Adyar Gopal Parivar
Gowri Ganesha Festival is another important Hindu festival. Gowri is the mother
of Ganesha. Gowri festival is on Bhadrapada Shuddha Thritheeya (the third day of the first
fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada) according to the Hindu calendar. Lord Ganesha
festival is on the next day, i.e. Bhadrapada Shuddha Chaturthi (on the fourth day of the
first fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada). Sometimes the thithi(s) of the third and the
fourth days fall on a single day. These festival days do not come on the same dates of the
common calendar every year. Therefore in order to avoid confusion, this festival may be
held on the third Sunday of the month of September every year regardless of what the
Panchaanga books say.
Gowri festival is mainly observed to promote married women's interests.
Being the wife of Lord Shiva, Gowri assumes powers to bless the married woman with the
boons she wishes for, such as long life for her husband, fertility and prosperity. The Gowri
festival is on the same lines as the Varamahalakshmi Vratha, except that the deity is Gowri
instead of Lakshmi. Hindus are not united in the worship of their deities. There is rivalry
between the Shiva worshippers and the Vishnu worshippers. Each regards their deity to
be superior to the other.
Gowri is the wife of Shiva and therefore the Shiva worshippers encourage
their wives to worship Gowri. Lakshmi is the wife of Vishnu and therefore the Vishnu
worshippers extol the virtues of worshipping Lakshmi. These differences were so acute in
the medieval times in India that there were wars between the rulers on account of a ruler
being a Vishnu worshipper and his enemy being a Shiva worshipper. Shiva worshipping
rulers have compelled the Vishnu worshippers to give up the practice and convert to
Shaivism. Many Vaishnavites were either imprisoned or were banished from the kingdom
by the Shaivite rulers. When the British gained control of administration of India, they put
down this kind of fight among the Hindus and allowed the growth of all faiths alike. Both
Vaishnavite and Shaivite thoughts survived. Both sides were able to observe their festivals
in peace. That is how now women are free to worship either Lakshmi or Gowri or both.
Many men and women these days do not give importance to any one particular deity but
worship all deities equally. Therefore in the houses where Lakshmi Puja is held, there is
Gowri Puja is also held.
Gowri festival is considered to be the festival by which goddess Gowri will
be very much pleased with the married women. Unmarried girls also take part in this
festival, and pray the goddess to grant them a very loving husband; a husband who is
handsome, strong, hard working, and courageous.
The story behind the elephant-headed god Ganesha is as follows: Parvathi
was alone in the house, when she wished to go for a bath. There was no one to guard the
house, so she got a doll prepared and give life to it. She asked the doll to guard the house
and not let any one enter the house. After a while Shiva came home but the live doll
stopped him from entering the house. Shiva got angry and beheaded the doll. Soon
Parvathi returned and found that her husband has killed her doll. She asked Shiva to
please bring life in it for her sake. Shiva asked his soldiers to go and fetch a fresh head to
join with the torso of the doll. He told them that a head of any animal would do. The
soldiers found an elephant and cut off its head. They brought the elephant's head to Shiva
who joined it to the doll's torso. The doll lived but with an elephant's head. Parvathi and
Shiva adopted this elephant-headed boy doll as their son Ganesha. Shiva also assigned
him the duties of the chief of Gana(s). Shiva declared that Ganesha must be revered at
the start of any religious activity to ward off any obstacles that the Gana(s) might put in.
Why would the Gana(s) put in obstacles in the performance of the festivals? Gana(s)
follow the orders of the planets and star constellations, that is why. They can cause
difficulties in the smooth conduct of any ritual. But Ganesha is capable to holding the
actions of the Gana(s) under wraps. It is then that Hindus worship Ganesha ahead of any
function or celebration.
In the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, the Ganesha festival is
celebrated as a publicly funded festival, in addition to being held in the homes of Hindus.
In the other states there may be a few places where the Ganesha festival is similarly
celebrated as a publicly funded festival, but they are not so extravagant as in the state of
Maharashtra, and especially in the city of Mumbai. It was in the early nineteenth century
that the famous Marathi freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak who popularised the publicly
funded Ganesh festival in Mumbai, Pune and other cities of Maharashtra. He did this in
order to make the citizens participate in celebrations in a public spirit. Public spirit brings
the citizens together on a public stage and allows them to unify to work united for public
causes. He encouraged formation of groups and associations of the neighbourhood
residents. They collected money as donations to run the festival. The money is collected
from the members of the association and also from the general public. An executive
committee is formed. This committee works hard day and night to make the festival a
success. These associations usually install a big clay figure of Ganesha and decorate it
with gold and silver jewelry, apart from the flowers and garlands. There will be Puja(s)
performed to Ganesha twice or thrice a day. There will be entertainment programs held in
the evenings. There will be bhajans (singing songs of prayer) every afternoon. Public feast
is served every day. People throng the halls, really because of the feast. But at the same
time they will also have an opportunity to perform Archana or Namaskaara to Lord
Ganesha. Finally there will be immersion of the clay figure in a water body such as a lake
or a river. Those clay figures installed in homes are slowly lowered into deep water well
located within the compound of the house. In all the cities, towns, and smaller settlements
there will be processions of these clay figures of Ganesha being carried on customised
trucks, bullock carts, handcarts, or other open vehicles accompanied by bands and
Nagaswara orchestra. Nagaswara is an oral wind instrument played by blowing wind into it
with force. The celebrations end with the immersion of the clay Ganesha.
Gowri festival is a joyous festival. There is much preparation to be done for
this festival. The house or the apartment is thoroughly cleaned and then decorated with
plants, garlands of leaves and flowers, mini-lights and floodlights. The entrance of the
dwelling should be decorated with potted plants preferably with flowers. In rural areas
banana plantains are tied to either side of the door, and garlands of mango leaves are
hung on the top of the door. Small paper flags are stringed and hung between the corners
across the room.
Vaina Puja (worship of Vaina). The main item is the Vaina. Vaina consists
of a coconut cleaned of its outer husk and fibers and then the shell polished to make it
shiny. There is one Kumbha Kalasha, which is set up for goddess Gowri and another for
god Shiva. Kumbha and Kalasha are pots made of either copper or silver and containing
sacred water. The water becomes sacred as soon as it is poured into the pot. When a
coconut is placed on the pot's opening, Kumbha Kalasha becomes complete. These
coconuts have to have their stalk fibres intact. The stalk fibres are situated at one pole of
the coconut shell, like a shendi. Shendi is the tuft of hair on the top of head worn by
Brahmins of yore.
Kumbha Kalasha adds beauty to the ceremony. There are many idols of
different deities also arranged on the altar. The altar is a wooden platform or a low
wooden bench. Lots of flowers and garlands are draped to the idols. Idols of Vishnu,
Lakshmi, Ganesha, Shiva, Parvathi, Sharada, etc., are all worshipped together. In India
the Gowri festival and the Ganesha festival are observed separately. Once in a while both
of them are observed on the same day. But as a minimum Hinduism practice, both Gowri
and Ganesha festivals can be observed together every year disregarding the Panchaanga
For observing Gowri-Ganesha festival, a clay figure of Ganesha is suitable.
Idols of Shiva and Parvathi are also needed. There are various sizes of clay figures
available. A size suitable for the family may be procured from the market and placed
prominently on a platform, (usually a 5 foot long wooden bench) in the central area of the
house. Idols of Shiva and Parvathi are also placed on the same platform on one side of
Ganesha. Shiva is the father and Parvathi (also known as Gowri) is the mother of
Ganesha. With this kind of a set-up, Parvathi (Gowri) and Ganesha are worshipped on the
same platform. In some homes, instead of the clay figures, paintings of these deities on
paper are obtained from the market. These paintings are fixed on frames made from large
folded Aloe leaves. These frames with the pictures are placed on the platform.
|Above: Gowri Puja set up at home
|Above: Kalasha and one Vain
|Above: Vaina coconuts ready
|Above: Vaina coconut with lamp
|Watch the videos of the
Public Ganesha Festival
of GSB Community.
(Windows Media Player)
2 mt. 04 secs.
(1 mt. 39 secs.
|Gowri Puja and Ganesha Chaturthi Festival
by Mohan Shenoy
Puja consists of waving the lighted aarathi in the face
of the deities. There are also Vaina coconuts that have to
be shown the aarathi. Banana leaves form an important part
of all Puja(s) at any home. Only the end pieces of the
banana leaves are used. Each end piece is about 2 ft. in
length. Such pieces of Banana leaves are used for keeping
Puja implements on them.The banana leaf pieces are
spread on the floor and then heaps of raw rice are arranged
on them. The Vaina coconuts are placed on the heaps of
raw rice. One Vaina coconut is placed on each heap. The
rice heap stabilizes the coconut from rolling. On the top of
the coconut a terracotta oil lamp is placed. Lamp is oiled
and a cotton wick is placed in the oil with one end sticking
out, which is lighted using a matchstick. About 30 such
coconuts with lighted lamps are arranged on the floor over
the banana leaf pieces, in front of the goddess Gowri's
portrait. A priest, or a man in the house, or a married woman
may perform the Puja.
The Puja begins with Sankalpa. Sankalpa is literally
determination. Here, determination to worship goddess
Gowri and Lord Ganesha. Next Achman is made. Achman is
to clear the throat with a sip of water. Water is taken in the
palm of the hand and sucked in the mouth, without regard to
any sound that accompanies such sucking. The sucking
might sound like drawing the last drops of the drink with a
straw from a bottle.
The third item is wearing the Pavithra.
Pavithra is a ring of the Darba grass. One end of the grass
sticks out from the knot. Darba grass gives authority to the
Pujari (one who performs the Puja) to perform the Puja.
After this the twelve Gana(s) are remembered and invoked.
Gana(s) are the chieftains of the universe. Ganesha is the
chieftains of the Gana(s). By paying respects to the Gana(s)
and the god Ganesha, the worshippers pray for protection
from obstacles in the Puja that is yet to be performed. All
these steps in the Puja are executed while the Vedic or
Puranic Manthras (verses) are chanted. Only the priests
know how to chant the Manthras. On the other hand any
one who learns how to chant the Manthras can officiate as
a priest. Only the priests and priest-likes can therefore
perform the steps such as Sankalpa, Achman, wearing
Pavithra and invoking the Gana(s). If the service of a priest
or a priest-like is not available then these steps are omitted.
Now the goddess Gowri is invoked by
reciting her names. There is a long list of names of Gowri,
which have to be recited at the Puja. Names of Ganesha
are also to be recited when Ganesha Puja is performed a
Puja performers other than the priest can recite these
names by reading the book of procedure of Gowri
Puja/Ganesha Puja that is available in the Vedic
bookstores. Vedic book stores are book stores that stock
religious books. If the priest is attending to the Puja then he
will recite these names for us.
In some homes a Homa (fire in which
offerings are tendered) called Gana Homa is set up. The
Homa adds value to the Puja. A priest can help set up the
Homa. During the Puja, god Ganesha is offered Naivedya
(food prepared for the feast) by placing small quantities of
every item prepared for the feast in small containers in front
of the altar. The priest offers the Naivedya to the god by
waving a flower or a Tulasi leaf to the god and then
dropping it in the container. This is done with every
A thread known as Vaina Daara
(Daara=thread) with twelve knots is also worshipped
along-side goddess Gowri. The Puja of the thread
consecrates it. The married women put on the thread
around their neck or they might tie it to their right wrists. At
last, the Mangalaarathi (Mangal=final auspicious) is waved.
To play music at the time of aarathi, someone will play the
Jagate (a brass plate beaten by a drum stick.) and another
person will blow the conch to produce the appropriate
music. The Mangalaarathi is the final act in the Puja.
Always more than one coconut Vaina is to be
worshipped so that there are enough to distribute to the
married women-relatives and friends. The Vaina coconuts
are to be distributed immediately after the Mangalaarathi to
those married women-relatives and friends who attend the
Puja. By presenting the pujaised Vaina, to the older married
women, a married woman will seek their blessings. To the
younger women she herself gives blessings at the time of
presenting the Vaina. The practice of blessing some one
younger is a tradition in Hinduism. It is also a tradition to
seek blessings of an older person. These are good
traditions but a large number of young people do not think
that giving and receiving blessings helps them in their life in
any manner. The expectation is that all the women will let
her keep her married status intact and all will remain happily
married without any jealousy or ill will. The receiving woman
will respond by giving back a pujaised Vaina at a later date.
She has to give a Vaina coconut that has been pujaised in
her home. By returning a Vaina the woman confirms the
mutual hopes and aspirations. There are some families that
do not practice the Vaina Puja as a tradition. Women from
such families can receive the Vaina coconut but need not
return the gift.
The Tamboola or the betel leaves and nuts
play an important part in giving and receiving gifts. Every
Vaina is to be presented along with Tamboola (a pair of
betel leaves and a few cut pieces of areca nuts). An article
of gift is to be accompanied by Tamboola. A gift given with
the Tamboola gets separated permanently from the giver.
The same gift item cannot be given back.
Videos and Photos
|HEAR MOHAN SHENOY
|Gowri Puja Festival
and Ganesha Chaturthi
by Mohan Shenoy
|Adyar Gopal and Radha Bai
LIST OF FESTIVALS
If the receiver wishes to return a Vaina, then she
cannot return the same Vaina coconut back. She shall
reciprocate with a newly pujaised Vaina and Tamboola.
However there is no rule that a Vaina gift has to be
reciprocated.Some of the invited guests wish to
perform Archana prayer to the goddess Gowri and/or
god Ganesha. They bring their own offerings such as
the coconut, banana phonno, flowers, incense sticks
etc. Banana phonno is a cluster of 5 banana fingers.
The priest will perform the Archana on their behalf to
the deities. He will break the coconuts into halves,
break the tips of the banana fingers, mount the flowers
on the deities, and light the incense sticks. He will also
pray the deities to grant the wishes of the Archana
After the Puja it is time for a grand feast
which is served to all the guests. The dishes that are
recommended for Gowri Puja are as follows: salt-less
spinach curry, sugarless rice gruel, and patholi. The
patholi recipe is given below. The dishes that are
recommended for Ganesha Puja are Takka ambata
(butter-milk sour curry), Pathroday, Khottay, Modak
and Chakkuli. Recipe of Modak is also given below.
Patholi is a rice preparation with the rice steam-cooked
in turmeric leaf. Keep a steam-cooker ready. The
quantities can be fractionated depending upon how
many Patholi(s) are to be cooked. The capacity of the
steam-cooker should be suitable to cook the number of
Patholi(s) to be prepared.
1. Turmeric leaf is available in the market. It can also
be grown in our kitchen garden. It is a long green leaf
with pointed ends. It has a pleasant smell. Wash about
50 turmeric leaves and keep ready for use later.
2. Popped Rice (Laji or Layi) is also available in the
market. Whole Layi as well as powdered Layi is
required. About 2 table spoonfuls of powdered Layi and
about 50 grams of whole Layi.
3. Jaggery, ordinary kind (one half measure= 100
grams). Jaggery is needed to prepare the Chooran,
and to add to the rice batter. About 25 grams to the
batter and 75 grams to the Chooran.
4. Cardamom powder (one half teaspoonful) is
available in the market. It can be prepared at home
using the cardamom pods.
5. White rice 200 grams. Wash the rice and soak in
double quantity of water for 1 hour.
6. Shredded coconut 100 grams, fresh preferable.
7. Preparation of Chooran: (Jaggery+powdered
Layi+Shredded coconut+cardamom powder) Take 75
grams of jaggery and break into small pieces in a tray.
Add the powdered Layi (2 tablespoonfuls) and mix. Add
50 grams of shredded coconut and mix well. Add
cardamom powder to make Chooran.
8. Put the soaked rice (drained) in the mixie-grinder
and add a little water. Add 50 grams of the shredded
coconut and grind for 1 minute. Now add 50 grams of
whole Layi and grind to a smooth batter (2-3 minutes).
Add salt to taste. Add jaggery 25 grams and grind
further. The batter should be of the dossa (pan-cake)
9. Keep the steam-cooker on the lighted stove and add
water to the bottom compartment. Keep the perforated
tray in the upper compartment. Prepare Patholi by
thinly spreading the batter on the leaf along its length
and placing the Chooran on the batter along its center
from end to end, Fold the leaf to trap the Chooran
inside the batter. Place the folded Patholi on the
perforated tray in the steam-cooker. Similarly prepare
Patholi with all the leaves, and place them side-by-side
in a row. Place a piece of banana leaf or cellophane
paper over the first row. Arrange the next row and then
place a banana leaf/cellophane paper over it. Place all
the fifty Patholi(s) stacked up as described. Close the
lid of the steam-cooker and let it cook for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes remove the lid and take out one
Patholi and see if it is done. If it is done the batter turns
into a soft cake and the Chooran stays firmly inside the
Patholi is eaten as a snack or served during the feast
of Ganesha festival.
Modak is said to be the favourite of Lord Ganesha.
1. One ripe banana is squeezed with 2-tablespoonful
sugar and 4 tablespoonfuls Maida flour (or
all-purpose-flour) and kneaded well to prepare dough.
The dough is divided into as many small balls as
2. Place a deep-frying pan on the stove and pour ghee
in it to about half its height. Heat ghee until it steams
lightly. Add the dough balls carefully one by one in the
ghee. Add as many balls as the ghee accommodates
for proper cooking. Fry until the balls turn reddish
brown and remove using a perforated ladle. Touch the
edge of the ladle to drain excess ghee. Place the fried
balls on an absorbent paper kept on a plate. The
Modak balls are ready.
Modak balls are served during the feast of Ganesha
Both Patholi and Modak are to be first offered to Lord
Ganesha during the Puja and then only served during