I beg forgiveness to my very dear Ganapati; I should have started my blog with this post. He is the God of beginnings; His name is taken before starting any endeavour to reduce hindrances for he is Vighneshwara, the Lord of obstacles. Today I shall correct my lapse.
Many of the Hindu Gods are strongly associated with music and dance. I had mentioned Shiva, the eternal dancer and Krishna, the divine flautist, in earlier posts. Ganesha, as he is also called, is associated with poetry, literature and theatre. Not that far from music; all the Carnatic music songs I write about are poetry, aren’t they?
I honour Ganapati with this composition in Raga Hamsadhwani (click here for more information), a very well known song which is often sung at the start of performances. Written by Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835) it has a certain heraldic quality with its brisk and rhythmic passages; it seems to me like a call to wake up and concentrate! The raga is said to have been created by the composer’s father, Ramaswami Dikshithar (1735-1817). The transliterated lyrics of this song can be found here. I give below the lyrics in Sanskrit. Those interested in poetry will note how beautifully the poet uses alliteration.
वातापि गणपतिं भजेऽहं वारणास्यं वरप्रदं श्री
भूतादि संसेवित चरणं भूत भौतिक प्रपञ्च भरणं
वीतरागिनं विनतयोगिनं विश्वकारणम् विघ्नवारणं
पुरा कुम्भ संभव मुनिवर प्रपूजितं त्रिकोण मध्यगतं
मुरारी प्रमुखाद्युपासितं मूलाधार क्षेत्र स्थितं
परादि चत्वारि वागात्मकं प्रणव स्वरूप वक्रतुण्डं
निरन्तरं निटिल चन्द्रखण्डं निज वामकर विध्रुतेक्षु दण्डं
कराम्बुज पाश बीजापूरं कलुष विदूरम भूताकारं
हरादि गुरुगुह तोषित बिम्बं हम्सध्वनि भूषित हेरम्बं
As with most Hindu prayers, there really is not much of a request from Ganapati – in fact, there is none. Instead, the prayer lists the identification features of the God, for example, the one with the trunk shaped like Om, the one with the mark of the crescent moon on his forehead, the one who is in the Muladhara Chakra, the tantric chakra located at the base of the spine etc. To me, it reiterates the fact that prayer is not about asking, but about merging the divinity within us with the Other. Prayer songs are just a tools to focus our minds on the other divinity so that this merging can take place.
Here is the prayer sung by G.N.Balasubramaniam (1910-1965), in memory of my father who was very fond of this legendary musician. The quality of the recording is not good but it is evident why GNB was such a legend.
Raga Hamsadhwani has found its way North and is now sung by Hindustani Classical musicians as well. For your interest, here is Vatapi Ganapatim performed by Channulal Mishra. Again, the quality is not good but its still interesting. I challenge you not to fall in love with Hamsadhwani after listening to the tarana. I wonder what makes something sound Carnatic or Hindustani? The raga is the same, the composition (in Sanksrit, our common heritage) is the same yet it is different! I love both Carnatic and Hindustani music; how lucky I am, for I have two wonderful worlds of music to take pleasure from!!