Friday, January 19, 2007

Vathapi Ganapathim Bhajeham

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
Madhyamakala Sahityam:
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
Madhyamakala Sahithyam:
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"!!


Anonymous said...

I am learning the veena and have learnt this song - but wouldn't have a clue as to the words!

thanks for translating - it gives the song so much more depth.

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Rasika,
Thanks a lot for your wonderful and kind words. I am really glad that you really liked the post and are able to appreciate the krithi much better now. All the best with your veena practice. And next time, please make yourself anonymous so that we can keep in touch. Thanks.


Aayushi said...

heyy you really helped me out here.. I learn bharatanatyam and was randomly asked to dance to this shloka at a programme tomorrow.. i love the way you've explained the whole shloka with all the literary features... (i'm a student of literature too :)..).. anyway, thanks and keep going !

Musical Scientist said...

Hello Aayushi..thanks a lot for your kind words and wonderful comments. I am really happy that my blog helped you. I feel so happy because that is the purpose of this blogspace. :).
With encouragement from fellow rasikAs like you, I surely will keep going :).

anon2 said...

That was brilliant. I just listened to a CD with various artistes (U Srinivas, Kadri Gopalnath, Dhandapani etc) performing Raaga Hamsadhwani and was curious about the lyrics. Thank you!

Musical Scientist said...

Thanks a lot Anon..I am really glad to hear that the blog is serving its purpose, i.e., to help rasikas understand the meaning of krithis and help them appreciate dIkshithar a lot better :).

Venu said...


I am not much into traditional music, but used to love this from my childhood. When I searched for lyrics I found your blog and wow... it is so good, informational and devotional.
I appreciate your help on sharing this with all of us.

I would love to see more like this.


Musical Scientist said...

Dear Venu,
Thanks a lot for your kind words and appreciative comments. With dIkshithar's divine blessings, I will hopefully continue to share whatever little knowledge I have. shrI gurubhyO namah

Anonymous said...

Salutations to you for the kind service you rendered for both music lovers and devotees.
I worship Lord Ganesa for the past 55(aprox)years.Many a times I listen this kriti in concerts where the sahityam was never spelt clearly.All the THREE musical saints did very good job for the devotees as well with their VEDANTIC knowledge but the SAHITYAM with bhakti is not being conveyed enough to the generations.
I hope good souls like you would fill the deficit.Lord Ganesa may bless for doing this job
I never had an oppertunity to learn the meening and commentry of the full kriti like the one you posted.
Please continue this work for the benefit of the society.


Musical Scientist said...

Dear mAdhava rao sir. Thanks a lot for those kind words of appreciation. I am indeed honored to note that you loved reading this post and are now able to appreciate the krithi a lot better.
The trinities are indeed Gods..their compositions will keep ringing till this world ends.
And I am just 24 years old, it is I who should be calling you sir and not the other way around :).
Please keep reading my blogs and please share your thoughts :). With the blessings and best wishes of people like you, I will surely continue to post whatever little I know.

mspendyala said...

Hello Sir,

Fantastic piece of work your way of explaining things is really great so that people like us can also understand easily. I wish you continue this on other good compositions also.


Musical Scientist said...

Respected pendyala sir,
Thanks a lot for your kind words :). I am very glad to hear that the blog is serving its purpose. With the blessings of God, I will try my best to explain more compositions in the times to come. Please keep visiting my blog and post your thoughts. Thank you.


Vinay said...

The actual Vathapi Ganapathi.

Musical Scientist said...

Hi Vinay,

Thanks a lot for that link. I did not know that the Lord was moved from vAthApi to near thanjAvUr. Will surely visit this temple when I go to India.


Anonymous said...

thanks a lot!!

Desperado said...

My name is Bharat. I am an ardent fan of Kadri Gopalnathji. I just love the instrument and the way he plays it. I was trying to learn this "song"(if u will) for a long time. You have given a great insight to this song. Thank you very much. When you know the meaning of the song, it is more easy to practice as it brings out an emotional fervour into the playing of the instrument. It certainly adds to the joy that you derive from music.

I will waiting for your future posts on this subject.

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Bharat,

Thanks a lot for your words of appreciation :). Really happy to note that you are able to emote better with the krithi now that you know the meaning. It definitely makes a huge difference to know the meaning of the sAhityams and sing/play the krithi..Please keep reading my blogs and share your thoughts.


murali said...

can u provide me with the swaras of vatapi

Nitthin said...

thanks a lot for the explanation on the the song all the more now.

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Rajesh said...

That was very useful.
Work from home

Anonymous said...

The explanation is very nice but does mooladhara kshetrasthitham exactly mean what you have explained. Don't you think Dikshitar is implying towards the mooladhara chakram where lord vinayaka is situated? I some how always thought that it was. Well I could be wrong.


Musical Scientist said...

Dear Kalyan sir,

Thanks a lot for pointing that out. I guess I was in a rush while writing the charanam and forgot to discuss the yogic point of "mUlAdAra kSEtrastitha". Yes you are right..that is the more appropriate meaning. Thank you!!


Krishna said...

Lord Ganesha is a God of knowledge.

Ganesha Photo, Lord Ganesha Photo, Sri Ganesh Wallpaper

Asok said...


It's Just Excellent. I am not a musician but love and hear carnatic music. I have been listening this bhakthi keerthanam since the last 28 or more years. But today only I could understand the treasure. Thanks, Thanks a lot.


Musical Scientist said...

Respected sir,

You are most welcome. I am so glad to see that you found my post useful :). And we belong to the same fold..I too love and hear carnatic music just like you :).


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Ramesh said...

Thankyou Sai for this beautiful explanation of Vatapi Ganapathim. It was enlightening. I seem to have developed an interest in carnatic music stemming from my endeavours to explore the spiritual dimension. Looks like you too have been attracted to carnatic music from activities from your previous birth given your young age and the obvious underlying wisdom demonstrated here in a number of ways. I like the rendition of Vatapi Ganapathim by Ghantasala and MS. I do backup the main singers in the mandir or sometimes lead the congragation in Bhajans here at the ISKCON mandir at Coventry UK. Having been brought up in a convent environment (Bishop Cottons Bangalore is one of them)I was in the school's christian choir. Would love to someday learn Sanskrit, Carnatic or Hindustani music. It is very rich and vocalises the delicate fluttering of the heart so to speak when one experiences a fondness (Love - not sure if I know what it is exactly) for the Lord in his many forms. I also believe that the complex compilation of sounds in these strains do comprehensively activate all the 7 main chakras in our aura...part of Integral Yoga or what I have heard of it? Of course being a near ignoramus here it might even be a figment of my imagination...I will try and get through to you on facebook. Thanks a ton anyway , it was most interesting reading and responding to this blog...Hari Om.

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Ramesh,

Thanks a lot for such kind words of appreciation. I am so happy to see that you enjoyed reading this post. In quite a similar fashion, I have also been attracted to carnatic music in general and dIkshitar in particular thanks to my spiritual journey. The two are definitely intertwined in quite a complex fashion and sanskrit acts as more than a bridge between the two. The letters and alphabets of Sanskrit themselves have a vibration and when these words/mantras are repeated with concentration, these resonate and have the capability of exciting the chakras in our astral plane..part of internal yoga as u mentioned. I am sure u must have heard about beeja mantras like aim, klIm, Om etc which are used for this purpose. dIkshitar has employed this fact over and over again in quite a few krithis. Its a long story and cant be compressed in this comment :). Thank you once again for such a detailed comment..catch you on facebook. May God and gurus bless you.



i am really grateful for providing the meaning. For along ime I was searching for it. I am a Maharashtriyan. But I like this Rachana very much. Please also give details of great saga Muttuswami Dikshitar ---
Mahadeo Nasikkar

Anonymous said...

hi... wonderful work!!! I LOVE THIS SONG!!! now im even more mesmerized... thnx fr sharing n keep up the gud work!!!

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read that post. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more soon.

bondapalli said...

u simply shortened the distance between me and lord ganesha .exellent job.thanx u.

Anonymous said...

Hello sir,

I salute your great effort in "decoding" vathapi and explaining its meaning. However I heard the charanam has deeper meaning with a lot of insights...
Just as a minor correction, the word "vaara" you referred to as elephant in the pallavi should be "vaarana"or vaaranam, is it not?

Al Ain, UAE

Musical Scientist said...

@bondapalli..thanks a lot for your appreciation sir :).

@Shivakumar..Glad you liked my post sir. And thanks for pointing out that mistake sir. It is vAraNa and not vAra as mentioned in the post. vAraNa means anything that is invincible and capable of resisting force. An elephant symbolizes this characteristic and hence vAraNa interprets as elephant here.


Kerala Brahmin said...

Dear Friends,
Though not up to this great standard , I have started posting translations of as many Carnatic music Krithis as I could. These are available in my web site
PLease help me improve by visiting that web site, P.R.Ramachander

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Wonderful....Thank you for the dedicated effort to share your knowledge with everyone. I really enjoy this piece by Ghantasala every morning.

Ramakrishna said...

Thank you for good attempt to explain. I think Vaaranaasyam Vara Pradham Sri Meaning may be" Oh god grant me the vara of Varnas (Letters). Since this is sung before concert may be Dikshitar asking lord ganesha for blessing of Varnas before concert. Sanskrit is very flexible language.

mohans said...


The translation was very inspiring. Please keep up the great work. Wishing you the very best in such endeavours.


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srinic said...

Hi, I liked the translation..very good attempt. "Murari pramuka" could be the serpent (kundalini)..."upaasitham" worshiping Ganesh, residing in the mooladhar chakra.


I experienced a miracle when i got ur mail yesterday, on Jan 30. It was Chaturthi day as per Shalivahan Panchang popular in Maharashtra.Every month chaturthi is Lord Ganesha's worship day.We fast whole day and brake it at night after ganesh Puja and Chandrodaya i.e. seeing moon etc. so I was thrilled to receive e mail on this Lord Ganesha day.

Usha said...

Very nice blog, thank you.
I have one comment. In the charanam, I think it is chandra khandam (slice of chandra) and not chandra gandam. Probably the confusion is because in Tamil, we say ga for ka and kha.

Thank you!