Ganesh Chaturthi food comprises the menu of the auspicious Hindu festival of Ganesh Chaturthi or Ganesh Utsav, also known as Vinayak Chaturthi. It is the special festival of Ganesha, the elephant-headed God and he is prayed as the first deity. The festival usually falls around late August or early September. While the festival is celebrated on a very grand scale across India and also overseas, it is exceptionally huge in Maharashtra and South India.
Ganesh Utsav is one of the most popular Hindu festivals and the lavish celebrations last for 10 days. Special sweets and foods are prepared on each day of the festival and these preparations are offered to the Elephant God during prayers and distributed among family, friends and neighbors. Some of the most famous dishes made at home during the festival are Besan ke Laddo or round sweets of gram flour, Mong Dal ka Halwa or pudding made from moong lentil, Puliyodarai or tamarind spiced rice, Puran Poli or sweetened bread stuffed with Bengal gram, sugar, jaggery, etc., Modak (a sweet comprising of tiny gram flour pearls) and Kaju ki Barfi or cashewnut cake.
Traditional Ganesh Chaturthi Food Menu
Traditional preparations during the festival are popular Indian sweets like Besan Ladoo, Motichoor Ladoo, Kaju Barfi, Rawa Ladoo, Moong Dal Halwa, Pooran Poli, Nankhatai, Sundal and Karanji. One of the most prominent and important Ganesh Chaturthi preparations is Modak. During the festival, kitchens and homes are stocked with jaggery, sugar, coconut and lentil fritters or fried vadas. Important foods of the festival are:
- Modak - This sweet is the most important and regarded preparation during Ganesha Utsav. A Maharashtrian specialty, the sweet is a fried dumpling filled with coconut, jaggery and/or cardamom.
- Kozhakottai - The steamed version of Modak, the preparation is popular in South India.
- Kheer - Rice pudding made with condensed milk, sugar, rice and milk, Kheer is an important Indian preparation and always a part of festivities.
- Medhu Vada - These spicy fried fritters are one of the very few savory preparations and are made with curry leaves, black peppercorns, spices of preference, green chilies and a mix of lentils (dals).
- Puran Polis - Parathas made with sweet maida (sweetened flour) and stuffed with jaggery and coconut, Puran Polis are made in Maharashtra by soaking chana dal and the paratha is consumed with milk. In South India, the parathas are made with coconut, jaggery and chana dal. Modak and Polis are considered the prime food preparations of Ganesha Chaturthi.
Significance of Ganesh Chaturthi Food
Food prepared during the 10 days of Ganesha Utsav is centered mostly on the belief that Lord Ganesha is a lover of sweets and food. The idols and images of the Hindu God are always seen clutching a Modak in the hand and this has made the sweet, fried preparation the most important food of the festival. Jaggery or palm sugar, an important ingredient in foods prepared during the Utsav, is pegged as one of Ganesha's favorite foods. Traditionalists strictly believe that all foods and sweets (unless savory) must contain jaggery. Using sugar or brown sugar as a substitute is not enough and some believe that this could even upset Ganesha.
Ganesha Utsav Food in Tamil Nadu
In Tamil Nadu, Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated as Vinayak Chaturthi or Pillayar Chaturthi. The day is marked by colorful celebrations and special home-made sweets and foods are an important part of the festival. Some of the regional delicacies are:
- Modhagam - A delicious fried snack made with coconut, jaggery, rice flour, all-purpose flour, cardamom powder and oil.
- Thengaai Poorna Kozhukattai - A delectable regional sweet, Thengaai Poorna Kozhukattai is believed to be a favorite of Lord Ganesha. It is made with jaggery, coconut, oil and cardamom powder.
- Paal Kozhukattai - The traditional sweet of Tamil Nadu, Paal Kozhukattai is essentially a rice pudding made with milk or coconut milk, jaggery, rice, sugar and cardamom powder.
- Urdal Poorna Kozhukattai - This is one of the very few savory dishes prepared on the occasion of Pillayar Chaturthi. Urdal Poorna Kozhukattai is a simple dish and is made with urdhal, rice flour, salt, curry leaves, coconut, oil and green chilies.
- Paruppu Payasam with Coconut Milk - Another traditional recipe and a must-have on festivals, Paruppu Payasam with Coconut Milk is a sweet preparation made with jaggery, rice, coconut, moong dal, ghee and cardamom.
Ganesha Chaturthi Food in Andhra Pradesh
Celebrated as Vinayaka Chavithi or Vinayak Utsav in Andhra Pradesh, Ganesha Chaturthi is a very important festival and it is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. People gather together to dance, pray, sing and eat. Food is an integral part of the festivities and there are various special dishes prepared on the occasion:
- Modak – The traditional favorite sweet, also a favorite of Lord Ganesha, is prepared throughout the festival. In homes, fresh Modak is prepared every day, for all 10 days.
- Karanji - Locally known as karjikaiin, this special sweet of the region is much like Modak in taste and composition but it's shape is different.
- Rava Laddoo - Fried suji or semolina ladoos made with condensed milk, cardamom powder and ghee. Sugar can be added to make the dish sweet. In AP, however, it is mostly sugar-less.
- Puliyodharai - Traditional tamarind rice of the region, the dish is made with rice, Bengal gram, green chilies, peanuts, black pepper, tamarind, oil and ghee. Jaggery is an optional ingredient and can be added if a sweeter preparation is preferred.
Vinayak Chaturthi Food in Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most important festivals and is celebrated with great enthusiasm for 10 long days. People gather on the streets to sing and dance. Homes are stacked with jaggery, coconut and ghee throughout the festival and sweets and foods are prepared round-the-clock, in homes as well as in commercial establishments.
- Modak - The favorite sweet of the Elephant Lord is a must-have in Maharashtra as well. Both fried and steamed versions are popular.
- Besan Ladoo - Lord Ganesha's love for ladoos made with besan and jaggery has made besan ladoo an important preparation of the festival. In homes, these are made at least once during each day of celebration.
- Moong Dal Ka Halwa - A delectable sweet made with moong dal, mawa, jaggery, sugar, milk, saffron and cardamom powder.
In the state of Maharashtra, Ganesha Puja is a very grand festival and there are various sweets and foods prepared to mark the celebrations. These include the traditional and regional foods as well as those popular in other states, mostly due to the huge immigrant population in the state.
Modern Ganesh Chaturthi Preparations and their Variations
Ganesh Chaturthi food, in the modern times, is quite the same as it was in the by-gone days. The ingredients and recipes have managed to stay the same in most respects with few changes mostly in terms of making the preparations healthier and fit for consumption by people who are suffering from heart disease or diabetes and/or struggling with weight issues. This is done by substituting some ingredients and following Ganesh Chaturthi recipes for low-calorie preparations.
Customary Way of Serving and Eating Ganesh Chaturthi Preparations
Ganesh Chaturthi recipes are cooked and served over the 10 days of celebration during all times of the day. The sweets are consumed as snacks, alongside meals as well as prasada or after-prayer offering to devotees. On the first day, Lord Ganesha is invited with special chants and prayers and offered milk, curd, ghee, honey and jaggery. Once the prayers are done, sweets and prasada are distributed and families sit together and eat. This continues throughout the festival and offerings of honey, curd, ghee, jaggery, Modak, laddoos, almonds, etc., are made to the idol every day.
On the 10th day, the idol is immersed into the water and this is followed by lots of dancing, celebrations, food and sweets. Food of the final day of celebration is most grand and friends and neighbors generally eat together.