The spirited musical paean to Ganesa by the revered nineteenth-century "trinity" composer Muthuswami Dikshitar is easily the most well known of all classical South Indian, or Carnatic, compositions. A significant percentage of the thousands of formal concerts in Madras each year open with the "inevitable Vatapi". Indeed, hardly a single procession of blaring nagaswaram oboes and penetrating tavil drums passes by without its raucous rendition of the Sanskrit kriti, a classical pre-composed song form that evolved from the more popular group song-forms, the keertan and bhajan. Students of Carnatic music learn this song in the early weeks of study, and its fame has continuously increased for nearly two hundred years: the raga and the kernel of the composition have even spread to North India.
Several factors contribute to its great popularity. It praises the elephant-headed god of beginnings, who is a favourite of many Hindus, it is set in an auspicious, novel, and relatively simple but melodious raga, or musical mode, and perhaps most of all, the bright and jaunty melody of the composition itself captures the playful quality of Ganesa's personality.
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