21 burps: it’s modak time as we celebrate Ganesha

Reading Time: 3 minutes


“I’m going to burp 21 times,” I would declare to my Ajji, after eating her mouth-watering modaks.

Sweetmeat dumplings made with rice flour and some truly heavenly fillings, I thought for a long time that my Ajji’s modaks were surely the best in the whole world.

She would dissolve in peals of laughter at my (very bad-mannered) attempts to belch, unable to go post number four, let alone reach 21.

It was she who told me the connection of 21 burps and modaks – it fascinated me no end as my over-working imagination conjured up some impossible images.

This is her tale.

Lord Ganesha seated next to his parents Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Source: Canva.

Once a young Ganesha accompanied his parents Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati as they called at the humble abode of a great rishi (sage) named Atri. As his wife Anusuya prepared tea, she was informed that Lord Shiva was very hungry – in fact he was famished. But she proceeded to feed the adorable young Ganesha first – so that there would be enough food left to serve his father. Now Ganesha is known for his love of food, so he continued to eat all that Anusuya offered him. Anusuya, concerned that there would be nothing left over for the adults, quickly gave him a sweatmeat as dessert, to indicate the end of the meal. Ganesh ate it and let out a big burp. At the same time, his dad, Lord Shiva let out 21 burps, as if to indicate he was fully satiated now that his child was full!

Parvati quietly asked Anusuya what the sweetmeat was that finally satiated Ganesha. “It was a modak,” Anusuya replied.

That was the moment it was decided that 21 modaks would be served to Lord Ganesha and his devotees during Ganesh Chaturthi. This is also why Lord Ganesha is also known as Modakapriya (one who loves modaks).

I’ll tell this tale to my own grandkids one day as I make modaks for them. Who knows I might even join them as they try to do their own burps. Perhaps jointly, we’ll get to 21!

Meanwhile, here’s a simple recipe to try.


• 2 cups rice flour

For filling

• 1 1/4 cups grated gur (jaggery)

• 2 cups freshly grated coconut

• 1 tbsp khus-khus

• 1/2 tsp cardamom powder

• 1 tsp ghee for kneading and greasing

READ ALSO: Onam Sadya: A mega banana-leaf feast

Source: Canva

Making the dough

Boil 1 and 1/4 cups of water in a deep non-stick pan. Place the rice flour in a deep bowl and add the boiled water gradually. Mix well using a spoon in the beginning and then knead into a soft and smooth dough. Cover with a lid and keep aside for 10 minutes.

Making the filling

Heat a deep non-stick pan, add the jaggery and cook on low flame for 1 to 2 minutes while stirring continuously, or till the jaggery melts. Add the coconut, khus-khus and cardamom powder, mix well and cook on a slow flame for 4 to 5 minutes or till the mixture thickens. Let it cool slightly. From the filling make 20 small portions and keep them aside.

Preparing modaks

Knead the dough once again using 1/2 tsp of ghee and keep aside. Grease a modak mould using very little ghee. Take a portion of the dough, press it into the cavity of the modak mould till it is evenly lined on all sides. Fill the dough cavity with a portion of the filling. Take a smaller portion of the dough and spread it evenly at the base of the mould so as to seal the filling. Gently demould. Prepare a batch.

To steam, place steamer plate in a steamer and line with a banana leaf on it. Moisten all the modaks with little water using your fingertips. Place 10 modaks on the banana leaf and steam on medium flame for 10 minutes. Serve warm, with ghee drizzled over.

Pics and recipe: IANS

READ ALSO: Play-based experiences to teach your kids about your cultural festival

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Bageshri Savyasachi
Bageshri Savyasachi
Truth-telling, tree-hugging journalist.

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