Ganesh Chaturthi, a deferred celebration

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The Corona pandemic, which hit the globe in 2020 forced people to make adjustments and compromises in their lifestyle, thus altering their social, cultural, religious and other activities, so as to adhere to the guidelines linked to the health calamity. Ganesh Chaturthi, perhaps the most popular religious festival in Goa which is celebrated during the monsoon was postponed by many families in the state, due to the possibility of a virus infection resulting from family gatherings. Many such families have senior citizens as well as young toddlers as their members, and therefore chose to reschedule the festival.

In fact, the Gokarn Jeevottam Mutt at Partagal advised that Ganesh Chaturthi, which is celebrated in the Hindu month of Bhadrapad be deferred to the day of Magh Shukla Chaturthi, which is popularly known as Ganesh Jayanti. Many of the families followed this dictum and rescheduled the festival on Ganesh Jayanti. These families however had to face many difficulties, right from the absence of abundant locally-grown vegetables and fruits to celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi just for a single day. The idol installed in the morning had to be immersed the same evening and that too before sunset.

The Pai Raikar family from the Savoi-Verem village is one of such families, that celebrated the single-day Ganesh Chaturthi. The seniors in the family stated that never before had the family rescheduled this festival.

Shubhalaxmi Pai Raikar informed that Haritalika or ‘Tay’, which is celebrated a day before the Ganesh Chaturthi festival commences, was also held on the same day.

“We celebrated ‘Tay’, Chovoth and Pancham on a single day, making no compromises as far as the basic rituals are concerned,” Shubhalaxmi added, pointing out that ‘Tay’ is the festival dedicated to Goddess Parvati or Gauri, the mother of Lord Ganesh, and she is offered a special nourishing salt-less diet of green vegetable to satisfy her ‘duvalle’ or cravings during pregnancy. “This time, we even prepared that dish as an offering to Gauri,” she added.

Speaking further, Shubhalaxmi said that another important tradition followed during the festival is worshipping the first harvest of the season. “On the second day of Ganesh Chaturthi, a token of first paddy harvest called ‘Nave’ is offered to Lord Ganesh,” she informed, stating, “Fortunately, the village had a cultivation of harvest and therefore, we could make its offering to Lord Ganesh.”

As the Ganesh Chaturthi festival is celebrated during monsoon, many vegetables are easily available during the particular time. However, in spite of the absence of many such seasonal vegetables like breadfruit, the traditions were followed by the Pai Raikar family as far as possible. Most of the dishes were prepared over the three days of the festival including Khatkhate, a dish made from various vegetables, muga gathi and sweets like Neuryo and Modak which were prepared on a single day.

‘Durva’ – green blades of a specific type of grass – the most essential offering, supposed to be very dear to Lord Ganesha, grows in plenty during the monsoon. However, they are hard to find in the month of February, especially if the sun is scorching bright. Fortunately, the family could find them, thanks to the cool wintry atmosphere in the serene village.  

Matoli, which is a ceiling canopy decorated with a wide variety of seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs, and laid out above the idol of Lord Ganesh is an important aspect of Ganesh Chaturthi. The festival held in winter however faced scarcity of such seasonal produce, which was reflected in the limited items in the Matoli. The cashew fruit in the Matoli was nevertheless an unusual addition.

Sangita Navelkar and Saawni Kunde, the married daughters from the Pai Raikar household attended the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations of the family, something which they were unable to do after their marriage, since they had to attend the festival at their own places.

Sangita, who resides in Vasco said that her family celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi as originally scheduled, during the month of Bhadrapad, and therefore, she could come to Savoi-Verem. “It was like returning to the past, to the days before my marriage, when I celebrated this festival at my parents’ house,” she remembered.

Meanwhile, Saawni said that as a kid she always wished Ganesh Chaturthi would come more often during the year. “This year, owing to the pandemic my wish actually came true,” she said, adding that with her family by marriage having celebrated the festival in the month of August, last year, she got to be a part of the Chaturthi celebration at her paternal home.

“The 12 hours of celebrations made me absolutely nostalgic and I lived my childhood memories with my family once again,” Saawni mentioned, stating that watching her two-year-old daughter, Keya enjoy the festivities made the festival even more special for her.

As the three-day festivities were packed in a single day, from dawn to dusk, the family members made every effort to enjoy each moment of bliss. The women participated in the ‘Tay’ rituals; the men were involved in the puja of Lord Ganesh, while the children of the family who met long after the pandemic enjoyed themselves. 

Many Hindu families in Goa also celebrated the single-day Ganesh Chaturthi, including the Sardesai family from Savoi-Verem. Although the immersion of the idol of Lord Ganesh within few hours of its installation created a moving scene, there was some solace in the fact that the next Ganesh Chaturthi is only less-than-seven-months away!