It’s that time of the year when Ganapati, the elephant-headed god, also the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati/Durga comes home to several Indian households, (especially to those in Maharashtra) where he is affectionately called 'Ganapati Bappa'. This day, called Ganesh Chaturthi, is celebrated as the Lord's birthday with a great deal of fondness. Most Maharashtrians like to bring him home and carry out rituals (Puja) on this occasion - some just do it for one day, others for five or, even nine days. On the tenth day, they bid him goodbye! Organizing any ritual at home may seem cumbersome, especially with a toddler around, but the right tricks can help you manage it all with a sweet smile.
1. Bring your kid along while bringing 'bappa’' home. Typically it is a ritual in itself. People usually take coconuts, flowers, agarbati (incense stick) etc along and offer it to the idol maker, as a token of gratitude. Once Ganapati bappa is in your lap, blindfold him with your palms in a bid to surprise him when he reaches your home. Not only is there an inset element of fun, but it also tells your child to greet guests with love and respect when they come home, especially those who are closer to your heart.
2. Typically, the house is decorated the previous night with various options available in the market - these involve things such as thermocol cutouts, stars, colorful and decorative elements made of beads (called 'toran'), shimmering cloth banners and much more. Needless to say, these are fun things to involve kids in – cut, paste and colour etc, while letting them feel the festive vibes. Another interesting thing to do would be to involve your child in the colorful 'rangoli' making activity, an art which most women in Maharashtra are ace at. There are numerous designs available online to choose from, but a little Pokemon or Chota Bheem 'Rangoli' for your child could bring a world of difference to your kid's mood. Don't worry about dusting away of the 'Rangoli' with the toddler's feet, as that too is a part of his/her overall learning curve of 'make and break'.
3. When the Puja ritual starts, you could involve your toddler in the 'fetch and place’ errands. Tasks like laying out the 'thaali' with the elements of Puja, serving sweets to the God, ringing the bell during ‘Aarti’ can be interesting for the toddler. For some messy food fun, get your toddler to mould some sweetmeat into ‘modaks’ and see how he relishes it later, without throwing a fussy tantrum!
4. Whenever the 'áarti' is performed' (typically twice/thrice a day), get the toddler to invite neighbours and friends,for some cool ‘team’ fun, sharing the bells to ring along. Don’t forget that the lyrics of devotional songs and 'shlokas’ are excellent forms of audio learning!
5. Through a few days of living with Ganapati and performing rituals with the family, the child would have gotten emotionally attached to the Lord by the time you have to see him off. Nevertheless, allow the child to freely express how he feels about the Lord's departure, involve him in the closing rituals, while taking him to the water body where the idol has to be immersed. Do not be surprised if tears roll down your little one's cheeks... 'Ganpati bappa morya, pudhchya varshi lavkar ya' meaning, ''Come soon next year'' will instill a sense of hope in the child while subtly passing a message that no celebration lasts forever.
Later in the night, you can read beautiful Ganesha story books to your child. This will cement his memories until next year.
So bring Ganapati home this year and have fun with your child celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi! You may be pleasantly surprised to figure out that your child has picked up many skills even while you were not teaching him personally!
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