You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : May 1996

Part I Alwars- Section 2.8.1 on Andal
Date: Sat May 11 1996 - 12:59:35 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas,

Please find enclosed Part I - Section 2.8.1 on Andal. As already mentioned,
 I am writing this from out of my memory and with the help of bits and pieces
I have with me, since all my source materials are left elsewhere. Because of
this, there may be some errors here and there. I would be obliged if they are
brought to my notice by personal mail and I shall issue corrections, if
necessary,  after due verification, acknowledging my thanks for your
Anbil Ramaswamy

An Introduction

As I commenced writing about Andal, I was so daunted by the explosion of
informational, inspirational and interpretational material gathered over a
whole lifetime -
(i) from the ' in-camera closed circuit' Kalakshepams from our Acharyas like
H.H. the Jeeyar, Ahobila Mutt, Srirangam Srimad Andavan( Tirukkudantai)  and
Andavan Swami of Paundarikapuram Ashramam ( both in their Purvaashramam and
after their Sannyasa Sweekaranam ) explaining the inner meanings ,
(ii)  from the religious Pravachanams of scholars like Abhinava Desika
Uttamur Swami, Srivtasaangaachar, Santhana gopalachar, Tirukkallam Swami,
Prathivaadi Bhayankaram Swami, Velukkudi Swami and 
(iii)) through the more open - ended Hari Katha Kalakshepams of Srirangam
Sada gopachar, Embar, Annaswami Bhaga vatar (with Chapplaakattai, Jalra,
Harmonium / Tamboor, Assistant singer - Pinnpaattukkaarar et al ).

Diwali and Holi may be the time for revelry and merriment but the whole of
Margazhi is surcharged with an aura- sober and serene, and an era of
spiritual awakening and awareness.

The time of one year for humans represents one day for the divine.Makara
(Thai) month that opens the Uttaraayana represents their  'daybreak'. Dhanus
(Margazhi0 that immediately precedes is deemed the 'Ushat Kala' or "
Arunodaya kala' for the Devas. Also known as  ' Brahma Muhurtham', it is
considered the most appropriate time for MEDITATING on the Lord. Thus,
Margazhi is important for the divine and the human alike. In Baghavad Gita,
Lord Krishna declared -'Among the months, I am Margazhi'

Come Margazhi ! In almost all temples in every county of every town or city
in the whole of the Tamil speaking world, the morning air is filled with a
spiritual resurgence, what with the recitation of Tiruppavai ( and as a late
and perhaps an 'after- thought addition', of
Tiruvembavai also) reverberate through loudspeakers, broadcasts and telecasts
and Bhajans by groups of devotees moving from street to street in the

Regarded as a ' Sunya Maasam' when routine study of scriptures is suspended,
only Tiruppavai is exceptionally allowed. Breathtaking expositions of the
esoteric meanings of the work explained by experts fill the day deep into the
late hours. Students of our religious classes would form into groups to
attend these discourses in various locations and overlapping timings with
tape recorders, notebooks etc (like news reporters), pool the materials and
compare the information in joint studies.That is real and fruitful utilzation
of one's time - REAL Kala Kshepam.
O! How we miss the thrill and joy of these experiences?

2.8.  Aandaal ( Aadi - Pooram )

Tamil literature bristles with love lores employing techniques such as Thoodu
and Madal. Mutholl Aayiram and Sanga literature which depict the
distinguishing feminine aspects as Acham (fear), Naanam ( shyness), Madamai (
Innocence) and Payirpu (Exclusive single minded devotion), the physical
changes wrought by the joys of union with and the pangs of separation from
the beloved etc and even Srimad Valmiki's Ramayanam take a back stage in
relation to the portrayal in the Divya Prabandhams which exalt love and
ennoble the soul, combining linguistic, scenic and sense effects and blending
the mundane with the divine.

Devotional poetry spontaneously emerging from a God- infatuated heart like
that of Godha, the sweetheart of Krishna, is sure to contain much more than
what appears on the surface .In Tiruppavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi, generations
of Acharyas and other scholors have been and still are seeing new meanings
and fresh beauties.And, the two provide an inexhaustible goldmine of such
delectable material and an incomparably rich fare.

What is said of Valmiki applies with equal force to Godha -. 
"Tad Upagatha Samaasa Sandhi Yogam, Sama Madhuropana Artha Vaakhya badham"-
For her, the words fall in place so inimitably, that you cannot alter even a
comma or a semicolon without damaging the beauty and style of poetry or the
depth and sense of the sentiments expressed. We are simply carried away by
the torrential flow of Nachiyar's expressions into the unfathomable depths of
her love; She not only loved but she also wedded the Lord. Nachiyar sways our
emotions so much that - 
- when her heart throbs, our hearts throb too in unison!; 
- when her mind melts, our minds melt with empathy!; 
- when she entreats the Lord, we entreat too!; 
- When she enjoys the Lord, we share the enjoyment equally!
Here was an Andal; Where comes such another?

Godha indeed stands out as the outstanding exponent of bridal mysticism and
in this is regarded as setting a model for the Alwars themselves. Unlike the
other Alwars who were all males and had to simulate a ' Nayaki bhava' ( the
role of a lady love), since she was herself a woman,  the bhava came to her
naturally. Her only ambition was to marry Lord Ranganatha.

Even as Sri Sita was found from earth by King Janaka, Sri Andal was found as
a baby girl in the pit in which the Tulasi  ( divine  basil ) was grown by
Vishnuchitta at Srivilliputtur. She was the incarnation of Bhumi Devi (
Mother Earth) and was named 'Godha'. It is believed that Mother Earth heard
Varaha Purana while she was being rescued by the Lord in His Avatar as the
Wild boar. She desired that the essence of the teachings should be publicized
for the benefit of humanity. " Aham Sishyaa Cha Daasi Cha Bhakta Cha Tvayi
Maadhava ! Mat Krite Sarva Bhutaanaam Laghu Upaayam Vadha Prabho!". 
And, she was born in the world as Godha for this purpose.

Vishnu Chitta used to make beautiful flower garlands to adorn the Lord in the
temple. When he went out, Godha would don the garlands herself and look into
the mirror to guage the suitability of her beauty  to match with the charming
personality of the Lord. Before her father returned, she would fold the
garlands and place them in the basket as before. Unaware of this ( a
sacreligious act), Vishnuchitta used to take the used  garlands and offer
them to the Lord. One day, unexpectedly, the Alwar returned earlier and
caught her  red handed. Chiding her for her impetuosity, he desisted from
offering the used garlands that day.

Lord Ranganatha appeared in his dream that night and told him  to bring the
garland used by Godha  not only on that day but always. The Alwar was
wonderstruck and acted accordingly. From then, she was called ' Andal' -One
who ruled' and 'Choodi Kodutha Sudar Kodi'- ' the creeper like damsel  who
offered flowers after being adorned by her'.She is also 'Aazhndaal' in the
sense that she was immersed in Krishna Guna anubhava. Bound by her garland of
flowers (Poomaalai) and her garland of verses (Paamaalai), the Lord will save
us who earn her grace.

When in due time, the Alwar took steps to get her married to a suitable
groom, she flatly refused saying that she would not live to marry a mere
mortal but that she would marry only Lord Ranganatha.' Manidarkku Enru Pechup
Padil Vazhakillen' . The Alwar was in a fix. Again, Lord Ranganatha appeared
in his dream and asked him to bring her to the temple at Srirangam. On
arrival, she made a beeline to the Sanctum Sanctorum and  became merged in
the image of Lord Ranganatha.. The Alwar was asked to return to
Srivilliputtur to continue his garland service.

Earlier, Andal used to imagine herself as the bride of Lord Krishna, imagine
Srivilliputtur as 'Aayarpaadi'- the place where Krishna played his boyhood
pranks on the banks of Yamuna river, imagine her friends as the very Gopis (
the cowherd girls) of Brindavan and sang two soul stirring poems of exquisite
beauty- Tiruppaavai in 30 hymns  and Naachiyaar Tirumozhi, the latter
describimg her dreams in getting married to Lord Ranganatha in his
incarnation as Sri Krishna. 

The two together are masterpieces couched in simple but chaste Tamil, pouring
forth her sentiments which contain not only the apparent meanings ( Bahya
artha) but also the inner esoteric meanings ( Svaapadesa) and the Supreme
meanings ( Para Artha). The Tiruppavai is recited , especially 'one a day'
during the 30 days of the month Margazhi 
( December- January) and selected hymns from Nachiyar Tirumozhi during the
wedding functions of Hindu  families.

Some people gleefully criticize ours as a religion of abnegation, of
escapism, a negative religion of the recluse which always emphasized on the '
other worldly' with scant regard for what we need ' right here and now in
this world '. They fancy that ours is a religion of rigour, regret, remorse.
repentance and renunciation that takes away all the joy out of life rendering
it a saga of ' sack cloth and ashes ' all the way. 

We would advise them to read Andal's Tiruppavai. Tiruppavai shows how ours is
the first and foremost religion which has the practical wisdom and pragmatism
to recognize the purpose of life both ' here and the hereafter'. Tiruppavai
laid down the principles and practices to make life on earth enjoyable,
meaningful and worthwhile - while unfolding the 'after-life' scenario in
equally vivid expressions.

Let us see some of her positive expressions-
Selva Sirumeergaal : Dear darling prosperous girls; Vaiyathu Vaazhveerkaal :
You who have come to live and prosper in this world;  Neengaatha Selvam
Niraindhu : Securing bliss that does not diminish;  Vaazha Ulaginil
Peithidaai : Rains that pour life into  us ;  Poya Pizhaiyum Pugu Tharuvaan
Ninranavum Theeyinil Thoosu Aagum : The Sanchita and Prarabda Karmas
extinguished like dirt burnt by fire;  Ullam Pugundhu Kulirndu : Entering the
mind to make it cool and pleasant;  Naayakap Penn Pillai : O! leader among
womenfolk;  Tesam Udaiyaai : O! Shining one; Kodhukalam Udaiya Paavaai: Lady
full of hope and enthusiasm; Selvap Pendaatti:  Dearest spouse;  Nar Chelvan
Nangaai : Daughter of the prosperous one;  Podharik Kanninaai : O! You who
have eyes like the honey bees lying on flowers;  Elle! Ilam Kiliye! : O!
Parrot like beauty!;  TiruThakka Selvamum Sevakamum Yaam Paadi Varuthmum
Theerndu Magizhndu : By praying for undiminishing wealth and eternal service,
we can get rid of our grief and enjoy happiness; Koodaarai Vellum Seer
Govinda! : Govinda who can win over even dissidents;  Unthannodu Uravel
Namakku Ingu Ozhikka Ozhiyaadu :Our relationship with you here and herafter
can never be severed; Enraikkum Ezhezh Piravikkum Unthannodu Utrome Aavom :
We will be with you ever and anon through any number of lifetimes;
Engum Thiru Varul Petru Inburuvar : You will obtain the grace of Mother
Goddess Mahalakshmi and enjoy life forever.

Jeeyar composed a  famous 'Tanian'  ( dedication verse) dedicated to Andal
which says-
" Tiruppavai will obliterate all sins and show us the feet of the Lord; it is
the very seed of all the Vedas. Those who do not know the  5 x 5 + 5 ( i.e)
30 verses of Tiruppavai are indeed an unnecessary burden whom the earth
carries  in vain" 
Pathakangal Theerkkum Paraman Adi Kaattum / 
Vedam Anaithukkum Vithu Aagum-/ 
Kothai Tamizh Aiy Aiyndum Aiyndum /
Ariyaadha Maanidarai Vaiyam Sumappadum Vambu/"

While Nammalwar's four works are said to be the essence of the four Vedas,
these 30 verses of Andal constitute  the very seed of ALL the Vedas and What
it does? It can destroy all our sins; It can show us the way to Moksham - all
in simple, chaste, understandable Tamil.

We will continue in the next posting some more reflections and the esoteric
meanings of some of the expressions of Andal's works.