Modak and Ganesha

One of the most attractive objects during Ganesh festival is “Modak”. We will explore meaning and significance of Modak and Ganesha.

Modak is made out of two words “Moda” and “Ka”.

Let’s understand meaning of “Ka” and then proceed ahead with simpler word “Moda”. Ka is the first consonant of Sanskrit language. First of the guttural letter, meaning the voice is produced from the throat.

Beauty of Sanskrit is, even one consonant has multiple meaning. Even if the meanings are multiple, philosophically they all indicate similar meaning when used in creating sentences or using it in pure language.

Ka in Sanskrit expands itself for multiple meanings, some of them are…

Who?, What? The head, The Body, a title of Yama, of Kamadeva (cupid), a knot, a joint…

One would think what is it to do with a sweet dish made for a festival? Ancient Indian path of philosophy is not shallow; it’s deeper than one can even think of. In this blog we are exploring only some bit of it.

Now the word “Moda”, Moda means happiness and joy. Moda is a word used in names or words like with prefix “Aa” and “Pra” namely “Amod”, “Pramod” etc.

Moda used in Amod means a diffusive perfume, strong aroma, joy or serenity, always fruitful etc.

Moda in Pramod is one of the eight perfections in the Sankya philosophy. In Jain philosophy Pramod means joy exhibited in the virtues.

Moda is a word derived from another word “Moha”.   Moha means affection, amazement, illusion, delusion or infatuation. Moda is made out of Moha-Da here da means giving away or offering. Hence the meaning can be taken as one who gives away or offers illusion.

Hence we can see the word Modak indicates…

Who is the joy? Who is the one gives away illusion? What is the joy?

Ganesha is called as Modak hasta meaning one who holds or controls the Modaka.

Few years back I had seen a beautiful Bharatnatyam performance by Padma Bhushan Dr Padma Subramaniam. She depicted the concept of modaka thru her beautiful dance recital.

Modaka has two parts the outer layer and inner stuffing. The outer part is usually made out of rice flour and the inner stuffing is made out of Jaggery  (Gur or raw sugar) and grated coconut. In ancient time honey was used instead of gur or jiggery. Honey also is called as madhu in Sanskrit.

In this Modak explaination performance by Dr Padma Subramaniam, she explains the outer cover of Modak is nothing but our perishable body and the stuffing inside is sweet and content like Aatma or soul.

The answer of Modak which is a question

Who is the joy? Who is the one gives away illusion? What is the joy?

Modak is nothing but our pure soul and Ganesha holds that soul in his left hand. Depicting the difficulty to control that Aatma against the desires (desires are depicted as a mouse) to slip it off, however if you keep asking “Modaka?”one would reach to that ultimate destination of self-realization sooner.

It is difficult to write down the concept of Modaka, as it is an expression and a deeper philosophy; however I tried my best to provide you the gist of it.

Let that Modak get established in our mind and we all attain the real meaning of the question “what is the joy?”

Compiled  by Dr. Sandeep Sadanand Chaugule

You can follow the author on  Twitter handle @sandipchaugulle

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