The Mahaganapati Temple where Sri Mahaganapatiravatu Mam was composed
Matturaitha Pillaiyar Temple, Tiruvarur

Of late I have been spending time over the lyrical influences on Muthuswami Dikshitar. Where did he source his words from? And I have been enjoying myself walking with the great composer through the works of Sankara, Kalidasa, some anonymous Sanskrit versifiers whose works are popular and also standard Sanskrit texts such as Amarakosa. I cannot say anything significant has emerged as yet but it has been a learning experience. One among the songs with a selection of words from an external source is Sri Mahaganapatiravatu Mam in Gaula and now sung to Misra capu tala (the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini lists it as Triputa Tala).

On this occasion of Vinayaka Chaturthi, I offer this article as my prayer to Lord Ganesa and also Muthuswami Dikshitar, who has filled so many hours of my life with unalloyed happiness and for which I can do nothing for him in return.

The sixteen names of Ganesa

The regular worship of Ganesa involves the use of sixteen names –

  1. Sumukha
  2. Ekadanta
  3. Kapila
  4. Gajakarna
  5. Lambodara
  6. Vikata
  7. Vighnaraja
  8. Vinayaka
  9. Dhumaketu
  10. Ganadhyaksha
  11. Phalachandra
  12. Gajanana
  13. Vakratunda
  14. Shurpakarna
  15. Heramba
  16. Skandapurvaja

To this are usually added two more – Siddhi Vinayaka and Maha Ganapati – these don’t feature in the verse but they are always chanted in the Archana. These sixteen/eighteen names are uttered in standard Ganesa worship no matter whether the idol is fashioned out of turmeric, jaggery, clay, silver or gold. In fact these are the names you will usually hear in all joyous occasions where a formal worship is also part of the programme. 

The names, as they appear in Sri Mahaganapatiravatu Mam

It is interesting to see that Dikshitar, in his Sri Mahaganapatiravatu Mam, composed at the Matturaitha Pillaiyar temple on the banks of the Kamalalaya Tank at Tiruvarur, uses so many words from this simple archana in his composition. The song features the following in the order in which they appear in the song –

  1. Mahaganapati
  2. Siddhi Vinayaka
  3. Skandapurvaja (which can be interpreted as a variant in Guruguhagraja)
  4. Vighnaraja
  5. Phalachandra
  6. Lambodara

Along with this, if we take the simple verse Mushika Vahana Modaka Hasta, which many children are taught as beginner’s shloka, we find the opening phrase in this composition – Mushika Vaho is what Dikshitar uses. 

Local legends in the song

With these words, he then weaves in the local flavour – Kamalalaya Tata Nivaso (residing on the banks of the Kamalalaya) and Suvarnakarshana (the Lord here is said to have established the purity of the gold that Sundaramurthy was gifted by Siva). I also wonder if the phrase Bhavajaladhinavo (boat that helps cross the ocean of existence) was inspired by the sight of the boats departing from the banks of the Kamalalaya Tank for the temple that is on the island in its midst. 

And then, he throws in mulaprakriti svabhava for good measure – Vedantins can write an entire treatise on that one phrase. I know nothing and so will not even go there.

Just one song, and Dikshitar gives us so much to ponder over. May Mahaganapati at Tiruvarur bless us all. 

My presentation on Muttuswami Dikshitar can be seen at the following link –

My book on Chennai can be ordered here –