Now that the worship is done and the kozhukattais have been eaten, it is time for some song. Yes of course, Siddhi VinAyakam in chAmaram and attributed to Muthuswami Dikshitar is the first one that comes to mind. Yes it is a lovely piece, full of the most beautiful words but it is not in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini (so what? Lots of other lovely Dikshitar kritis aren’t and can you say vadAnyEswaram or shrI rangapura vihAra were not composed by him? No I cannot. But then this has a fatal flaw in the caraNam – since when did bhAdrapada rhyme with adrirAja? If it is bhA should it not be A and not a? Anyway let me not split hairs on this day of days.
Instead, let me focus on Tyagaraja’s srI gaNapatini sEvimpa rArE. Set in the mangaLa rAga of saurAShTra (Adi tALa), the meaning goes like this:
Come O devotees to worship Sri Ganapati!
(Come O devotees to worship Sri Ganapati), who after having accepted the worship of Brahma and others, is dancing
(Come O devotees to worship Sri Ganapati), who after having partaken of jackfruit, coconut and the blackberry, dances with firm feet on the earth in varying gaits all the while meditating in his lotus heart on the feet of Vishnu and is worshipped by Tyagaraja.
You can listen to ML Vasanthakumari sing it here
The composition marks the beginning of Tyagaraja’s opera – Prahlada Bhakti Vijayamu. In keeping with the structure of similar works, the composer begins with a stuti to Ganesa. It is most likely that this creation of Tyagaraja was performed in public or was at least meant to be, for it begins with a conversation that describes the audience, the stage and the decor. If so, the opening piece, akin to other works of its kind, was meant to have an actor with a cloth covering his face and twisted to one side to resemble a trunk, dancing on to stage as a personification of Ganesa.
It is to be noted here that the Melattur Bhagavata Mela begins with an invocation to Ganesa. Similarly, the Krishna Leela Tarangini of Narayana Teertha begins with Jayajaya svAmin jayajaya, which is on Ganesa. The Pallaki Seva Prabandhamu of Shahaji begins with the mention of Ganesa – the opening lines describe Shiva as the father of ‘shrI karimukhuni poShita chaturmukhuni, Ekadantuni durita ibha kEsaruni’ (he of the elephant face, who protects Brahma, has one tusk and is like a lion to elephant-like difficulties). Tyagaraja’s other opera naukA caritramu also begins with a single verse to Ganesa.
shrI gaNapatinI attributes a lot of musicality to Ganesa. For Tyagaraja all the deities sang and danced. This is made manifest in his vidulaku mrokkEda where he states all the Gods as experts in sangita. This includes gajamukhulu. And so we have a musical Ganesa.
And then when you visit Thiruvaiyyaru you need to go to the Pushya Mandapa ghat. This is said to be the place where Tyagaraja bathed each morning. Before stepping into the water, it is customary for the bathers to pray to a medallion of Ganesa let into one of the walls. And this Ganesa is a dancing deity, just as Tyagaraja describes in his song. Perhaps the composer too worshipped Him each day, humming this song under his breath as he stepped into the water.
Let that God dance into all our lives. Happy #VinayakaChaturthi
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