Before 1900, most kīrtanams of Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar were well-known only within the small core group of śiṣyaparamparā. A few kīrtanams were published in early musical sources such as the works of the Taccuru brothers. It wasn’t until the publication of the Saṅgīta-sampradāya-pradarśini in 1904 that many kīrtanams saw the light of the day. Vātāpi-gaṇapatim in the rāga Hamsadhvani was one kīrtanam which has enjoyed a long history in the performance platform and is seen in early music publications. Accounts of Mahāvaidyanātha Iyer’s embellished and improvised version of Vātāpigaṇapatim with many saṅgatis are well known. Saṅgīta-sarvārthasāra-saṅgrahamu of Vīṇa Rāmānujayya (1857) and the Gāyakapārijatamu of the Taccuru brothers (1877) provide the sāhitya of this kīrtanam.
Recently, an issue with the charaṇa-sāhitya of this kīrtanam was brought to our attention by a samskṛta scholar, Vidvan Brahmaśri Dr.V.Shriramana Sharma.
पुरा-कुम्भ-सम्भव-मुनि-वर-प्रपूजितं त्रिकोण-मध्य-गतम् |
मुरारि-प्रमुखाद्युपासितं मूलाधार-क्षेत्र-स्थितम् |
परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकं प्रणव-स्वरूप-वक्र-तुण्डम् |
Here the issue is with the samāsa (compound word) in the phrase “परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम्” (One who is the true import / nature of four-fold speech beginning with Parā – the other three being paśyantī, madhyamā and vaikharī) The correct expression should be “परादि-चतुर्-वागात्मकम्”. The form चत्वारि is a declined form in prathamā vibhakti and in napumsakaliṅga. In a samāsa, only the prātipadika(base) appears as there is lopa (elision) of the सुप् pratyaya that are affixed to the base. Therefore the base form of “चतुर्” is what would occur in this samāsa and not a declined form such as चत्वारि.
In this case, there are two possibilities. One is that there was an error in transmission and the second is that this was how it was composed by the composer. If we examine the first possibility, all existing published versions of the sāhitya and extant pāṭhāntara-s uniformly use the form परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम्. In any case, Śrī Subbarāma Dīkṣitar himself has admitted to Pt.V.N.Bhatkande, when the latter visited him in Eṭṭayapuram, that he was not formally trained in Samskṛta (but knew enough prayoga or usage to compose kīrtanams). This is also corroborated by the fact there are some visargasandhi errors in the 1904 edition in the sāhitya of Bṛhadiśvaro rakṣatu in rāga gānasāmavarāli and the gauḷa kīrtanam Śrīmahāgaṇapatiravatu mām. However the trouble with asserting this viewpoint is that there is a second case of the identical expression used in the Aṭhānarāga kīrtanam on Bṛhaspati, “Bṛhaspate tārāpate. (incidentally this has also appeared in Gāyakalocanam, a 1902 publication).
Considering the second possibility, another Samskṛta scholar Smt.Dr. Sowmya Krishnapur adds that the ‘G r’ svara corresponding to “tvā ri” indicates the intended usage of a svarākṣara here. This svarākṣara occurs in Bṛhaspate as well. Therefore, the possibility that this is an error in transmission could be discounted. Further, in this case, another explanation is possible to justify the composer’s usage. It could be that the composer had the famous śrutivākya “चत्वारि वाक्परिमिता पदानि तानि विदुर्ब्राह्मणा ये मनीषिणः |” in mind along with the usage in Gaṇapatyatharvaśirṣa where Gaṇeśa’s tattvasvarūpa is expressed as “त्वं चत्वारि वाक्पदानि” and used the expression “चत्वारि”, despite it being in a samāsa. According to Sri.Shriramana Sharma, such a usage can be considered as an ‘anukaraṇa’ wherein the quoted word is not to be analysed grammatically with its prakṛti-pratyaya-vibhaga and ‘artharūpa’ but in terms of ‘śabdarūpa’. The “word-form as-is” that occurs elsewhere is used for the express purpose of highlighting or quoting either for repetition or recall something that is well-attested or mentioned elsewhere. Thus, the initial “परादि” specified for the purpose of clarifying what the four-fold speech is and the words “चत्वारिवाक्” brought in as-is from śrutivākya. In other words, परादि “चत्वारिवाक्” आत्मकम् | In support of this, another example is cited in śāstra. One is the Pāṇini’s sūtra, “प्राग्रीश्वरान्निपाताः” that defines the term nipāta, explained as रीश्वरात् प्राक् निपाता: and discussed by commentary writers. Mahābhāṣyakāra asks why “रीश्वराद्” is used instead of “ईश्वराद्” and the explanation is given that “रीश्वराद्” is used so that “वीश्वराद्” (when the sūtras are read as samhitāpātha) शकि णमुल्कमुलावीश्वरे तोसुन्कसुनौ” (शकिणमुल्कमुलौ + ईश्वरे तो सुन्कसुनौ) which also matches the śabdarūpa specified does not get included here but only that used in another sūtra अधिरीश्वरे. Shri. Shriramana Sharma also notes in passing that वारणास्यं is often rendered as वारणाश्यं but there is no known usage of आश्यं in the meaning of “face” to give the compound meaning “the elephant faced one”. आश्य is only known in the meaning of “eatable” and hence this could be avoided.
Based on the above, we requested Prof.S.R.Janakiraman to attempt to render the composition with expression “परादि-चतुर्-वागात्मकम्” to understand how this would impact the musical flow of the composition. Given that there is a valid explanation of such a usage, the usage of परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम् can be left as such. With these, we leave the reader to ponder on the issue.