Every year, during the Ganesh festivities, the aarti Sukhakarta Dukhaharta is sung and heard at many homes and public pandals, with devotees chanting “Jaidev Jaidev jai mangalmurti, darshan maatre man kaamna poorti”. The popular song has also had numerous recordings over the years, featuring singers Shankar Mahadevan, Sadhna Sargam, Anuradha Paudwal, S.P. Balasubramanyam and even Amitabh Bachchan. For many, Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition on Saregama India is the ultimate.
While Sukhakarta Dukhaharta remains the most played song during the festival, there are other tunes which also appear on people’s playlists. In south Indian families, the Carnatic kriti Vathapi Ganapathim, written by early 19th century poet-composer Muthuswami Dikshitar and composed in raag Hansadhwani, is a must. Artistes M.S. Subbulakshmi, Ghantasala, K.J. Yesudas, Bombay Jayashree and T.M. Krishna have recorded it. There’s also an outstanding YouTube clip of a duet by M. Balamuralikrishna and Sudha Raghunathan.
The popularity of Ganpati songs has ensured that many record labels, big or small, and even independent artistes have put out releases every year. Recently, Shankar Mahadevan appeared on Gajamukha, a modern composition by Akshay Purandare. Last year, he released his compilation titled Ganesh Songs on Strumm Entertainment.
Another successful release last year was Himesh Reshammiya’s song Ganpati Gajaanaan, with his father Vipin Reshammiya. Though industry watchers say audiences prefer the traditional style of composition, there have been efforts to use modern sounds. In 2001, Mahadevan and S.P. Balasubramanyam worked on the symphonic Times Music album Vishwa Vinayaka, featuring the former’s popular Shree Ganeshaaya Dheemahi. In 2003, American musician Jai Uttal released Ganesh Sharanam on his album Kirtan. Having studied piano and sarod, Uttal took to Indian spiritual music. This piece, which uses a child’s chant and melodic flutes, gives a sense of relaxation. Uttal also released Ganesh Windmix, a techno version of the song.
Some singers are instantly associated with devotional music. Anup Jalota has Jai Ganpati Vandan Gananayak. After the bansuri sets the mood, he sings, “Jai Ganpati jai Gananayak, Jai Ganpati vandan Gananayak, teri chabi ati sundar sukhdayak”. The song was part of the Jai Ganesh album released by the label Sona Rupa. Also recommended is Jalota’s album Shree Ganesh Bhajan, released by Divine Melodies.
Anuradha Paudwal has released many songs with T-Series. These include the album Ganpati Bappa Morya and the track Shree Ganesh Atharvasheesh. Suresh Wadkar, Hari Om Sharan and Narendra Chanchal have recorded songs in reverence of the Elephant God. Though he’s normally known for ghazals, Jagjit Singh recorded many outstanding devotional numbers, including numerous Ganesh tunes. Check out his Vakratunda Mahakaya. The main mantra is sung by a chorus group. It goes, “Vakratunda mahakaaya suryakoti samaprabha, nirvignam kuru me deva sarva-keshu sarvadah”. Jagjit then sings the other lines in his typical style.
Ganesh songs have also been recorded by Hindustani classical singers. An example is Pandit Jasraj’s Anuraag, a stuti which ends “Om sri Riddhisiddhi sahitam, Sri Ganpatye namoh namah”. The balance between Jasraj’s vocals and the back-up singers is excellent. Another example is Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande’s Ganpati Vignaharan, composed in raag Janasanmohini and released by Music Today. Shubha Mudgal has released the Ganpati Visarjan song, written by Kavi Narayan Agrawal.
Besides songs marketed in the non-film devotional music category, Lord Ganesh has been featured in some Hindi film songs. In 1982, the movie Dard Ka Rishta had the song Ganpati Bappa Morya. Sung by Hariharan to R.D. Burman’s music, it was filmed on Sunil Dutt, who was seen praying for his daughter, a cancer patient. The 1989 film Ilaaka had the song Deva O Deva, sung by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle, and composed by Nadeem-Shravan. It was filmed on Mithun Chakraborty and Madhuri Dixit.
Other Ganpati songs include Sindoor Lal Chadhayo (Vaastav, sung by Ravindra Sathe, composed by Jatin-Lalit), Mourya Re (Don: The Chase Begins Again, Shankar Mahadevan, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy), Deva Shree Ganesha (Agneepath, Ajay Gogavala, Ajay-Atul) and Gajanana (Bajirao Mastani, Sukhwinder Singh, Sanjay Leela Bhansali).
Overall though, the filmi Ganesh songs have been relatively few, and people normally prefer the classic aartis and stutis.