One of the great perks of running our small business is having an inside peek into all the different ways people incorporate our mantra-singing plush toys and books into their everyday celebrations -- including even the major festive ones like Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi or Diwali. They have undoubtedly inspired my celebrations at home, so I'm sharing seven simple ideas seen or experienced to help you create your own memories.
1) Decorate a Ganesh Pandal or Mandap
A pandal or a mandap is a temporary altar for your murthi. Earlier this year, I renovated one of the spare walk-in closets in our home and converted into a mandir. Since I now have a dedicated space with a murthi for each one of the deities, I decided to simply decorate my existing mandir with some embellishments. This year's version may fall pale in comparison to what I did last year, but I've always believed that the details of your décor don't dictate the depths of your devotion. That said, here's the pandal I set up this year:
Links to items shown:
- Lotus diyas
- Table runner
- Backdrop gold ring
- Oil lamp diyas
- Baby Ganesh plush
- Brass tray - no link but I found it at Home Goods but check out Arjuna
- The Ganesh murthi and the tealight thalis were purchased in India but you can find similar ones on Etsy, My Pooja Box and Krishna Home Decor
- The marigold garland was purchased locally but here are some places you can buy online: Shagun Arts and Crafts, Spundhann, Dazzling Diyas,
2) Attend Local Cultural Festivals
Despite growing up thousands of miles outside of India, New Jersey's diverse community has always allowed me to keep India close. Not a single festival goes by that isn't celebrated with the same devotion and excitement as "back home." Whether it's doing garba during Navratri or throwing colors during Holi, there's always an organized community event happening. And Ganesh Chaturthi is certainly no exception. For the past 10 years, my family and I have been volunteering (and most recently, exhibiting) at the Ganesh Utsav held in Woodbridge, New Jersey. It's a multi-day event that coincides with Ganesh Chaturthi's 10 day celebration. While the "main attraction" is seeing the larger-than-life statue of Lord Ganesh, guests will enjoy Indian fast food, cultural dance performances, tons of shopping from local vendors (including yours truly), and of course, blessings from Ganesh.
If you attend the grand finale on the last night, you also get to partake in the Visarjan. They have dhol players, dancing, singing... and somehow the night always ends in rain -- which, according to Hinduism, is an auspicious symbol.
3) Make Ladoos
Just as Krishna loves makkhan, Ganesh loves to devour ladoos. So, needless to say, no celebration is complete without his favorite food. I have no shame in admitting that this is not my area of expertise but I know there are many Indian food bloggers that have perfected the art of ladoo making. So, I will simply say check out one such fellow blogger's recipe here.
4) Listen to Ganesh Aartis
I recently discovered this cool feature where I can connect the alarm on my phone to my Spotify playlist (or a song). So, each morning, I've been waking up to this "Ganesh Mantra" by Aria. But the unexpected benefit is that now each time I get in the car to drop my kids off to school, the bluetooth automatically connects my phone to the car and begins playing this song where it left off when I pressed snooze. Ever since my kids heard this song, they fell in love with it (I mean, can you blame them?). Sure, it doesn't exactly sound traditional or even spiritual for that matter, but at least it does the job of engaging kids and learning lyrics that are totally mom-approved.
5) Read Stories about Ganesh - First, check out this story behind Ganesh's birth. Then, check out this post to learn more about his family tree (did you know he had two wives?) Did you know that our children's illustrated book, How Ganesh Broke His Tusk, is not only available as a traditional board book, but you can also read the entire story for free online! Simply visit our YouTube channel and check out our collection of animated stories. "How Ganesh Broke His Tusk" is part mystery and part fun as you learn about the three possible ways Ganesh broke his tusk.
6) Kids' Activities
Our entire mission behind Modi Toys is to make an ancient 4,000 year old religion more relatable and interesting for today's generation. Our toys and books are just one of the ways we help spark curiosity in kids about their Hindu culture. We also have an entire page filled with DIY tutorials, printables and more to make the abstract more real. Thank me later but I'm about to save you the endless doom scrolling on Pinterest for arts and crafts ideas to help make Ganesh Chaturthi a bit more kid-friendly. Check out these three fun ideas from Suhani Amin to create your own Ganesh.
7) Bake a Cake and Sing Happy Birthday - OK, so this technically isn't specific to Ganesh Chaturthi, because this is now practically tradition for every god and goddess' birthday in our home. I usually buy cupcakes, and I tell my kids that in addition to singing "happy birthday," each deity has a some favorite songs that we have to sing as well (as part of their birthday wish). For example, for Saraswati Puja, we sing the Gayatri mantra, for Janmashtami, we sing the Maha mantra, and so on. We start by placing our respective birthday boy (or birthday girl) plush toy in front of the cupcake, (or whatever treat we choose) and then squeeze its belly and sing all five of the mantras it plays. So, for Ganesh Chaturthi, we'll sing the "Vakratunda Mahakaya" and "Om Ganaptay Namo" mantras alongside our Baby Ganesh plush toy, since the kids know those two by heart.
8) STEM... But Make it Cultural - If you're looking for a cultural STEM based activity for your kids, then I don't think there's anything more apt than this Ganesh lego set. Although I haven't tried this myself with my kids yet, I have no doubt it would be the perfect way to spend a rainy day.
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Modi Toys is a children's brand of toys and books inspired by ancient Hindu culture. We exist to spread joy and to spark curiosity in the next generation through our innovative soft plush toys, illustrated children's books and free tutorials and learning resources. Our weekly Theology Thursday series covers a wide range of topics rooted in Hinduism to help us better understand the origins of traditions, the symbolic meaning of rituals, and the stories behind Hindu holidays and festivals. The more we can understand "the why" behind this 4,000 year ancient religion, and make sense of it in this modern age, the greater we can appreciate and preserve our rich Hindu culture. While we take great care in thoroughly researching the information presented, we may occasionally get some things wrong. We encourage a healthy and open dialogue so we can learn together. Please leave a comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to address any concerns.