Sodasa Ganapati kritis of Dikshitar
Chaturti the mind automatically turns to the kriti Siddhi Vinayakam
(Chamaram/Roopakam). Owing to the reference to worship on the fourth day of the
month of Bhadrapada, this song has come to define the festival. In his
biography of Muthuswami Dikshitar (National Book Trust, 1968), T.L. Venkatarama
Aiyar cites it as an instance of the composer creating pieces ‘in praise of
deities for special occasions’. It is doubtless a beautiful song musically.
Surprisingly, it does not feature in the compilation of Dikshitar kritis
provided by his grandnephew Subbarama Dikshitar in his magnum opus, Sangita
Sampradaya Pradarsini (Vidya Vilasini Press, 1904).
Does this then
become a spurious Dikshitar kriti? We cannot
say for sure, for given that Dikshitar travelled far and wide in his lifetime,
several of his compositions may have remained with certain disciples and
may have never come to the notice of his descendants when the task of compiling
began. Certainly, there are some magnificent songs of Dikshitar that are
outside the Pradarsini that cannot be anyone else’s work. Nevertheless
it remains a puzzle as to why they were never included in what was begun as a
full compilation of the composer’s corpus of songs.
The Pradarsini itself gives rise to yet another puzzle, one that specifically pertains to composer’s songs on Ganesa. In his biography of Dikshitar in the Vaggeyakara Charitramu section of the Pradarsini, Subbarama Dikshitar specifically states that the former composed songs on the ‘shodasa (16) Ganapatis presiding at the kshetra’ of Tiruvarur. That would mean 16 compositions on Ganesa in and around the Tiruvarur temple. What is surprising is that the book gives only 13 Dikshitar compositions on the deity. Of these, one, Sveta Ganapatim (Raga Choodamani/Triputa) is not on any temple in Tiruvarur but on Vellai Vinayakar at the entrance of the Tanjavur Fort. The idol here is not white at all and local lore has it that the masons who constructed the palace first propitiated a Ganesa idol made out of jaggery (vellam) before starting the work. This was Vella Ganapati, which over time became Vellai Ganapati. As is to be expected of a Ganesa shrine built before the fort, it is near the eastern gate, which was the first entrance to Tanjavur. Thus the Ganesa was also known as Ellai (frontier) Pillaiyar, which became Vellai Pillaiyar over time. The Lord here is in the company of his consort, Vallabha. Dikshitar clearly mentions this iconographic detail in the song.
To revert to the
Shodasa Ganesas of Tiruvarur, a census is yet to be taken on the number of
shrines dedicated to that deity in and around the temple to Tyagesa but it is
clear that by saying Shodasa Ganapatis Subbarama Dikshitar did not mean the
sixteen iconographic representations of the deity as per Agamic traditions.
These are Bala, Taruna, Bhakta, Veera, Shakti, Dwija, Siddhi, Ucchishta,
Vighna, Kshipra, Herambha, Lakshmi, Maha, Vijaya, Nritta and Urddhva Ganapatis
as per the most common listing. Among these, we can see only Shakti, Maha and
Ucchishta Ganapatis in the Tiruvarur temple. The rest are more generic
manifestations of Ganesa.
Of the 12 compositions of Dikshitar (not including the Sveta
Ganapatim) on Ganapati, we realise that not all explicitly state the
kshetra and so it would be incorrect to
attribute them all to Tiruvarur. At least six songs are clearly on
sanctums in that town – Vatapi Ganapatim (Hamsadhvani/Adi), Sree
Mahaganapati (Gaula/Triputa), Sree Mooladara (Sree/Adi), Panchamatanga
mukha (Malahari/Roopakam), Ucchishta Ganapatau (Kasiramakriya/Adi)
and Shakti sahita (Shankarabharanam/Tisra Eka). The icons are in the
temple and the songs clearly mention the kshetra name. The others cannot
directly be attributed to Tiruvarur.
songs by Dikshitar on the deity fall outside the Pradarsini. In fact
there are 15 such songs on Ganesa attributed to Dikshitar. Vallabha
nayakasya (Begada/Roopakam) is one that could be on an identical icon in
Tiruvarur. Two, Ekadantam (Bilahari/misra Chapu) and Rakta Ganapatim
(Mohanam/Adi) are not on Tiruvarur for their individual kshetras are explicitly
mentioned as Halasya (Madurai) and Parasurama (Kerala). Karikalabhamukham
(Saveri/Roopakam) has the deity situated on the banks of the river Cauvery and
this has been identified with the Dundi Ganesa shrine at the Tula Ghat in
Mayiladuturai. The rest are silent as far as kshetra attributions are
concerned. Some are quite unlikely to be genuine Dikshitar kritis given faulty
alliteration and startlingly ‘modern’ musical structures.
come to the conclusion that Subbarama Dikshitar had probably only heard from
his forebears that Muthuswami Dikshitar had composed songs on sixteen Ganesas
in Tiruvarur. He certainly does not appear to have had all of these in his
possession. The latter day additions have only caused needless confusion, given
our poor record keeping and secretiveness when it comes to facts. Perhaps we
just need to sing them well and not worry over such details.
(The author is a
music and heritage historian)