Ganesha Chaturthi has a special place in the hearts of the Hindu community across the globe. This festival excites people of all age groups and brings us together to take part in this as a community.
The distinct rituals performed during the Ganesh Chaturthi puja and the preparations for the festival make it stand out among all the other festivals. A very distinct ritual performed during the puja is the “Ekavimsati Patra Puja”.
Ekavimsati stands for 21 in Sanaskrit. Ekavimsati Patra puja, popularly called “Patri puja”, is done by offering 21 varieties of leaves to Ganesha. As mythology goes, the story goes that since Ganesha is an elephhant, loves Patri (leaves) and we should do puja with a variety of leaves to make him happy. But, the reasons for this puja are much deeper than pleasing Ganesha. However, over the years, the ritual on Ganesh Chaturthi has morphed due to lifestyle changes/ habits and gone off-course compromising the original intent of the ritual.
This article is a humble attempt to help us pause and try to realign ourselves with the original intention of this puja.
The original Patri Puja ritual On Ganesh Chaturthi:
Ekavimsati Patra puja, also known as “Patri puja” by Telugu folks, is performed using 21 different varieties of leaves as we read each mantra related to offering a kind of leaf to Ganesha.
The Patri used for puja is later immersed into a local water body like a river or a pond that is used for our daily water needs such as drinking and bathing. The medicinal properties of these leaves are supposed to cure some of the common ailments during the rainy season.
How the Ganesh Chaturthi Patri Puja is related to our well-being:
All 21 leaves contain immense medicinal value. They can cure several chronic as well as acute ailments that are both internal and external. They can treat a range of diseases like the common cold, cough, bleeding disorders, infertility, wounds, skin diseases like leprosy, digestive disorders, psychological disorders etc. They boost our immunity and work proactively in keeping our bodies healthy and away from all sorts of sickness.
|Sl. No||Name in Sanskrit||Name in Vernacular||Botanical Name||Medicinal benefits||Mantram|
|1||Maachi Patram||Telugu: Davanam
Kannada: Dodda Gaadaari
Botanical Name: Artemisia Vulgaris/ Artemisia Pallens, Artemisia Indica
|Treats skin diseases such as leprosy, leucoderma, various gastrointestinal (abdominal) diseases such as stomach pain, diarrhea, instestinal colic, gynecological diseases, nervous diseases, abdominal diseases, and malaria. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.||Om Sumukhaya Namaha, maachi patram pujayami|
|2||Bruhati patram||Telugu: Pedda Mulaka/ Tella Mulaka/Vaakudaaku
Hindi: Bari Khatai/Jangli Bhata/ Vanabharata
Tamil: Pappara Malli/Annachundai
English: Indian night shade/poison berry/Bush tomato
|Solanum Xanthocarpum /
Solanum Surattense/ Solanum Indicum
|It relieves joint pains, reduces lumps, treats asthma, and cough. It is good for heart. It removes bad odours from mouth. It increases sperm count. It works as a diuretic.||Om Ganadhipaya namaha, bruhati patram pujayami|
Hindi: Bel, Bela, Sriphal
English: Bael tree/Bengal quince/ Golden apple/stone apple/wood apple
|Aegle Marmelos||All parts of this tree — leaves, fruit, stem and roots — are used as medicine to cure various diseases such as dysentery, asthma, fractures, healing of wounds, swollen joints, high blood pressure, jaundice, and typhoid and for the management of diabetes. Bael fruit pulp is used to cure chronic diarrhea, dysentery , gastric problems. It also aids as a coolant.||Om Umaputraya namaha, bilva patram pujayami
Hindi: Doorva, Doob
Tamil: Arugu/Aruvam Pillu/Mooyar pul/Arugampul
Kannada: Ambate hullu, Garikae
Malayalam: Karuka pulli
English: panic grass/ Cough grass/ Bahama grass/ Bermuda grass/Devil’s grass/Doab frass/Doorva/Dog’s teeth grass
|Cynodon Dactylon||Doorva alleviates many diseases including viral infections and allergic conditions. It helps is arresting bleeding and anemia. It cures skin diseases and dandruff. It reduces nightmares/bad dreams. It acts as diuretic, astringent and contraceptive for men.||Om gajananya namaha durvaa yugmama pujayami|
|5||Dattura patram||Telugu: Ummetta
Hindi: Sada Dhatura
Sanskrit: Dhuttura Kanaka or Kanakahvya
Tamil: Ummattangani, Oomatthai, Karuvoomatthai
English: WhiteThorn Apple
|Metel Linn./Stramonium||It works as anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory.
asthma, fever, bleeding disorders, wounds, dandruff, hair fall, joint disorders such as stiffness, locked jaw, lower back pain, itching, pain.
NOTE: Dattura is a toxic plant and is not advised for children and pregrnant woman. It causes hallucinations, and convulsions.
|Om harasoonave namaha Dattura patram pujayami|
|6||Badari patram||Telugu: Regu
Hindi: Badari, Badar, Ber
Sanskrit: Badari, Karkandu, Kola
Kannada: Yelachi Hannu, Borehannu
Malayalam: Lanta, Lantakkura
|Zizyphus Jujuba||Treats: Laryngitis, cough, digestive disorders, wounds and injuries, blood impurities.
Also used for maitaining the voice.
|Om lambodharaya namaha badharee patram pujayami|
|7||Aapamarga patram||Telugu: Uttareni
Hindi: Latjira, Chirchita
Sanskrit: Apamarga, Markati, Markata pippali
Malayalam: Katalati, Kadaladi
|AchyrathusAspera||Treats : digestive disorders, poisonous bites, piles, obesity, cold, cough, asthma, leucoderma
Improves blood, digestion, metabolisom.
|Om guhagrajaaya namaha apamarga patram pujayami|
Kannada: Sri Tulasi
|Ocimum Sanctum||It is one of the best anti-viral herbs. It is an anti-microbial and anti -toxic.
Treats: asthma, chronic disorders, psychiatric disorders, kidney/bladder stones, skin diseases with pain and itchiness
|Om gajakarnaya namaha, tulasi patram pujayami|
|9||Chootha patram||Telugu: Mamidi, Mango
Malayalam: Amram, mava, mao
Marathi: Amchur, Amba
English : Mango
|Mangifera Indica||Treats: Diabetes, heals,diseases of throat, heartburn, stomach pain, diahhrea, vomiting, skin discoloration.
It also acts as a good energizer and stimulant.
|Om ekadantaya namaha, chootha patram pujayami|
Hindi: Kaner Patta, Karavira
Sanskrit: Karaveera, Asvamarka, Hayaveera
Tamil: Aatrulari, Sevvarali, Alari, Sivappu, Arali
Kannada: Kanagilu, Kharjahar, Kanagile
|Nerium Odorum/ Nerium Indicum/thevetia Neriifolia||This is a toxic herb and it is used for external application
Treats: Leprosy,wounds and injuries, hair fall,lice, itching, fast movement of eyes, eye inflammation
|Om vikataaya namaha, karaveera patram pujayami|
|11||Vishnukranta patram||Telugu: Vishnukraanthamu, Vishnukanta
Hindi: Sankhapushpi, Vishnukranta, Shyamakranta
Kannada: Vishnukranti, Shankha Vaelu
English: Morning Glory
|Evolvulus Arvensis/ Evolvulus Alsinoides||Used to treat nervous related disorders,blood vominting,bleeding disorders, ulcers, gastric irritation, memory loss.
It increases memory power and intellect.
It enhances the self-healing potency of the body.
|Om bhinnadanthaya namaha, vishnukranthapatram pujayami|
|12||Daadimee patram||Telugu: Danimma
Kannada: Dalimba, Dalimbe Haonu
|Punica Granatum||Treats dysentery, food poisoning, diahhrea, vata/pitta/kapha disorders, obesity due to high fat diet.||Om vatave namaha, dhaadimi patram pujayami|
|Erythroxylum Monogynum/cedrus deodara||Treats skin diseases, wounds,injuries, headache, arthritis, breast pain, mastitis,stiffness||Om sarveswaraya namaha, devadaru patram pujayami|
Hindi: Marubaka, Murva, Murwa, Marawaa
Marathi: Murva, Murwa
English: Sweet Marjoram/Knotted Marjoram
|Origanum Majorana||Treats: Joint pains, skin diseases, heart diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, sore throat, cough, scorpion bite, bad breath.
It is considered as good cardio-protective, liver tonic and stops menstrual flow.
|Om phaalachandraaya namaha, maruvaka patram pujayami|
Hindi: Nirgundi, Samhalum Saubhalu, Nisinda, Mewri
Sanskrit: Nirgundi, Sindhuvara, Nilamanjari
Tamil: Chinduvaram; Nirnochchi; Nochchi; Notchi; Vellai-nochchi
Kannada: Bile-nekki, Lakki soppu, Lakki gida, Lekki gida
English:Five leaved chaste tree/chinese chaste tree, Indian private
|Vitex Negundo||Treats: Vaata related problems, used in antipoisonous drugs, rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, throat pain, oral ulcers, vaginal inflammation, grey hair||Om heyrambhaya namaha, sindhuvaara patram pujayami|
|16||Jaaji patram||Telugu: Jaaji Malli, Sannajaaji, Virajaaji
|Jasminum Grandiflorum||Treats: Skin diseases, wounds, mouth related problems, indigestion, erectile dysfunction, gingivitis, eye diseases||Om soorpakarnaaya namaha, jaajee patram pujayami|
Hindi: Kachanar, Kanchanar, Kachnar
Tamil: Sigappu Mandarai, Sihappu Mantarai
Kannada: Keyumandar, Kanchavala
Malayalam: Chuvanna Mandharam
English: Mountain Ebony, Orchid Tree, Poorman’s Orchid, Camel’s Foot, Buddhist Bauhinia
|Bauhinia Variegata||Used to treat heart related diseases, piles, skin diseases, cervical lyphadenitis||Om suraagrajaaya namaha, Gandakee patram pujayami|
|18||Semee patram||Telugu: Jammi Aaku
Hindi: Jand, Khejri,
Tamil: Parambai, Vanni
|Prosopis Cineraria/ Prosopis Spicigera||Treats: Mouth ulcers, joint pains, diarrhoea, itching skin diseases, scorpion bites, wounds, bleeding disorders, repeated abortion||Om Ibhavaktraya namaha, Samee patram pujayami|
|19||Aswadha patram||Telugu:Raavi Aaku
Hindi: Pipala, Pipal, Pipli, Pipar, Peepul
Marathi: Pipal, Pimpal, Pippal
English:Ashwatha, Ashvatha, Pippala, Pipal Tree, Peepal Tree, Sacred Fig, Sacred Ficus
|Ficus Religiosa||Treats: impotency, joint swelling, pain, pimples, bleeding and wounds, skin diseases, diabetes, cough, blood purification, mouth ulcers, gingivitis
Its bark is used in preparation of many medicines, it is also used in arresting bleeeding, strengthening uterine muscles.
|Om Vinayakaya namaha, Aswatha patram pujayami|
Hindi: Arjun, Arjuna, Koha
Tamil: Marudha Maram, Attumarutu, Nirmarutu, Vellaimarutu, Marutu
Malayalam: Marutu, Nirmarutu, Venmarutu
English: White Marudah, Tropical Almond, Arjun, Malabar Almond, Arjuna
Joint pains, vaata,pitta, kapha related diseases, heart diseases, wound and septic conditions, bleeding disorders, fractures, dysentry, UTI, ulcers, diabetes, chronic respiratory disorders, tuberculosis.It releives thirst, fatigue and tiredness.
|Om surasevithaya namaha, arjuna patram pujayami|
|21||Telugu: Jilledu Aku
Hindi: Arka, Aak, Madar
Tamil: Erukku, Vellerukku
Kannada: Ekka, Ekkadagida, Ekkegida
Malayalam: Neela Eukku
English: Madar, Milk Weed, Rooster Tree, Mudar Plant
|Calotropis Procera/ Calotropis gigantea||Treats: Poisonous bites, wounds and injuries, curing skin diseases, leprosy, tumors, joint pains, bloating, gastritis, toothache.
It is called as a healing herb and has 64 varieties of medicinal properties and usage.
|Kapilayanamah – Arka Patram Samarpayami||
How the Ganesh Chaturthi Patri Puja ritual can be used for a great experiential learning opportunity:
To use these leaves for the puja, we need to procure them. To procure them, we need to be able to locate these plants/trees and be able to precisely identify/distinguish one plant from the other. Isn’t this a Botany 101 course? In fact, it isn’t just a Botany 101 course, it is an Ayurveda 101 course. It isn’t just about the leaves. Other parts of the plants such as fruits, bark, roots, etc. also offer several medicinal benefits.
Experiential learning: Procuring these leaves has a deeper motive. This ritual was used as a means to educate the younger generation about the medicinal benefits of these plants. Children go along with the adults to procure these leaves. Consider this as experiential learning where the children are picking the leaves and waiting for approval from the adults to discern one leaf over the other. The deeper engaging conversations that happen in the process are a lot more important. They could be talking about not just the leaves but the other parts of the plants and the children are guided. The knowledge is passed down to the next generation. The bonding that happens during this process is of course priceless.
Social interaction: These 21 leaves are not readily available in one place. Some come from herbs and plants found in the home garden. But, some are found in the wild. Some come from trees in a temple or nearby forest. So, going around to get all these leaves is an enriching experience. Isn’t this experience probably more enriching than the modern-day “Girl Scout cookie sale” program that promotes social interaction? Kids will get involved in bartering the leaves they may have in return for leaves in their neighbor’s garden. It it Community Living 101.
Physical fitness: Some of these leaves are found in the wild. Some are high up on a tree. Some are thorny. So, getting these leaves needs some physical skills as well as problem-solving skills. Climbing trees, figuring out how to pull a branch down to reach the leaves, etc. offer complex and spontaneous problem-solving skills. Being cautious about the thorny plants, insects, snakes, etc. develops their senses, observation skills. Isn’t this equivalent to modern-day forest schools or camping expeditions?
Patri puja is a lovely integrated learning experience for all children. It encompasses all domains of learning. No wonder, Ganesha is the god of intelligence. Our ancestors brilliantly incorporated rock-solid learning into these puja rituals. Our ancestors hoped that we would grow these plants and continue passing down the knowledge about these plants to our next generations.
The true intention of the Ganesha Puja is to make us connect with, respect, and honor our nature and appreciate the diverse plants that mother nature gave us.
Dilution of the Ganesh Chaturthi ritual in the modern day:
We now live in concrete jungles with space constraints. So, we have stopped growing the herbs in our non-existent home gardens.
- We don’t have time with our busy schedules. So, we want to buy these leaves from the grocery store or some street vendors.
- We don’t have the knowledge to identify the leaves. We won’t be able to pass it down to generations.
- We don’t have the patience. So, we may not make an attempt to even teach about this to our children.
What have we lost in the process?
- Authenticity: Our lifestyle and habits have changed. We now go to buy these leaves. Since we can’t properly identify them, we take whatever leaves are given by the street vendors. These leaves may not have medicinal benefits and in some cases, they may be dangerous to consume.
- Cleanliness: Back in the day, Puja is performed with a lot more stringent rules laid out as puja protocols. So, these leaves are properly washed and kept for puja. Now-a-days, some of us may not even be washing them properly. We may sprinkle just a drop of water as we say “Puja dravyani samprokshayami”.
- Overdosage: If we take one sleeping pill we may get goodnight’s sleep. If we consume a bottle of the same, we may sleep forever. Overdosage of medicine can be unhealthy/lethal. The population has grown significantly. So, a lot more of Patri makes its way into the local water bodies compared to olden-days when fewer people were mixing the Patri into water. It has become an exercise of “polluting” local water sources than enhancing the quality of the water.
- Lost wisdom: To effectively teach someone requires a lot of clarity in one’s own knowledge. If we don’t have enough knowledge about these plants, we won’t be able to give them concrete information. So, the brilliant ancient wisdom is lost, undocumented, until someone from the western world rediscovers it and patents it as their own discovery. Eg: turmeric and neem patents.
What can we do in the modern-day to keep up the benefits of these rituals?
- We may not have our own home gardens. But, we will have some space for plants in our gated communities. We can proactively allocate some space to grow some of these herbs such as Maachi, Maruvaka, Tulsi instead of Crotons. We can allocate some space to grow flowering plants like Jaji, Vishnukranta, Karaveera. We can plant trees like mango, pomegranate, etc.
- We can consider mixing limited quantities of washed Patri in water to extract the medicinal benefits and then add this water to our water tanks. The remaining Patri can be made into compost for the community garden.
- We can organize a camping trip where we can go and collect the remaining leaves that are available in the wild. I distinctly remember that we used to have “half-day school” when I was a kid to help us make arrangements for the puja the next day. Schools can definitely consider reinstatement of this to aid in preserving the essence.
- We can explore just a few leaves each year and learn extensively about those plants in that year. E.g.: we can explore all the herbs for one year. We can explore the wild grass/shrubs for one year, etc.
- We can explore and learn more about these plants in schools.
We can learn to be mindful of our practices, respect our nature and mother earth. We can make a sincere attempt to live up to the deeper intentions of our ancestors and try to pass down the ancient wisdom as we continue to enjoy the Ganesha Chaturthi festival with the same fervor and fun.
Ganapathi bappa moriya!