Link between Ganesh Chathurthi and Modak | Sunday Observer

Link between Ganesh Chathurthi and Modak

19 September, 2021

Ganesh Chathurthi which is also known as Vinayakar Chathurthi (in Tamil) is celebrated from September 10 to 21 this year to mark the birthday of Lord Ganesh. This ten-day celebration is a significant religious event for Hindus across the globe. The festival is marked with much pomp and fervour in many parts of the world including India and Sri Lanka.

Ganesh Chathurthi falls on the 4th day of the month of Avani, according to the Hindu Calendar. During this ten-day celebration, devotees make idols of Lord Ganesh out of clay and turmeric to signify the birth of elephant-headed god and worship. They also observe fast in the name of Lord Ganesh and enjoy themselves by preparing, offering and eating festive sweetmeats such as Modak (Kozhukkatai/ Modakam in Tamil).

Idols are thrown into water

The tenth or the final day of Ganesh Chathurthi is known as Anand Chathurdashi on which devotees bid farewell to Lord Ganesh. The idols made of clay and turmeric that had made on the first day of the festival and have been worshipped for ten days at home or temples are thrown into water such as a local water body or sea. This idol immersion ceremony is held in grandeur.

It is believed that Lord Ganesh returns to Mount Kailash on the tenth day, where his parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati live, after being with mortals for ten days.

The wisdom behind performing this ritual is to depict the cycle of birth of Lord Ganesh. He was created from clay (earth) and then disappear from the eyes of devotees (by immersing in water) which means his departure from the mortal world to reach his supreme abode. The idols of Lord Ganesh are immersed as breaking or discarding them is regarded disrespectful to the Lord.

As Lord Ganesh is worshipped for removing obstacles, devotees believe that the obstacles are (personal and household) destroyed along with the tossing of the idols into water.

Birth of Lord Ganesh

Legend has it that goddess Parvati had created a child out of sandalwood paste (some say it’s clay) and given life. She was feeling lonely as her husband Lord Shiva had been immersed in meditation for a long period. One day when she went to bathe, she had kept her son for guard. That time, Lord Shiva had arrived and attempted to enter into the place where Goddess Parvati was having bath. Goddess Parvati’s little son did not permit Lord Shiva to enter. Angered, Lord Shiva beheaded the little one. When Goddess Parvati saw her baby without head, she relates the story of her baby.

Then Lord Shiva realises his fault and rushes to find a human head to restore the child to life. Unfortunately, he finds the head of a baby elephant. Having no option, Lord Shiva places the head of baby elephant on the child and thus, the elephant-headed God is born. God Ganesh is worshipped to remove obstacles, for good fortune and prosperity. He is worshipped as a god of wisdom and intelligence.

Modak and Kolukkattai from flowers

Ganesh Chathurthi is never celebrated without Lord Ganesh’s favourite sweetmeat Modak (Kozhukkatai), a steamed sweet dumpling. Modak and Ganesh Chathurthi are intertwined. Lord Ganesh is also known as ‘Modak Priya’ (the one who loves Modak) for his excessive indulgence in this delish sweetmeat. Modak and Kozhukkatai is the same sweetmeat, yet the shape differs according to regions. This sweetmeat is known in Hindi as Modak and in Tamil as Modakam or Kozhukkatai. Kozhukkatai has an oblong shape, while Modak bears resemblance to an onion with the same filling inside. There is another type of Kozhukkatai known as Pidi Kozhukkatai mostly made in Tamil Nadu.

It is said that the shape and the ingredients used in preparing Modak depict Lord Ganesh. The sharp edge of the sweetmeat signifies the sharp intelligence of Lord Ganesh, while the delicious filling inside depict that he is ‘sweet’ by being pleasant, gentle and kind towards living beings. The white outer cover depicts Lord Ganesh’s pure heart as white is regarded a symbol of purity.

Although the colour of Modak is often white, colourful Modak can be prepared using natural colours extracted from flowers such as hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) and marigold (Tagetes erecta), which are often used in making offerings to Lord Ganesh and also with butterfly pea

(Clitoria ternatea).

Ingredients for hibiscus Modak

  • Rice flour 1 cup
  • Jaggery 1 cup
  • Grated coconut 1 cup
  • Ghee 2 teaspoons
  • Water 1 cup
  • Hibiscus flowers 2
  • Cardamom pods 2
  • Groundnuts 2 tablespoons
  • Pinch of salt


To make the stuffing, lightly roast groundnuts. Combine roasted groundnuts and jaggery in a food processor and grind. Heat a pan, add 1 teaspoon of ghee. When ghee is heated, add grated coconut and ground jaggery and groundnut mix. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add crushed cardamom and little salt. Sauté for another couple of minutes and remove from heat. Let this stuffing mix get cooled.

Boil water. Wash and remove the petals of hibiscus flower. Add in the boiled water. Let the flowers boil for a couple of minutes. Strain water and discard the petals. Pour the hibiscus water back to the pot and add a few drops of lime juice. The water will become bright red.

Add ghee in it and mix. Then add rice flour little by little and mix well. Leave it for five minutes to cool. Knead well until you get a soft dough.

After five minutes cut a lime sized dough. Apply ghee on hands and flatten it using fingers. Take extra care when flattening as the dough tend to break easily. Keep the stuffing in the middle and make it into a shape of an onion.

Boil water in an Idly maker. Grease the Idly plate with ghee and place Modak on it. Cook for ten minutes.

Kozhukkatai are prepared in the shape of a Sri Lankan patty. In addition to scraped coconut, jaggery and groundnuts, roasted sesame is used as an ingredient in the stuffing known as Pooranam for Kozhukkatai.

Blue and orange (yellow) colour Modak and Kozhukkatai can be made using butterfly pea and marigold flowers. The colour can be extracted the same way as above.

When making Pidi Kozhukkatai, roasted and ground sesame and jaggery are ground and boiled in a pan along with cardamom, scraped coconut and rice flour.

Once the mix is cooked, it is left to be cooled. Then using hand, lightly squeeze the mix between palm and the fingers to get oblong shaped Pidi Kozhukkattai. It is then steamed.