Lord Ganesha is worshiped by Hindus in the same manner God Janus is regarded in Greek mythology. It is interesting to find the striking similarities between the two as they both hold the honor of being the first god worshiped in every ritual.
My day starts by listening to the hymn, Vinayagar Agaval, written by the 14th century poetess Avvaiyar sung by the late legendary singer M.S.Subbulakshmi. It is believed that one can begin the journey towards health & self realization or yoga & meditation by reading Vinayagar Agaval written in Tamil, the oldest language in the world. Every time I read her verses I have something new to learn, and at the same time I feel like I have not yet understood what exactly she tried to communicate to us. You may click here to read those verses (translated in English) written during her last days. Ironically her verses are incomprehensible as long as one attains mukthi (salvation).
We, Tamilians, fondly call Lord Ganesha as Pillaiyar, and remember Him in every new beginning. My grandmother used to make a pillaiyar statuette using the dough before cooking for special occasions or festivals wishing her success.
We can find Him omnipresent in different postures at home, under the trees, in the street corners, in most of the establishments in the same way cat dolls are treated in Japan, and this is a Pillaiyar sitting inside my car on the dash board.
His birthday is being celebrated as Ganesh Chathurthi all over India with fun and fervor. Traditionally we offer modhagam (similar to momos) and sundal (lentil/legume salad) to Him on this day.
I remember my grand mother making sundal using Bengal gram (split chickpeas) for Pillaiyar Chathurthi. She never liked to use pressure cooker for this sundal fearing that they might turn mushy. When the lentils are boiled in a cooking pot they were seen as tiny blossoms, hence this sundal got the name poomparuppu (meaning bloomed lentils) sundal. Poomparuppu sundal had been gradually replaced by kondakadalai (whole chickpeas) sundal nowadays, I guess it could have possibly happened after the entry of pressure cookers into our kitchens. Now I prepare the traditional poomparuppu sundal as below:
- ½ cup (100 g) of Bengal gram (kadalai paruppu)
- ¼ tsp of turmeric powder
- ½ tsp of salt
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil
- ¼ tsp of mustard seeds
- ½ tsp of black gram
- 2 red chillies
- A sprig of curry leaves
- ¼ tsp of asafoetida powder (hing)
- Grated coconut as desired
- Wash & soak the lentils for an hour.
- Cook them until soft after adding turmeric powder to the water (about 300 ml).
- Heat a pan with oil in medium flame.
- Add mustard seeds, and when they begin to crackle add black gram, curry leaves and red chillies.
- When the black grams are roasted reduce the heat to low.
- Add asafoetida powder followed by cooked lentils & salt.
- Saute until they are mixed evenly.
- Remove from heat.
- Garnish with grated coconut before serving.
We usually offer poomparuppu sundal to Pillaiyar along with modhagam and ellu urundai (sweet sesame balls) on this Pillaiyar Chathurthi to seek His blessings.