutes till done. Make in batches according to the size of your steamer. You can use a colander over a trivet in a cooker if you do not own a steamer.
Soak a few strands of saffron in a bit of melted ghee. Put a droplet of saffron infused ghee on top of each modak for colour and essence.
Now you are ready to bring Lord Ganesha home.