The pantheistic tradition of Hinduism accords primacy to the concept and worship of Ganesha. A common factor found in all schools of Bhakti-marga: Saiva, Saakta, Vaishnava, Ganapatya, Kowmara and Sowra - is the worship of Ganesha. Even the non-Vedic Veerasaiva cult admits His worship. Ganesha is worshipped with awe, respect, reverence and even affection. Devotees invoke his blessings at the commencement of any auspicious event, as he is the remover of all obstacles.
Ganesha, in the present day form, with the elephant head and potbelly, is not a cognizable deity from amongst the early Vedic Divinities like Mitra, Varuna, Aryamah, Indra or Brihaspati. Ganesha literally means head of the corps of Sivaganas. However, nowadays this position is now assigned to Chandikesa. He has perhaps been elevated to a higher position. Take the case of the Rig-Vedic hymn, "Ganaanaam tva ganapatigum", where he is eulogised also as "Jyeshtaraja" - the foremost and eldest of all divinities and as Brahmanaspati - the Creator. A cult known as "Gaanaapatya" was created with this hymn as the foundation, wherein, all virtues, potencies and knowledge were ascribed to Ganesha. The multiplicity of Ganesha concepts and forms are so vast that it is still a subject that has abundant material for collation, resurrection and analysis. Regional influences condition the concept of Ganesha. In Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka - he is a married person with Riddhi and Siddhi as his consorts. In parts of Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh, he is regarded as a bachelor.
Carnatic music is so intertwined with Bhakti or devotion that it is difficult to segregate these facets. The multiple forms of Ganesha did influence certain composers of Carnatic music. The first song usually taught to a student is a small song on Ganesha, Sri Gananatha Sindhooravarna. Purandara Dasa's Vandisuve Aadiyali Gananaathana is a great song. Mention must be made of his Ugabhoga "Satata Gananatha" and of two Devarnamas - Saranu Siddhivinayaka and Gajavadana Beduve. We can note that Purandaradasa has visualised him as Gananatha, Siddhi Vinayaka and Gajavadana, not forgetting Lakumikara (one who brings prosperity). Arunachala Kavi's Aanai mukhane is couched at the commencement of the Ramanatakam. We can see conceptual multiplicity in Tyagaraja's compositions. What has Ganesha to do with Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam? The clue is found in the passage "Anayamunu Hari charana smarana" - Ganesha was a great devotee of Hari, like Prahlada. In the kriti Giriraja suta, Tyagaraja praises Ganesha as the moon that rose from the ocean of Siva-worship (Sankara aagama vaarinidhi rajaneekara). One fact inadequately appreciated is that the tutelary deity of raga Bangala is Ganesha - which perhaps, could have been the motivating factor for Tyagaraja. Sri Ganapatini in raga Sowrashtra is quite commonly sung.
One of the most prolific output of Ganesha-oriented compositions, in quality and quantity, is from Muthuswami Dikshitar. There are twenty-five authenticated compositions of Dikshitar dedicated to Ganesha. Some interesting facts emerge from these compositions:
1st Vibhakti - Sri
Maha Ganapatim - Nata
All the other Dikshitar Kritis on Ganesha are not oriented to any particular centre of pilgrimage. It is a myth that Dikshitar sang in praise of all sixteen - forms of Ganapati - Shodasa Ganapati found in Tiruvarur. However, we must cite the nottuswara - passage, Sakti Sahita Ganapatim, in praise of one of these 16 forms. The descriptions of Mooladhara, Maha and Ucchista Ganapati forms by Dikshitar are unique and precise. The Mahaganapati of the kriti in raga Natanarayani is inside the temple, while the Mahaganapati of the Gowla kriti is enshrined outside on the banks of the Kamalaalaya tank.
The damage, havoc and destruction done to the Chalukyan capital Vatapi, by the Pallava army, moved the commander-in-chief, Paranjyoti, in a manner similar to that of Emperor Ashoka at the Kalinga war. As the Pallava army was plundering and looting Vatapi, the Emperor Mahendra Varma, called the commander-in-chief and asked him to select his share of the booty. All that Paranjyoti wanted was a stone idol of Ganapati, which fascinated him. On return, Paranjyoti renounced domesticism and later became the celebrated Siruttonda Nayanar - one the famous 63 Saivate saints. He retired to his native village in Nagapatnam district. The Ganapati idol brought by him from Vatapi was known as Vatapi Ganapati. There was divergence of opinion as to whether this Vatapi Ganapati was installed at Tiruchengattankudi (native village) or at Tiruvarur. Dikshitar's composition solves this riddle, affirming that Vatapi Ganapati was indeed installed at Tiruvarur (mooladhara kshetra sthitam). Here we should remember Papanasam Sivan too, for his composition Mooladhara moorti.
Three years back, I had the fortune of attending the Saravajanik Ganeshotsav at Pune, organised by Sri Suresh Kalmadi. A choir of 450 singers was trained to render ten songs on Ganapati in ten languages. What was their first presentation? Dikshitar's Vatapi Ganapatim, with faultless diction. I wished to give up my ghost right then, after listening to that rendition. This is the real tribute paid to Dikshitar by residents of alien regions of our country.
As cited earlier, there are some similarities between Dikshitar and Papanasam Sivan, inasmuch as the Ganapati compositions are concerned. Sivan's Reetigowla kriti on Mooladhara Ganapati is modelled after Dikshitar's kriti. Further, in conceptual comparison, we find similarities between Sivan's composition in raga Hamsadhwani and Dikshitar's composition in raga Navroj. Brevity restricts dilation to this aspect.
Curiously, there is no composition of Syama Sastri on Ganesha. Special reference must be made to Oothukadu Venkata Kavi's compositions Anandanartana Ganapatim (Nata), Pranavakaram (Arabhi) and Srivighnarajam (Gambheeranata). Other well-known compositions of the Carnatic music are Pranamamyaham (Gowla) of Vasudevachar, Varanamukha (Hamsadhwani) of Koteeswara Iyer and Vinayaka (Hamsadhwani) of Vina Kuppayyar. Mention must also be made of Vijaya Vittala Dasa's Gajavadana Paliso (Begada) and Srimahaganapatim (Atana) of the Maharaja of Mysore. Amongst the Tamil compositions, the kriti Ayyane ainkarane (Begada) deserves mention. What about Chikkaramiah's Neeve palinsara (Chakravakam) or Muthaiah Bhagavatar's Sakti Sahita Ganapatim? The list goes on and on.
The Bhagavata Purana says (X-84-2) that our holy teerthas (religious places) are not mere repositories of water, nor our Gods mere physical representations of mud and stone. They are manifestations of abstract faith, which is firm. Ganesh is our manifestation of cautious optimism, an expression of our resolve to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield, Ganesha Geeta is an inspiration to succeed. Carnatic music has an adequate quota of Ganesha Geeta.
- By Dr. V V Srivatsa