The snow is here..finally. Winter is setting in with temperatures in the negative. The past week, there were beautiful icicles hanging from everything. A treat for all those photographers here in Ann Arbor. A coating of ice over all the trees with the leaves,flowers and glittering ever so beautifully in the sunlight looking like beautiful crystals. As I am typing this, fresh snow is falling and covering the ground with and my face with cute crystals. I am listening to a wonderful song in Sahana "rama ika nannu" rendered by Sri Sanjay Subrahmanyan..intoxicating to say the least. Today, I will put some fundaes on that wonderful Hamsadhwani krithi which almost every other concert begins with. A salutation to Lord Ganesha to begin the concert with and ofcourse the brilliance shines through. My friend Hari(guitar god) says if you can play the song with all those nuances, you definitely are one of the best in the business. So here we go..
Vathapi Ganapathim Bhajeham
Vaaranaasyam Vara Pradham Sri
First of all, Vathapi(the modern day Badami of Bijapur district) is the place where Lord Ganesha is supposed to have been born to Lord Shiva and Parvathi. Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister Karunanidhi(being an atheist) uses this point to prove Lord Ganesha isnt a tamilian.Please see this article for further details about this episode.This is one of the 16 songs composed by Dikshithar on Lord Ganesha and since it is in the Raga Hamsadhwani, it is considered very apt to begin the concert with. The song has many "prayogams" that it is another great vocal exercise and hence acts as a good brisk voice opener for the vocalist. Now coming to the meaning of the pallavi, dikshithar sings
"I worship('Bhaje+aham') Lord Ganapathi hailing from Vathapi, he who has the face('haasyam') of an elephant('vaara') and showers('pradham') his devotees with boons('varam')". It is a simple pallavi with the first line starting with the characteristic "Ga Ri Sa" phrase of Hamsadhwani. Transcending generations, musicians have added numerous sangathis to these two lines of the song alone displaying the open ended flexibility characteristic of any dikshithar composition. Moving on to the Anupallavi,
Bhoothaadhi Samsevitha Charanam
Bhootha Bhautika Prapancha Bharanam
Veetharaaginam Vinutha Yoginam
Vishwakaaranam Vigna Vaaranam
Dikshithar sings "All the elements('bhoothas' as in panchabhoothas) worship('sevitha') his feet and surrender('charanam'). He pervades('Bharanam') the world consisting of the five elements('Prapanchabhootha bhauthika'). He is beyond('raaginam') desires('veetha') and is praised('vinutha') by all the yogis. He is the cause('kaaranam') of creation('vishwa' as in world) and is the destroyer('vaaranam') of all obstacles/sorrows('vigna')". Here again, one can the simplicity and beauty of the song and scope for a lot of sangathis. He employs an oxymoron referring to the Lord as both the creator and destroyer in the same line, just another display of his grammatical prowess. The charanam follows as
Puraa Kumbha Sambhava Munivara Prapoojitham Trikona Madhyagatham
Muraari Pramukhaadhyupaasitham Moolaadhaara Kshetrasthitham
Paraadhi Chathvaari Vaagaathmakam Pranava Swaroopa Vakrathundam
Nirantharam Nithila Chandrakandam Nijavaamakara Vidhrutekshu Dandam
Karaambujapaasha Beejaapooram Kalushavidooram Bhoothaakaaram
Haraadhi Guruguha Toshitha Bimbam Hamsadhwani Bhooshitha Herambham
The Charanam is filled with upanishidhic references and beautiful description of Lord Ganesha. I will first explain the word by word meaning and then the fundaes behind each description. Dikshithar refers to sage agasthya in the first line of the charanam alluding to him as the sage('muni') born('sambhava') out of a jar of water('puraa kumbha') and sings "He(Lord Ganesha) is worshipped('prapoojitham') by sage agasthya(described as above). He resides in the middle of('madhyama') of the mystic triangle('trikona') and is praised and worshipped('upaasitham') by Lord vishnu('murari') and other important gods('pramukhaas'). He is present('sthitham') as an important deity('mooladhara') in all divine places('kshethrams'). Starting with 'paraa', he is present in the form('aathmakam') of the four varieties('chathwaari') of sounds('vaagaa'). He has a twisted trunk('Vakrathundam') and has on original form('swaroopam') of a 'pranavaa'. He always('Nirantharam') bears('Nithila') a crescent('Chandra') on his forehead('gandam') and possesses a sugar('ikshu') cane('dandam') on his left hand('vaama kara'). In his lotus-like('ambuja') hands('karam'), a noose('paasha'), a goad and fruits('beejapooram'). He drives away('vi+dhooram') all evils('kalusha') and has a gigantic form('bhoothaakaaram'). His form('bimbam') is adored('toshitha') by the gods like Hara,guruguha and all others. He is the Lord Heramba ornated('Bhooshitha') by the Raga Hamsadhwani."
The charanam in my opinion has so much depth that it could have been composed as another separate song itself. Dikshithar sings of Lord Ganesha as one who resides in the middle of the mystic triangle. Here, he is possibly referring to yogic practices. The first step towards meditation is concentrating on the space between the eyebrows which is also referred to as the mystic triangle, a source of infinte energy, also called as the 'agnyaa'(meaning command) chakra(in the astral body). Dikshithar also sings as Lord Ganesha to be present in all divine places which is very evident from the fact that whichever hindu temple you go to, there is always a 'sannidhi' for Lord Ganesha and this will be the first sannidhi you will pray to even before entering the 'praakaaram'.
The description of Lord Ganesha in the charanam is beautiful as he goes from top to bottom, completely describing all the things possessed by the Lord and his twisted trunk. Please see the picture above and you will be able to visualise the Lord perfectly. By describing the Lord to be in the form of 'pranavaa' he refers to the brahma mantra 'Om'. Many would have seen pictures of Lord Ganesha being portrayed as circumscribed by the symbol 'Om' and one can easily visualise the Lord as representing the divine brahman. Also, completing his reference to the mystic triangle(explained above) and pranavaa('om'), you can get the complete picture by looking at this image where the pranavaa('om') is considered as the beeja mantra of the mystic triangle of aathma(soul), shakthi(energy) and prakrithi(nature), repetition of which excites the aagnya chakra in the astral body(explained above). He concludes with the raga mudhra completing the music garland.
Overall, this easily becomes the best invocation song ever composed as it salutes the main deity(Lord Ganesha), composed in an auspicious raga and pretty challenging to sing, hence serving as a brisk throat-warming exercise. All I can do is stare with my mouth wide open as I continue to be amazed by the brilliance of Dikshithar and hence conclude that he's not mortal as usual. :) It has taken me one whole day just to explain this song, imagine how brilliant a mind with what great a 'paandithyam' could have compose 481 such masterpieces. Meanwhile, I have been stung by the kambhoji bug and am listening like a madcap to kambhoji for the past 2 days. Currently listening to "Evari Maata", a beautiful thyagaraajar krithi, rendered by my brother..pure bliss.
In the next blog, I plan to combine two more famous songs on Lord Ganesha by dikshithar..'Mahaganapathim' in raga 'Naatai' and 'Vallabha Naayakasya' in raga 'Begada' as both these songs are pretty small having what are called as "samaashti charanams". Signing off as usual with the traditional "thalaivar rocks"!!