The White Hindu has moved

The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Monday, September 13, 2010

How I celebrated

I had a great time with Ganesh Chathurthi.

In the morning I went to Chinmaya and there was a Ganesh puja performed by the children.

In the afternoon I created my own Ganesha statue, then I cooked modak and offered them to the idol and then we drove to a park and I released the statue into the water.

There were a couple of hitches. My modak turned out terrible! They were falling apart and I couldn't get them into the right shape, but my friend who was visiting said to keep trying anyway. They ended up looking like wontons. The filling tasted fine, but the dough was not great. Next time I'm buying them from the grocery store.

Letting the little statue go in the water was deeply moving. It was hard for me to leave it behind there. I like the symbolism of "dust thou art to dust returnest" (which is part of a line from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, though he goes on to write that this was not said of the soul).

You may not realize it, but this is the first year that I'm doing Hindu holidays. I've considered myself a Hindu for seven years, but all I've done before is Holi. I was never well connected in a Hindu community and I didn't know how to go about it. Now I have a temple to go to and I have my Hindi meet up group, which invites me to things. And I'm figuring out for myself how to make each holiday meaningful, and which traditions I want to


  1. Your Ganesha looks good! In our place we had a pandal set up and a huge Ganesha idol. Bhajans are sung in the evenings and this will go on for a week more.

  2. The amount of water used is relavent to the consistency of the dough.If the dough does not work ,you can crumble it and steam it and eat as you would cornflakes,or for the savouryu kind mix it with some carrot[grated] and Chat-masala. [Actually, there are both traditional sweet and savoury dishes made from the dough in India,but because I don't know if you have access to an Indian store or the making Indian/specifically south-Indian dishes,I am not posting the full recipe.]Please,Let me know if you are interested.

  3. I would be interested, Sita. I appreciate your advice. I think I had too little water and the dough was very stiff and prone to breaking.

    I do have an Indian grocery store nearby that I go to often and I'm always looking for new recipes to try.

  4. We did Ganesha out of tumeric instead. Haven't let him go yet - we're thinking this friday. We made modaks and kozhukattai's as well. Funny thing about them. After we made them we put 21 in a tray with some flowers and bananas as his offering. After the prayers we had some modaks left over (ones that weren't placed in the tray) and it tasted sweet. So after the evening prayers we took them (the 21 modaks offered) and ate a couple as prasad. There was no sweetness left in them at all!!! Mum assumed since Ganesha loved modaks, he must have taken all the sweetness out of them. It was actually a heartfelt moment. I actually had to excuse myself and have a little cry lol.

  5. Cool! I wish the statues made in India were totally bio degradable though.

    That's really sweet! Thanks for sharing that.

  6. Generally,[according to my mother],the water to rice flour[washed and not fully dry,a little moist and sieved ] ratio is 2:1;i.e. For every cup of flour,you need 2 cups of water.The water should be boiling hot,and for safety,one removes a quarter of the water before flour is added[salt and oil to be added before the flour is added.This the traditional way.
    My way,provided you have the wet-grinding mixie attachment :1) soak the measure of rice in water;2)after I hour or a little more ,drain the rice into the wet grinding jar,add half a measure of water and grind to a smooth paste. Empty into a microwaveable container,add salt and I tbsp coconut[or any other] oil and microwave for 30 seconds,stir and repeat until the dough thickens and is of the consistency of play-dough[you can shape with the dough].Once it is of the right consistency,you should remove the dough to a plate /basin and knead it until smooth.
    I found less bobbles[small granular masses] this way than with a dry/semi dry flour. Any way one needs a lot of practice to make these steamed modaks[also called kuzhukkattais in tamil] ,maybe that's why they do this kozhukattais for Adi/Aashaada[mid-July to mid-August]and on Thai/Pushya[mid-Jan. to mid-Feb.} fridays.
    In the villages, the women used to go to their freind's houses to help make this ,if they had made a special prayer/offering of Kozhukkattais [for being granted some prayer/wish].

  7. If the above dough is too dry,then sprinkle required water and either microwave for a minute,or steam the dough .If you have leftover dough, then break it into small granules[you can use your hand or a grater,depending in quantity ] and steam [it should be translucet when cooked]. Then Saute a pinch of mustard seeds,a pinch of cummin seeds,a tsp of black grams[urad dall with skin removed],fresh green chilli/dry red chilli[if you don't have either substitute 1/2 tsp or to taste, of chilli powder or black pepper powder,and Curry leaves.You can add a dash of Hing powder or even onions finely chopped to enhance digestion and taste/flavour to this mixture and mix in the steamed granules of dough. You can also add grated carrots or sprouts to this dish to make it even more wholesome.A dash of Lime/lemon also adds to the taste.Of course,fresh green coriander[cilantro?] leaves ,will make it into a dish that has the colours of the Indian Flag.{my husband calls this the "National Flag Upma".}

  8. If it was too wet,then Microwave it for longer duration[30 seconds each],or just put it on stove and keep stirring it[tougher on shoulders and hands] until it is of right consistency.
    For the sweet variety you can brake the dough into granules [as before]and add to boiling milk/water.Once cooked you can add sugar or Gur[ unrefined sugar],to your taste,along with any flavouring [Cardamom, Cinnamon,Saffron,etc.]of choice.a Banana can also be added to the dish either when hot or at serving.
    I hope this helps.

  9. Thanks for the great advice, Sita. I will try your method next time! All your varieties sound delicious.

    Dhurga, that is a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Satish, I am a bit obsessed with earth preservation stuff, but it does seem like it wouldn't be that hard to make bio-degradable Ganesh statues! I also have been using brightly colored spices to throw at Holi instead of the prepackaged powders. I may be a nut, but it makes me feel better about myself :)

  10. Amba,
    I loved your Ganesha murti! I agree that the making of modaks can be a bit tricky and requires practice. You can try making them during Navaratris too and see if they come out better. :-)

  11. your ganesha looks very funny.... good job, isnt this an occassion to smile, celebrate and rejoice.

    Secondly, your steel dinner plate reminded me of my parental home.Back then typically we used them steel plates for our meals. I see none of that anymore. Now its all chinaware here in the US...surya

  12. Aamba,

    So nice to see you being very festive during the festival season. It's really great to hear about how meaningful it has become for you. Holdiays(festivals) can become so habitual, but it is great to see that your experiences are so fresh.


  13. @Satish and Aamba

    Thanks guys. Haha I think it's going to be one of those precious moments. This also happened to be the very first time that we've done charthurti as a family. Very memorable indeed.

  14. Dhurga , Belated Thanks for sharing your experience.Now we are all gearing up for the next one- The Navarathri.

  15. I know my idol does look funny! I'm not a talented artist. But he makes me smile and that's the most important thing.

    The plate is one used for meals. My boyfriend and I were eating at an Indian restaurant a while ago and they served the meal in traditional fashion, with the large thaali and the little bowls within it. I told him that I really wanted sets like that for home and he found some for me!

  16. Your Ganesh idol is so joyous! Good job. Although I've been a Ganesh devotee for several years, I'm not formally Hindu. My relationship with Ganesh is a personal one. I've never been quite sure what to do on Ganesh Chaturthi in years past. The closest Northern CA Hindu temple is 2.5 hrs away and I'm not sure if I'd even be allowed (or what to do once there.) This year, rather than feel that I missed something, I've been doing simple home puja. In my experience, Ganesh is appreciative of my clumsy, but heartfelt devotional efforts. Still deciding how to celebrate Ganesh Visarjan, but I like the idea of splashing a bit of ceremonial water on my altar idol.

    I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog. Thank you.

  17. @ Jaya Savannah,

    " and I'm not sure if I'd even be allowed "

    can you explain a little more please. The talk of someone not being allowed is appearing here now and then. Are you a white or do you have any other concerns? I see white people in most hindu mandirs in west.You dont need to DO anything. Sit in a corner and watch and observe, then may be you will approach the deity and offer a short prayer. Language and content dont matter as long as it is some thing good for all and yourself.Explore Gayathri Mantra on google for starters. Easily one of the best hindu prayers. cheers.Surya

  18. Even beyond the concern of being "allowed", I know it can be really overwhelming and scary to go somewhere new, where you don't quite know the order of things or what you should be doing and you don't know anyone! It's rather terrifying :)