A modak is basically a dumpling with a stuffing inside. It is generally steamed, though some people fry it too. The modak’s outer covering is called paari and it is made from rice flour only. The inner stuffing is called saran.
While traditional modaks have only a sweet filling of jaggery and coconut, over time this has evolved into a wide variety. There are modaks with raisins and dates, modaks with figs, etc.
The making of a modak requires a lot of patience & it is believed that one can make out how bad or how efficiently the modak has been made by the folds in the modak! The trick to making the outer covering is to shape it while the dough is still warm.
The Modak’s Significance
Look at a modak – it has a very small tip and a large base. How do you eat it? Some people
will put it whole in the mouth, others may just take a large bite from the base. Generally, we tend to hold it in our hand not by the tip but by the base. We thus begin to eat it from the tip.
It is believed that the modak symbolizes one of the 4 principles of Lord Ganesha which influence our life. When we start learning something, we acquire it in a small way and then, over time, that knowledge increases little by little, eventually making us realize how vast the knowledge really is.
So when we eat a modak starting at the tip, we are starting the process of obtaining knowledge. As we bite further into the modak, we are venturing further into the depths of knowledge and finally we reach the vast base of the modak, thereby being endowed with lot of knowledge.
Just as a modak is sweet, so also we get a feeling of sweet bliss on being endowed by the knowledge.