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Isheeta Sharma

And the forest, its heat cooled
all over by showers of rain,
is as if filled with a great delight...

Ritusamharam: A Gathering of Seasons
Kalidasa (Trans. A.N.D. Haksar)

As Amavasya arrives on August 30, we move towards the end of the second month of Varsha rtu. Nature is beginning to gradually transition to the oncoming Sharad rtu or Autumn. The temperature is pleasant: neither too hot nor too cold. Kasha grass grows tall and white. Lotus and white lilies bloom in the brimming lakes and ponds. Trees are laden with fruits and flowers, and crops are ripening for harvest awaiting the season of abundance – Sharad.

The waning lunar phase – Krishna Paksh – comes to a close and the waxing lunar phase – Shukla Paksh – begins on August 31.

Hartalika Teej – the third Teej of Varsha rtu falls on September 1 this year. Legend has it that the story of Hartalika Teej was narrated by Shiva to Parvati, reminding her of her incarnation as Shailaputri, daughter of Himlayaraj. On this day Shailaputri’s father instructed her to marry Vishnu, but she had been besotted by Shiva since a very young age. To prevent this proposed marriage, Shailaputri’s friend took her to a thick forest. Here, Shailaputri crafted a Shiva lingam out of her hair and prayed to Shiva. Impressed by her prayers Shiva offered to marry her and so, Shiva and Parvati were re-united. This legend is where Hartalika Teej gets its name from since Harat means ‘abduction’ and Aalika means ‘female friend’. Sand statues of Shiva and Parvati are meticulously made to celebrate their union on this day. In parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Gowri Habba is celebrated on the same day.

As per the lunar Islamic calendar, the Islamic New Year begins on September 1.

Maharashtra’s most widely celebrated festival Ganesha Chaturthi falls on September 2 this year. Idols of Ganesha are brought home and installed with fanfare during Ganesha Sthapana. For nine days Ganesha is worshipped in the house with ritual offerings. On the tenth day the deity leaves the house, usually in lavish, joyous processions for Ganesha Visarjan where the idol is submerged in water. It is this procession that is one of the hallmarks of Mumbai and brings the city to a standstill every year. The ideal time for the daily ritual worship of Ganesha is during the Madhyayana Kala (midday) between 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. because it is believed that Ganesha was born during the Madhyayana Kala.

The sweet most associated with Ganesha Chaturthi is the ukadiche modak or simply modak, Ganesha’s favourite. Legend celebrates Ganesha’s love for modaks to the extent that he is also known as Modakapriya – one who likes modak. Another meaning of this Sanskrit word is also ‘a lover of pleasure’. Usually 21 modaks are offered to Ganesha as bhog during every Ganesha puja. These sweet dumplings have a filling of jaggery, coconut and nuts and an outer layer of rice or wheat flour. In case you are feeling inspired, here is a modak recipe:

Ingredient list

For the dough

  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 tsp Ghee
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Rice Flour

For the filling

  • 1 cup Jaggery Crushed
  • 1 cup Fresh Coconut Grated
  • 1 tsp Cardamom Powder
  • 1 tbsp Poppy Seeds
  • 1 tbsp each: Almonds, Cashews, Raisins – all chopped

Instructions

For the dough

  • Heat water in a pan.
  • Add salt and 1 tsp ghee in the pan and bring it to a boil.
  • Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add the rice flour in the pan.
  • Mix well and cover and keep aside for 5 minutes.

For the filling

  • Add jaggery in a pan and let it melt.
  • Add coconut and mix well.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes and add cardamom powder, poppy seeds, cashew nuts, almonds and raisins and mix well.
  • Remove the pan from heat and let the filling cool.

Assembly

  • Remove the dough from the pan on a clean surface.
  • Apply ghee on your palms and knead the dough well until it is very smooth.
  • Keep applying ghee in your palms while kneading the dough.
  • You have to knead the dough when it is slightly hot.
  • Grease a modak mould.
  • Take small ball from the dough and press it in the mould around the edges in a thin and even layer.
  • Fill the cavity with the filling mixture.
  • Seal the cavity with some dough and remove the modak from the mould very gently.
  • Dip the modak in water and keep on a plate.
  • Make all the modaks in the same manner.

For Steaming

  • Heat a steamer.
  • Keep the modak on the steamer lined with a muslin cloth or banana leaf.
  • Steam for 12-15 minutes until they turn translucent.

Recipe sourced from Whiskaffair.com by Neha Mathur.

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