Vatapi Ganapathim Bhaje! Part – 4 of Strange Stories of Ganesh Temples! (Post No.3129)


Written by London swaminathan


Date: 6 September 2016


Time uploaded in London: 21-19



Post No.3129


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.



Vatapi Ganapthy Temple in TamilNadu is famous for many things. It is historical and praised by many in songs and inscriptions. It is located at Tiruchengattankudi near Tiruvarur. Let us look at a  brief history of this Ganesh.


Famous Pallava king Mahendra varman was defeated in a battle by the Chaulkya king Pulikesin II. When his son Narasimha Pallava came to power he wanted to take revenge upon him and sent an army against Vatapi under his Chief Commander Paranjothy. Pulekesin was defeated and Paranjothy took a booty from the capital one of the booty is the famous Vatapi Ganapathy which he installed in his home town Tiruchengattankudi.

(Vatapi is now called Badami in Karnataka)


This Vatapi Ganapathy is very popular in Tamil Nadu, particularly among musicians because all the students of Carnatic Music are taught this Kirtan in the very beginning. The song on Vatapi Ganapathy was composed by Muthuswami Dikshitar in Sanskrit. Set in Hamsadvani raga, it has got a deeper mysticcal meaning. He mentioned the ancient story of Vatapi, a demon devoured  by Sage Agastya (Please see my earlier post ‘Vatapi Jeerno Bhava’). Strangely this ancient story of Vatapi was mentioned by Pallava king also in one of the inscriptions. It says like Agastay won over Vatapi, Narasimha Pallava also won over Vatapi. A pun on the word Vatapi which is the name for the demon devoured and city destroyed!


There is a controversy about the oldest Ganapathy in Tamil Nadu. For three reasons scholars have come to the conclusion that Vatapi was not the oldest Ganesh in Tamil Nadu. We know that Paranjothy brought a Ganesh staue from Vatapi (Badami) in 642 CE. But Sambandhar, the most famous Saivaite saint (please see my post on Boy Wonder of Saivaite World) sang a beautiful verse on Ganesh. He was a contemporary of Narasimha Varman’s father Mahendra varman. Secondly, Sa Ganesan has proved that the Pillayar patti cave temple has got older inscriptions than this Ganesh. Thirdly, Kanchi Paramacharya has put forth valid arguments to prove that Tiruchengattankudi was not the oldest Ganapthy.


Another interesting fact about Paranjothy, the Commander in Chief of Pallava Army, is he is also known as Siruthondar, one of the 63 Saivaite saints. When Pallava king came to know that his victorious commander was a humble Shiva devotee inside the temple, he thanked him for his patriotism and relieved him from all his army responsibilities and requested him to continue his religious service.

Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s “Vaataapi Ganapathim Bhaje ham, Vaataapi Ganapathim Bhaje” is sung in most of the concerts by young musicians.


Padikkassu Ganapthy

Another famous Ganapathy, located in Thiruvizimizalai is also associated with two saivaite saints Sambandhar and Appar. When there was a severe drought in the Cauvery delta area both the saints sang hymns ‘demanding’ money from God. They got one gold coin every day on the steps of the temple. Padi Kasu literally means Step or Staircase Coin. So this pillayar is known as Padikksu Pillayar.

Sveta Vinayakar

Sweta in Sanskrit means white in English. (White is derived from the Sanskrit word Swhete) This white Ganesh is made up of special and unusual materials and so no Abhishek/bathing is done. And this Vinayaka is in Tiruvizimizalai.


I have listed more than fifty famous Ganesh temples of Tamil Nadu. There are more temples in nook and corner of Tamil Nadu. When the atheist Dravidian Movement Leader E V Ramaswamy announced that they would break the Ganesh statues, more temples sprang up in every town, literally under all the banyan and peepul trees. So every temple has got one story behind it. Lot of miracles are attributed to Lord Ganesh.


It is necessary to compile all the historical information in a single encyclopaedia; at the moment only the religious details are compiled. Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have all the famous Ganesh temples. I will write about the Ganesh temples outside Tamil Nadu in separate articles.







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