I am very new to exploring Hinduism. I have casually known people who are Hindu but never really got into the nitty gritty of really talking about the religion. So with the power of Google I tracked down as many sites as I could and here is what I have learned about Ganesh Chaturhi...
Ganesh Chaturhi, is a festival to celebrate Lord Ganesh who, according to Hindu religion, is the Lord of prosperity and wisdom. Ganesh is the child of the god Shiva and goddess Parvati, although most stories of his creation say he was created by only goddess Parvati. He is believed to be a remover of obstacles. If you see a picture of Ganesh you will probably think it looks familiar as it is one of the more popular images in Hinduism. Ganesh is the deity with the elephant head and man's body and sometimes is pictured riding on a mouse. Ganesh's elephant head is symbolic of wisdom, his human body of humanity, and the mouse he rides on is a symbol for humility. The story of how he got the elephant head may be violent, but it was interesting albeit confusing to my 4 and 6 year old. A good explanation of how he got the elephant head can be found here and my quick summary is at the bottom of this post.
Prior to the holiday celebration Hindus will make or buy models or idols of Lord Ganesh to place in their homes to pay homage. There are rituals of paying tribute to Ganesh performed by a priest and for several days Ganesh is worshiped. The time of worship is different depending on location, but 10 days seemed to be the most popular. On the last day there is a large colorful festival where the idols are taken out and there is singing and dancing. A procession goes towards a river/sea where the idols will be submerged in water which symbolizes the Lord Ganesh's journey toward his home in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of all man.
I found an explanation on why the idols are submerged in water on hindu-blog.com, they say the reason that the Ganesh idol is submerged in the water is that the idols are typically made of clay ( a mixture of sand and water). While the soul is formless and therefore difficult to worship, the idol is an object that can be used in celebration. When the idol is submerged it is not gone, as the sand and water still exist, but the idols form will no longer be there. So each year Ganesh teaches that forms change but the Supreme Truth remains the same- a body perishes but the soul residing in it remains constant.
If you are interested in my conversation with the boys about Ganesh Chaturhi I have a summary of it here.
Our craft of course was a playdough Ganesh.
We did a no cook playdough recipe that didn't require cream of tartar and it can be found here.
The recipe was:
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cup salt
The recipe called for food coloring. We did not have any but did have tempera paint so that is what we used to color our playdough.
We separated the water into four bowls just like in the video and added the paint and 1/2 a tablespoon of oil to each bowl and mixed that up. Then in a larger bowl we combined the flour and salt which we then divided evenly into the four bowls. We made green, yellow, blue, and red. We each attempted a Ganesh and then it quickly turned into making other things. The playdough turned out nicely and is wrapped up in the refrigerator for another day of play tomorrow.
I had thought about taking our model to the duck pond but wasn't sure if the playdough form would be hazardous to the ducks so I saved it in a baggy to be reused again- which I thought was fitting too since the playdough still exists and can be used to make another form:)
Our food for this holiday is Nan khatai.
I adapted the recipe from here:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 almond meal
1/2 cup gram flour
pinch of baking soda
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp of sliced pistachios
I also did a last minute dash of cinnamon
Preheat over to 375F/190 C
Mix flours, baking soda, cardamom powder in large bowl and set aside
Beat butter and sugar in small bowl until light and fluffy
Add butter mixture to flour mixture and knead into a dough
Divide into 24 equal parts and roll into balls and flatten slightly with your palms
With a knife mark squares into the surface of each piece of dough by drawing 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines and places nuts into each of these squares. We only did a nut in the middle of the cookies.
Bake the dough on a greased baking tin or parchment lined tin for 12-15 min or until golden brown. Leave to cool
When I tasted the dough I was not excited for how the cookie would turn out. After cooking they were better, but the next day they were great and all were gobbled up:)
Here is my promised summary of Ganesh's head:
A quick summary : In the Shiva Purana, the goddess Parvati created a boy out of the dirt of her body while she was bathing (I have to say as a mother of three boys I really appreciate the fact that her son is made out of dirt. Sometimes at bath-time I think my kids lose a pound or two of dirt themselves). She tasked this boy to guard the entrance to her bathroom. When her husband Shiva returned, he was surprised and angry that a stranger would not let him into the bath and he cut off the boy's head. Parvati was shocked and grieved so Shiva went out and searched for a head to replace the one he cut off to put onto the body. He came upon an elephant and took its head and then attached it to the body of the boy. Shiva restored his life and made him the leader of his troops. Shiva also blessed him so people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any venture.
Thanks for reading!
My main source of information for this piece was found on hinduism.about.com.