Sweets and special delicacies are an integral part of Indian festivals. As the city welcomes Lord Ganesha today, the Telugu and Maharashtrian communities in the city share some of their traditional festive Ganesh Chaturthi delicacies.
The celebrations are incomplete without Lord Ganesha’s favourite sweet, the modak. But this little sweet dumpling takes on different versions as you move from State to State. In the coastal belt of Andhra Pradesh, this sweet dish is called jilledu kayalu.
“It is prepared with rice flour stuffed with a mix of coconut and jaggery or sugar,” says Kusumlata Dantu. The shape of this Andhra version of modak is long and cylindrical and is said to have originated in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts.
The offerings do not end with this. In a traditional Andhra household, the preparations start from the early hours with many families still following an elaborate procedure of making four to five special dishes to welcome the elephant-headed God. At Kusumlata’s place, kudumulu , undrallu, pulihora (tamarind rice), and palaaradhi or kheer are made on the first day. “The kudumulu is a traditional recipe, in which idli batter is steam cooked in jackfruit leaves, giving it a unique flavour,” explains Kusumlata.
Recalling her childhood in Garividi in Vizianagaram district and Rajam in Srikakulam district, she says the entire village would turn up at her ancestral house during Ganesh Chaturthi to savour the delicacies. “We used to make 200 kudumulus a day and the celebrations would continue throughout the nine days,” she says. Passionate about passing on the recipes of traditional Andhra dishes to the next generation, Kusumlata — along with her daughter — posts videos, images and recipes on her Instagram handle ‘foodpatnam’.
Ganesh Chaturthi is undeniably Maharashtra’s biggest festival and many delicacies are associated with it. Bringing alive this exuberance are the Maharashtrian families who have made Visakhapatnam their home. Like in other States, Maharashtra’s favourite offering is the modak. “It is made in two ways — one is the steamed modak, which is called ukadiche modak and the deep-fried one also called talaniche modak. In both, the stuffing is grated coconut and jaggery. It is the just the method of preparation that differs,” says Priti Patil, who hails from Aurangabad district and moved to Visakhapatnam recently.
Over the years, the sweet dish has gone through transformations and there are options like dry fruit modak and chocolate modak. According to Priti, while modak is an integral part of the Maharashtrian celebrations, the offerings also include puran poli, amti, basundi and kurdai. “Puran poli is a sweet paratha made with chana dal, flour, cardamom and sugar. While making this, we preserve the water from the chana dal and use it to make amti. So in a way, both the dishes are made together,” explains Priti.
A bowl of amti dal and plain rice makes a perfect healthy and light meal. The basundi is another Maharashtrian dessert offered to Ganesha. It is a version of the North Indian rabdi, which is thickened sweet milk flavoured with cardamom and nutmeg.
For Maharashtrians like Priti living away from their home town, festive delicacies and the involvement of the entire household in their making serve as a link to their traditional celebrations. “I make sure that, wherever I move to, the festivals are celebrated with traditional fervour at home and the children get a taste of the special delicacies,” she adds.