ARTICLE : You're not a son of the soil, Karnanidhi tells Ganesha

Title : You're not a son of the soil, Karunanidhi tells
Author : V R Mani 
Publication : The Times of India
Date : September 26, 1996

Tamil  Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi,  president  of 
the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), has raised a piquant 
question:  Is Lord Ganesha a native of T.N. or  not?  Ac-
cording to him, the elephant-headed god's origins are not 

Mr Karunanidhi says that it was way back in 630 A.D. that 
a lieutenant of the Pallava king, Narsimhavarman, defeat-
ed the Pulikesi king at Vathapi, the capital city of  the 
Chalukyas  (now  called  Badami in  Bijapur  district  in 
Karnataka).  While  returning home, he "brought"  back  a 
statue of Ganesh. it was for this reason that even today, 
during  music  programmes, songs in  praise  of  `Vathapi 
Ganapathi' are sung.

Mr Karunanidhi argues that this proves that Ganesh was  a 
"native" of Vathapi and did not belong to Tamil Nadu.

Mr  Karunanidhi believes that Ganesh worship was used  in 
the  north  as a tool to attack the  minorities.  It  had 
spread  to Tamil Nadu as well. However, he clarifies,  he 
would  participate in the Ganesh festival if it was  con-
ducted  in  one place with one idol,  his  self-confessed 
atheism notwithstanding.

Several years ago, the Dravida Kazhagam (DK), the  mother 
of all Dravidian parties, had indulged in Ganesh-bashing, 
publicity breaking up idols of Ganesh or Vinayakar, as he 
is called in the state.

The founder-leader of the DMK C. N. Annadurai, who was  a 
devout follower of DK leader `Periyar' Ramaswami Naicker, 
had  then said, "We will neither break the idols  of  Vi-
nayakar nor break coconuts for him."

Mr  Karunanidhi controversial statement that Ganesh is  a 
non-Tamilian has not evoked any major political  reaction 
so  far.  However, researchers and scholars  as  well  as 
letter  writers to local newspapers do not seem  to  have 
accepted  the chief minister's stand.  One letter  writer 
asked why Lord Muruga, the brother of Ganesh, was consid-
ered  to be a Tamil god whereas Ganesh was not.   Another 
wondered why Mr Karunanidhi had agreed to tie a rakhi  on 
'raksha bandhan' day but would not accept Ganesh  because 
he was of northern stock.

Marxia Gandhi, who has done research on the Ganesh  cult, 
says  that even in the 4th century A.D., cult figures  of 
the  elephant-headed god were found in north  Arcot  dis-
trict  in Tamil Nadu.  She contends that Ganapathi is  an 
agricultural god and, therefore, finds a place throughout 
the  country. it would hence be wrong to say that it  was 
only  in the seventh century that it came to  Tamil  Nadu 
from  Vathapi.  Also, there was no evidence to show  that 
the statue of Ganesh was brought from Vathapi.

Another scholar, Sathyamurthy, said that the Tamil  saint 
Ovvaiyar  had  in the fifth century A.D. sung  about  the 
figure of Ganesh in elephant form. Also,  Tirunanasamban-
dar  describes Ganesh as 'Karimugan' (one with  the  ele-

phant face) in Thevaram (568 AD.)

Political  critic Cho Ramaswamy also does not agree  with 
Mr Karunanidhi. Carnatic music programmes began with  the 
'Vathapi  Ganapathi'  song  because  it  was  created  by 
Muthuswami  Deekshitar, one among the musical  trio,  and 
also  because it was in 'hamsadvani raga', the raga  con-
sidered  best  for beginning a programme.  In  any  case, 
Deekshitar  had not created just one song on Ganesh,  but 

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