vAtApi gaNapatiM bhajEham
P. P. Narayanaswami

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During the vinAyaka caturthi of last year (2003), we provided a general discussion of various k.rtis in praise of Lord gaNEsha, by a variety of composers. We also uploaded the sAhityam of numerous vinAyaka k.rtis, along with some popular gaNESha stOtrams suitable for this occasion. Some other resources related to gaNEsha on this website are: 1) gaNEsha k.rtis in Sanskrit/Telugu/Kannada 2) 18 popular vinAyaka k.rtis in Tamil 3) Some stOtrams on Lord gaNEsha

This year, we attempt a detailed discussion of one single k.rti  in praise of Lord gaNEsha, and the chosen candidate is none other than the famous vAtApi gaNapatiM bhajEham.

Most of the concerts in karNaTik music begin with a varNam, and is followed by invocation to Lord gaNEsha, the remover of all obstacles.  Most often, the inevitable k.rti chosen for this purpose is  the ever popular “vAtApi gaNapatiM bhajEham” set to Adi tAlam, by the prolific composer, muttusvAmi dIkSitar. This k.rti is one among the SoDasha gaNapati k.rtis that  dIkSitar composed in and around the grand temple of tiruvArUr.  Major factors that contribute to the popularity of this k.rti are:

  • it is an invocation to Lord gaNapati, the remover of all obstacles

  • it is set in the auspicious pentatonic scale, haMsadhvani, derived from the highly popular shankarAbharaNam

  • it is capable of creating the proper  musical atmosphere, right at the commencement of a concert

  • the composer is muttusvAmi dIkSitar, one among the revered Trinity

  • it is studded with literary beauties, very typical of dIkSitar compositions

  • it is packed with several interesting purANic episodes.

MahA vaidyanAtha Iyer used to render this k.rti invariably in all his concerts.  He used to employ various beautiful sa”ngatis each time he sang this composition. These have been carefully preserved, and passed on to the present day. Perhaps this also accounts for the wide acclaim, and concert popularity enjoyed by this k.rti.

On page 871 (volume IV) of the mammoth encyclopedia, Sa”ngIta saMpradAya pradarshini, the author SubbarAma dIkSitar gives the lyrics with notations of this k.rti. The rAgam, haMsadhvani is placed as an upA”nga janyam number 9, under the rAgA”nga rAgam 29 (asaMpUrNa scheme), dhIrasha”nkarAbharaNam, and the mUrccana is given as

ArOhaNam:              s r g p n s

avarOhaNam:           s n p g r s

The author gives a lakSya prabandham by rAmasvAmi dIkSitar, and states that this rAgam was created by rAmasvAmi dIkSitar himself. The k.ti “vAtApi gaNapatiM” by muttusvAmi dIkSitar is then provided, and as usual, the discussion concludes with a sa~ncAri by the author.

In the book, “Oriental Music in European Notation” (Madras, Ave Maria Press, 1893-1896),  A. M. CinnasvAmi mudaliyAr published the pallavi, and the anupallavi segments of “vAtApi gaNapatim” in western staff notation for the first time. It was cinnasvAmi mudaliyAr who persuaded subbarAma dIksitar to compile  his mammoth musical work, Sa”ngIta saMpradAya pradarshini.

CLICK HERE for the complete svara notations of vAtApi gaNapatiM bhajEham, with sAhityam in Sanskrit and diacritical English in a color PDF booklet format

The sAhityam 


 vAtApigaNapAtiM bhaje’haM

vAraNAsyaM varapradaM shrI




vItarAgiNaM vinatayOginaM

vishvakAraNaM vighnavAraNam


 purA kuMbhasaMbhavamunivaraprapUjitaM






nirantaraM niTilacandrakhaNDaM



kaluSavidUraM bhUtAkAraM



Word for word meaning

The basic anvayam (word order) is: “ahaM (vAraNAsyaM, varapradaM, etc.) vAtApigaNapatiM bhajE”  (I worship vAtApi gaNapati, with these attributes), and all the  remaining phrases that end in the “M” or “m”  (ma kAram) are in dvitIyA vibhakti (accusative case), qualifying the proper name “vAtApigaNapatiM”


vAtApigaNapAtiM  - the gaNapati of vAtApi

bhajE – worship, praise

ahaM – I  (the composer, muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

vAraNAsyaM – the one with the face (Asyam) of the elephant (vAraNa)

varapradam  - one who bestows (M) of boons (vara)

shrI  - ever auspicious, blessed


bhUtAdisaMsEvitacaraNaM -  with feet (caraNa) well-worshiped (saMEvita ) by the bhUtas and so forth (bhUtAdi)

bhUtabhautikaprapa~ncabharaNaM – the support (bharaNaM) of the universe (prapa~nca) of the elements (bhUta) and the  living beings (bhautika)

vItarAgiNaM – who is devoid of (vIta) all desires or passion (rAga)

vinatayOginaM – who is prostrated (vinata) by the yOgis

vishvakAraNaM – who is the cause (kAraNaM)  of the entire universe (vishva)

vighnavAraNam – who is the remover (vAraNaM of all obstacles (vighna)


purA –  once upon a time (long time ago)

kuMbhasaMbhavamunivaraprapUjitaM - who was worshipped (prapUjita) by superior Saint (munivara) agastya, born out of a pot (kuMbhasaMbhava)

trikONamadhyagataM – who resides (gataM) in  the middle (madhya) of the (tAntrik) triangle (trikONa)

murAripramukhAdyupAsitaM – who is worshipped (upAsitam) prominantly by (pramukha)  Lord viSNu , the enemy of the demon mura (murAri), and others (Adi)

mUlAdhArakSEtrasthitam – who resides (sthitaM) in the location (kSEtra) of the ( tAntrik) cosmic circle (mUlAdhAra cakram).

parAdicatvArivAgAtmakaM – who is the embodiment (AtmakM) of the four  levels (catvAri) of speeches (vAg) commencing with  parA (parAdi) , namely parA, pashyanI, madhyamA, and vaikharI

praNavasvarUpavakratuNDaM – who has a curved (vakra) trunk (tuNDaM) in the shape of (svarUpa) the sacred mystic syllable “Om” (praNava)

nirantaraM – who is permanent (nir = without, antaram = interval)

niTilacandrakhaNDaM - who bears a crescent moon (candra khaNDaM) on the forehead (niTila)

nijavAmakaravidh.rtEkSudaNDam -  who holds (vidh.rta) the stack of  sugar cane (ikSu daNDaM)  in his (nija)  left hand (vAma kara)

karAmbujapAshabIjApUraM - who holds a noose (pAsha) , and a pomgranite fruit (bIjApUram) on his lotus-like  hand (karAMbuja)

kaluSavidUraM – who is without (or far away from) (vidUram) all blemishes (kaluSa

bhUtAkAraM – who possesses a gigantic (bhUta) shape (AkAram)

harAdiguruguhatOSitabiMbaM – whose round form (biMbam)  is pleasing (tOSita)  to Lord shiva (hara), subrahmanya (guruguha), and others (Adi)

haMsadhvanibhUSitahEraMbam -  who is the protector of the meek (hEramba), and is adorned by the rAgaM haMsadhvani (swan sound).


mUlAdhAra kSEtram

tiruvArUr is popularly known as the mUlAdhAra kSEtram.  The phrase also refers to the fountainhead of evolutionary energy located in each human being at the base of the spinal cord.


This phrase has been used thrice in this k.rti with  different meanings. It refers to the “bhUta gaNa”s for whom Lord gaNapati is the chief;  the five primary elements, p.rthvI (earth), ap (water), vAyu (air), tEjas (fire), and AkAsham (ether) are collectively known as pa~nca bhUtams.  The word,  used the third time (bhUtAkAram),  means “majestic” .

trikONa madhya gataM

The triangle here refers to the  geometrical diagram used in tAntrik rituals. Also, the vAtApi gaNapati idol at tiruvArUr is enclosed in a triangle shaped frame.  This could have also prompted dIkSitar to employ  such a  description.

parAdi catvAri vAgAtmakam

Vibrations due to sound produce speech (vAg). According to shAktam, there are four ranges of sound, namely, parA, pashyantI, madhyamA, and vaikharI. These are collectively known as “shabda tatvam”. The first one, parA, belongs to the range of frequencies that is inaudible to humans, and cannot be produced by humans; on the other extreme, vailkharI is in the frequency range of vibrations made by  humans, and is audible to them. The remaining two, pashyantI, and madhyamA are the ranges somewhere between these two.  In the commentary of kALidAsa’a kumArasaMbhavam (2.17), the commentator, mallinAtha states:

vaikharI shabdaniSpattiH  madhyamA sm.rtigOcarA |

dyautikAryasya pashyantI sUkSmA brahmaiva kEvalam ||

vaikharI manifests the words, madhyamA is seen through the mind, pashyantI throws light on the idea, and finally parA is the subtle voice, the undifferentiated casual immensity. In fact, muttusvAmi dIkSitar refers to them again in his tOyavEgavAhini k.rti, “vINApustaka dhAriNIm”, where he describes goddess sarasvati as “parAdyakhila shabda svarUpAvakAshAm”  (personification of the different forms of sounds beginning with parA).

Free Translation

I sing in praise of vAtApi gaNapati, who has the face of an elephant, and who is a giver of all boons. All the living beings worship his feet. He transcends the past, the future and the universe, comprising the five elements. He is devoid of passion, and is saluted by the yOgis  He is the cause of the  creation of the world and he is the remover of all obstacles.

In ancient times,  he was worshiped by  saint Agastya (born out of a pot). He resides in the middle of the  mystic triangle. He is saluted by the prominent gods, viSNu and others. He resides in the mUlAdhAra cakram (cosmic circle). He represents the four forms of speech, beginning with parA. His trunk is curved in the form of the sacred syllable Om. He is eternal, and his forehead bears the crescent moon. In his left hand he carries the stack of  sugar cane. He also carries a noose and a pomegranate fruit in his lotus-like hand. He is of a gigantic form, and he is faultless. He is hEraMba, and his figure is adorned by  haMsadhvani rAgam.

Some episodes associated with this k.rti

There are several differing explanations in our purANic mythology dealing with the cause and the origin of the elephant face of gaNapati.  We furnish below some of those episodes relevant to this particular k.rti.

1. VAtApi (a corrupt form of the place named bAdAmi) is located in the present day bIjApUr district in karNATaka state.  It was the capital of the cAlUkyan ruler, pulakeshin. After the pallava king narasiMhavarman (630-668 AD) conquered bAdAmi, an image of lord gaNapati was brought from there to the location of tirucce”ngaTTanguDi, near nannilam (tAnjOre). This was the home town of  the pallava chieftain para~njyOti, who later became a devotee of Lord shiva, and changed  his name to ciruttoNdar  (one of the 63 nAyanmArs).  The idol was later installed  on the southern side of the arddha maNDapam in the temple, formally known as ciruttoNDa gaNapatIshvaram  This gaNapati was formally called “vAtApi gaANapati”, since it originated in bAdAmi. At some later period, this served as an inspiration for a “vAtApi gaNapati” idol in the tiruvArUr  temple complex.  This is the idol that dIkSitar sings in his haMsadhvani composition. The temple at tiruvArUr is often known as “mUldhAra kSEtram”, and this phrase occurs in the caraNam line of the k.rti. There are subtle differences between the idols at tiruvArUr, and tirucce”ngaTTanguDi.  The one in tiruvArUr is a “valampuri gaNEsha” (the trunk is  curving to the right, which is  very rare).  There is a triangular shaped frame surrounding the figure of gaNEsha in the tiruvArUr idol, which might have prompted dIkSitar to use the phrase “trikONa madhyagatam”.

A picture of the original vAtApi gaNapati of tirucce”ngaTTanguDi can be viewed at:

A plan of tiruvArUr temple, identifying the location of vAtApi gaNapati is available at: 

2. There were two demons, vAtApi, and ilvalan who employed a strange technique to kill the sages.  They used to invite the sages for dinner, and ilvalan offered them food prepared out of vAtApi’s body. After the sages have consumed the food, ilvalan would call the name of vAtApi,  who would then spring to life  from their stomach, thus killing them.  To protect the sages from this mishap, Saint agstya worshiped Lord gaNapati, and with his blessings was able to prevent vAtApi getting his life back inside the stomach.   Perhaps dIkSitar had this incident in mind when he stated “purA kuMbhasaMbhava munivara prapUjitam”.  This particular story is given in the epic, rAmayaNam.  Stories related to agastya are found in mahAbharatam, rAmAyaNam, and several purAnams (matsya, pAdma, brahmAnDa),.

3 According to shiva purANam,  at one time, Lord shiva was performing a penance, and his consort pArvati wanted to have a child to protect her. She rubbed her body, and from some scurf she gathered,  she created a son.  She told him to guard the entrance to her abode while she was taking a bath.  Meanwhile shiva returned home, but the boy prevented him from entering inside.  Angered by this act, shiva cut his head off.  When pArvati came to know of this, she was grief sticken, and she told him he had killed his own son.  Shiva felt sorry for his act. He decided to bring the child back to life by attaching the head of first living being he saw, which happened to be an elephant .  This is how gaNapati got the head of an elephant (vAraNAsyam).  Also, as a good gesture, shiva made him the chief of his bhUta gaNas, hence he is called “gaNapati”. 

Another version from  brahma vaivarta purANam, states that the evil glance of shani (saturn) caused the head of the boy (gaNapati) to be blown off.

Yet, another version,  this time from tiruj~nAnasambhandhar, in his tEvAram songs is: pArvati and shiva assumed the form of elephant, and vinAyaka was born with an elephant face.

4. Legend has it the elephant faced demon gajamukhAsura, received a boon of immortality from shiva, and caused suffering to humans.  On hearing the prayers of the suffered, Lord gaNapati went to war with him, and slayed him with his broken right tusk. The land is believed to have turned red, due to the blood spilled by the demon, and the place got the name tirucce”nkaTTa”nkuDi in tamil.  Here, gaNapati worshipped shiva  to rid of the sin he committed in  killing the demon.

5. The following story is found in skAnda, and maudgala purAnams. The king abhinandana conducted a sacrifice, and did not invite indra. Angry at this act, indra invoked kAla (time, the destroyer)  to disrupt the sacrifice.  KAla took the shape of a vighAsura (demon of all obstructions), and started ruing the sacrifice, and killed abhinandana. Sages approached brahma for protection from this devil, and brahma in turn assigned the task to gaNEsha.  Vanquished by gaNEsha, the demon finally bowed down, and agreed to serve him obediently. Thereafter gaNESha was known as “vighnarAja, vighan nAshaka, or “vighnavAraNa”.

The lyrical beauties

MuttusvAmi dIkSitar was very proficient in adding literary beauties, alliterations, and  alaMkArams in his compostions.  In this particulat k.rti, we find several of these features. The pallavi has the “AdyakSara prAsam” in the phrases “vAtApi”,   “vAraNasyam”, and “varapradam”. The anupallavi also features “AdyakSara prAsam” in “bhUtAdi”, “bhUtabautika”, as well as in “vIta, vinata, vishva, vighna”.  The phrases “caraNam, bharaNam, rAgiNam, yOginaM, and vAraNam” contribute to the antyAkSara prAsam.  All caraNam lines uniformly feature the dvitIyAkSara prAsam, namely purA, murAri, parAdi, nirantaram, karAmbuja, harAdi  (the second syllable in all these phrases is “ra”).  The fourth line has “ni”, and the last line has “ha” as AdyakSara beauties..  The phrases tuNDam, khaNDam, daNDam  in the caraNam are again examples of some antyAkSara prAsams. Since all adjectives are in the accusative case, we have the pleasing “ma” ending in all these phrase, which is another refreshing feature.  We find multiple meaning used for the word “bhUta” in this k.rti. The last line incorporates the vAggEyakaraka mudra (signature of the composer), “guruguha” that dIkSitar uniformly used in all his compositions, as well as the direct rAga mudra “haMsadhvani”.

Quick tour of haMsadhvani rAgam

haMsadhvani, a janya rAgam from mELam 29, dhIrasha”nkarAbharaNam is an audava-audava rAgam (pentatonic scale).  The svarams featured are: SaDjam,, catushruti .rSabham, antara gAndhAram, pa~ncamam, and kAkali niSAdam.

Arohanam:       s r g p n S

Avarohanam:   S n p g r s

It is an upA”nga rAgam; SaDja grAmam; sarva svara gamaka vArika rakti rAgam; the jIva svarams are ga and ni; the amsa svaram is pa; all svarams are nyasa savarams; Compositions commence in  s, g, or p; a tristhayi rAgam; jaNta prayOgams and daTu prayOgams add ra~njakatvam; a very auspicious rAgam, sung at the commencement of a concert to  bring proper musical atmosphere; a rAgam, most often associated with Lord gaNEsha; a rAgam that shines well in madhyama kAlam renditions; the rasa portrayed by  this rAgam is 'vIra''

haMsadhvani is a 'mUrccana kAraka janya rAgam'. The pa~nchama mUrchana (Modal shift of tonic) results in the rAgam nAgasvarAvali. Conversely, the “ma” mUrccana of nAgasvarAvaLi recovers rAgam  haMsadhvani.

haMsadhvani is believed to be the creation of rAmasvAmi dIkSitar (the father of muttusvAmi dIkSitar)), who composed a lakSya prabandham, “candasEyarunDa” in maTya tAlam, and the k.rti “shrI subrahmaNyO” in rUpakam.

This rAgam has been gaining popularity in hindusthAni music. Placed under bilAval thaTh, the svarams used are all tIvra svarams. Vadi is pa and samvadi is saRi is a beautiful halting note. This is sung in the first prAhara of the night. There are many hindustAni composition in this rAgam.

Compositions in haMsadhvani

Here is a modest list of compositions in the rAgam haMsadhvani

lakSya prabandham

candasEyarunDa, maTyam (rAmasvAmi dIkSitar)


jalajAkSa, Adi (mAnambucAvaDi ve”nkaTasubbayyar)

pagavArI, Adi (paTNam subrahmaNya Iyer)


shrI subrahmaNyO, rUpakam (rAmasvAmi dIkSitar)

vAtApi  gaNapatim, Adi (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

pArvatIpatim, (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

vinAyakA, Adi (vINa kuppayyar)

manasu karuga, rUpakam (paTNam subrahmaNya Iyer)

marachEdi nyAyamA, Adi (paTNam subrahmaNya Iyer)

raghu nAyakA, Adi (tyAgaraja)

shrI raghukula, Adi (tyAgarAja)

pAhi shrIpathE, Adi (svati tirunAL)

vAraNamukha vA , rUpakam (kOTIshvara Iyer)

gam gaNapathE, rUpakam (muttiayyA bhAgavatar)

jaya mahiSAsuramarddani, rUpakam (muttayyA bhAgavatar)

mUlAdhAra mUrttI, Adi (pApanAsham shIvan)

karuNai sheyvAy, Adi (pApanAsham shIvan)

parAshakthi janani, Adi (papanAsham shIvan)

pAlayAsu padmanAbha, rUpakam (mysore vAsudEvAchariar)

varavallabha ramaNaA, Adi (g. n. bAlasubrahmaNyam)

BhajAmahE, Adi (tuLasIvanam)

Dharma VidAyaka, Adi (tuLasIvanam)

pallavi lines

During the year M. Balamuralikrishna  was crowned "Sangita Kalanidhi" by The Music Academy, he rendered a beautiful pallavi in two rAgams haMsadhvani, and its graha bhEdam,  nAgasvarALi.

Charumathi Ramachandran renders a pallavi in haMsadhvani  'vinAyakA, vallabhA nAyakA, gajAnanA, gaNa nAyakA, siddhi-“. In the rAgamAlika svara segment of the RTP, she renders svarams in five rAgams fitting to the five k.rtis of muttusvAmi dIkSItar, on gaNapati: They are: vEgavAhini (vinAyaka), bEgada (vallabhAnAyakasya), cakravAkam (gajAnanayutam),   rudrapriya (gaNanAyakam) and  camaram (siddhi vinAyakam).

rAgamAlikAs featuring haMsadhvani

haMsadhvani is featured as a candidate in many rAgamAlikAs. In muttusvAmi dIkSitar's catur (4) rAga rAgamAlika “pUrNacandra biMba vadanE'', one of the the featured rAgam is haMsadhvani. We find haMsadhvani appearing in the 16 rAga rAgamAlika “ArabhimAnam'' by tara”ngaMpADi pa~ncanada Iyer; M. Santhanam used to render a rAgamAlika: “nalinakAntImatim''  (15 rAgams), in which one of the rAgam is haMsadhvani. I have not come across a jAvaLi or tillAnA in haMsadhvani. 

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