Ganesh Chaturthi: Modak

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Devi Durga, the mother Goddess comes home every year during autumn, the Bengali month of Ashwin. As myth says, Durga, the daughter of King Himalaya descends to her paternal house from her husband’s abode in Kailash. With much pomp and grandeur the goddess is welcome to the land.

Ganesh Chaturthi marks the advent of the great home coming of Goddess Durga and her four children – Ganesh, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Karthik. Yesterday was Ganesh Chaturthi and that gives us just 31 days for the start of the 5-day long worship.

Vakratunda mahakaya suryakoti samaprabha
Nirvighne kuru me deva sarva karaye shu sarvada

This is the shloka for Ganesh. Ganesh Chaturthi is a very big festival in the Western part of the Indian sub-continent, especially in Mumbai. At our home, we celebrate this day to mark the countdown of ending our year long wait for the goddess. This time I prepared modak and nadu.


For the wrap

  • 250gm rice flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)

For the filling

  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 cup jiggery (gur) or sugar
  • ½ cup dry fruits (optional)
  • A pinch of camphor (optional)


For the wrap

  • Pour the water and ghee in a thick bottom pan and heat till luke warm
  • Use this water to make a soft dough with the rice flour, keep it covered with a moist cloth so that the dough doesn’t dry out

For the filling

  • Mix the sugar or jiggery with the grated coconut in a thick bottom wok
  • Place over low flame and stir continuously till it forms a sticky mixture
  • Take out of flame and add the dry fruits and camphor if using

Putting them together

  • Take a little part of the dough and make a small ball of about one-inch diameter
  • Press this ball with both your hands to make it flat
  • Place about one teaspoon of the filling at the centre of the flattened ball
  • Cover the filling from all sides with the dough
  • Repeat this till the dough and filling are exhausted
  • Place the modaks in a steamer and steam for about 4 minutes or till tender
  • Serve hot

Hot Tips – If the filling becomes cold it turns very sticky and can’t be removed from the bottom of the wok, you can reheat the wok a little to take out the filling, but these tactic can’t be used if you are using sugar instead of jiggery.

I have steamed the modaks, alternately you can also fry in ghee.

Further Readings – 5 Must see Ganesh Chaturthi Mandals in Mumbai

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A bengali’s take on Ganesh Chaturthi

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[This is a Ganesh Chaturthi post. If you’re just interested in the Narkel Nadu recipe, please wait for another day.]

How a Bengali celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganpati Bappa

Ganpati Bappa

Globalisation has had an unlikely effect – Festival in Bengal. When I was a kid the only visible aspect about Ganesh Chaturthi in Kolkata (Calcutta then) was the telecast of the immersion ceremony of the huge Ganesh idols in Mumbai (Bombay then). We didn’t even know when is Ganesh Chaturthi unless we saw the holiday calendar. But, now even we Bongs have started worshipping Ganapati Bappa on Ganesh Chaturthi (also called, Ganesha Chaturthi, Vinayaka Chaturthi). Take my home, for instance. Since morning mom has been decorating the house. She painted miniature  alpona at the door step (Alpona is an oriental style of painting motifs on floors during any ceremonies, usually done using rice flour mixed dissolved in water).  There wasn’t any Ganesh Chaturthi katha or vrat though (I guess there would be, but a couple of years later. Here’s a link on how a FM channel in North Bengal is celebrating the festival). I had my part in the ceremony too. Prepared some Narkel narus (coconut-sugar balls) and went to college. But by the time I was back, my sister had finished off half of it and mom had distributed almost the rest among our neighbors, leaving me with just a couple of my favorite nadu.

Ganesha – created and beheaded

I wasn’t much aware of what actually Ganesh Chaturthi is. So, while writing for this post just thought of sharing the info I gained from mom and the internet. Ganesh Chaturthi is said to be the day when Lord Ganesh comes down to earth to bestow his blessings on his devotees. Ganesh or the Lord of Ganas is the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. While Lord Shiva was away, Parvati thought of creating a son to guard her. Parvati created Ganesha out of the sandalwood paste that she used for her bath and breathed life into the figure. She then set him to stand guard at her door and instructed him not to let anyone enter. In the meantime, Lord Shiva returned from the battle but as Ganesha did not know him, stopped Shiva from entering Parvati’s chamber. Shiva, enraged by Ganesh’s impudence, drew his trident and cut off Ganesha’s head. Parvati emerged to find Ganesha decapitated and flew into a rage. She took on the form of the Goddess Kali and threatened destruction to the three worlds of HeavenEarth and the subterranean earth.

Ganesh Puja Prasad

Ganesh Puja Prasad

Parvati’s rage

Parvati was enraged beyond control. Seeing her in this mood, the other Gods were afraid and Shiva, in an attempt to pacify Parvati, sent out his ganas, or hordes, to find a child whose mother is facing another direction in negligence, cut off his head and bring it quickly. The first living thing they came across was an elephant. That elephant was facing north (the auspicious direction associated with wisdom). So they brought the head of this elephant and Shiva placed it on the trunk of Parvati’s son and breathed life into him. Parvati was overjoyed and embraced her son, the elephant-headed boy whom Shiva named Ganesha, the lord of his ganas. Parvati was still upset so Lord Shiva announced that everyone who worships Ganesha before any other form of God is favoured. So Ganesh is worshipped first in all Hindu occasions and festivals.



Ganesha has become the symbol of Hinduism these days. Various styles, postures of Ganesha are openly sold in the market. People these days have started a new hobby collecting Ganesh idols, and my mom is one of them. At present she has a collection of odd 60 idols at our home. These are of different postures, sizes and made of various materials from plaster of Paris to 8 metal alloys and from terracotta to ivory. Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi. And please come back tomorrow for the Narkel Nadu recipe.

If you like this post, please consider linking to it or sharing it with others. I’ll love to hear your comments too. You can also Subscribe to BengaliCuisine by Email, or Subscribe in a reader

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