Pranamamyaham Shri Gauri Sutam

Ganesha Symbolism

A very happy Ganesh Chaturthi to all my readers! I hope that you have enjoyed the prasadam (offering) of sweet kozhakattais or modakas which please our elephant faced Lord! On a constant diet, I dare not make sweets. Instead I offer Lord Ganesha sweet music which I hope pleases him even more!

The form of Lord Ganesha is beloved to millions from India. There is something so appealing about it, don’t you think? Only sometimes do I let my mind wander to the symbolism behind it. One of the interpretations is shown in the image above, but there may be many more insights which can be derived by the iconography. Perhaps today, this day of celebration of our Lord, we should meditate on what the iconography means to us personally. For me, I would like to absorb the lesson of ‘Listen, think, then write’ message from the story of Vyasa’s dictation of the Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha, as represented by His large ears (listen), His large head (think) and the missing tusk (write).

To celebrate this day, I offer you a beautiful prayer song in the raga Gowla written by Mysore Vasudevachar. We Carnatic Music fans have our own raga related symbolisms and associations, don’t we? There are some ragas which immediately evoke the presence of certain Gods or Goddesses. Raga Natta, for example, makes me think immediately of Lord Ganesha for it has the same powerful, strident, confident quality that I find in Lord Ganesha. Natta is considered as auspicious to beginnings as He is.  Similarly raga Gowla, our raga choice today, has the a steady and rooted quality to it, as well as a certain majesty and grandeur which echoes the qualities of Lord Ganesha. Gowla is particularly impressive in the Mandra Sthayi (the lower octave) and the lower half of the chosen octave (listen to Tyagaraja’s Dudukugala to appreciate this). This gives it a certain weight which reminds me of the heaviness of the form Lord Ganesha and his quality of being a foundation for everything. To know more about this raga, click here.

To present this song, I have chosen artists whom I have not so far featured in my blog. For a vocal version, I present V.Shankaranarayan, an artist from Singapore, with a career in banking and still managing to admirably keep up with the demands of Carnatic Music. I do like his voice and energy, but may I humbly point out that pronunciation is important too?  पणि is a thief or a miser, फणि is a serpent; these are not interchangeable words! And the word for son is sutam, not sudam. To listen, click here.

For an instrumental version, I will go back many decades to Sheik Chinna Moulana (1924-1999), the legendary Nadaswaram player.  What a control he has over the instrument! In my mind, this raga suits this instrument very well indeed – an auspicious sounding raga in an auspicious sounding instrument. To listen, click here.


Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Mysore Vasudevachar
Raga : Gowla
Language : Sanskrit

प्रणमाम्यहम् श्री गौरी सुतम्
फणि तल्प वासुदेव भक्तम् सततम्

गण नाथम् अमर बृन्द सेवितम्
फणि हार भूषितं मुनि वर वन्दितम्

धृत चारु मोदकम् गज मुखम्
सितकरामित (=सितकर + अमित) गर्व भञ्जकम्
नत लोक (alt: भूत) संतोष दायकम्
श्रित भक्त पालकम् सिद्धि विनायकम्

Transliteration :

praNamAmyaham shrI gaurI sutam
phaNi talpa vAsudEva bhaktam satatam

gaNa nAtham amara brnda sEvitam
phaNi hAra bhUshitam muni vara vanditam

dhrta chAru mOdakam gaja mukham
sitakarAmita garva bhanjakam
nata lOka (alt: bhUta) santOsha dAyakam
shrita bhakta pAlakam siddhi vinAyakam


I constantly (satatam) salute (pranamAmyaham) the son (sutam) of Gauri, the devotee (bhaktam) of Vaasudeva who uses a snake (phaNi) as a couch (talpa).

Lord (nAtham) of the gang of attendants of Shiva (gaNa), served by a multitude (brnda, assuming it is a form of the word vrnda) immortals (amara), adorned (bhUshitam) by a snake (phaNi) as a garland (hAra), praised (vanditam) by the best (vara) of sages (muni).

Holding (dhrta) his beloved (chAru) sweet (mOdakam), elephant (gaja) faced (mukham), destroyer (bhanjitam) of the moon’s (sitakara) endless (amita) arrogance (garva), giver (dAyakam) of happiness (santOsha) to the world (lOka/bhUta) of those who bow to him (nata), protector (pAlakam) of those devotees (bhata) who worship him (shrita), remover of obstacles (vinAyakam) so that we may attain fulfilment (siddhi).


Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Mysore Vasudevachar, Sheik Chinna Moulana, V.Shankaranarayan

2 responses to “Pranamamyaham Shri Gauri Sutam

  1. indigoite

    Interesting that you can associate ragas with specific Gods. Never thought of it that way. Still can’t figure out why you associate Gowla with Lord Ganesh, but very often these linkages are personal.

    Nice to see Sheikh Chinna Moulana featured. He is simply a wonderful player – imagine the banks of the Cauvery on a peaceful night and hearing the nadaswaram in the still air …….. Maybe in Thiruvaiyaru.

    V.Shankaranarayan, I had never heard of – must listen to him after your recommendation.

    • You are absolutely right, this raga-God association is my own personal thing, may not make sense to others! Some are obvious – Shanmukhapriya with Murugan, Mohanam with Krishna, Bhairavi with Shakti. Some are not so obvious, for example, Brindavana Saranga with Vishnu, Revati with Shiva and Kurinji & Madhyamavati with Lakshmi. I am effected by compositions in those raga but also by the ‘feel’ of the raga which reminds me of the qualities of the God or Goddess. Kurinji and Madhyamavati for example has a certain ‘lakshmikaram’ about them, a feminine auspiciousness, or so it seems to me..I also have Gods/Godesses vs Colour linkages in my mind but that is another story 🙂

      Ah, you make a nice word-picture for me to think about while listening to Nadaswaram! Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to have just that kind of experience… I like to listen to young musicians, they bring lots of enthusiasm into their music! You’ll enjoy it I think..
      Cheers. Suja

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