Tuesday, March 15, 2011



Birth Period  : 9th C. AD
Birth Place : Sri Villiputhur
Other Names : Soodi Kodutha Naachiyaar, Kodai, Kodai Piraatti
Month : Aadi
Star (Natshatram) : Pooram (Poorva Phalguni)
Hamsam : Bhoodevi

Life story of Sri Andal:

The life story of Sri Andal is very well known in South India and to a few people in the north. However, a brief narrative is given here for the fresher. The Sri Vaishnava tradition holds that Sri Andal was found in the flower garden in kali yuga 98, Adi (Ashata month), Shukla Chathurthi, Tuesday with Puram star in SRIVILLPUTHUR in the Pandiya dynasty. Accordingly, her date of birth is 8th of June 3004 B.C. But modern historians fix a date the first half of the 8th century A.D. Be that as it may, our account follows the "Guru Parampara" tradition.

Upbringing of Sri Andal by Periyaazhvaar/Vishnuchithan:

As Sita was found by king Janaka, while tilling the land for doing yagna, Vishnuchitha (a great vedic scholar, poet, Vishnu devotee also known as Periyazhvar found the divine child under a tulasi plant while he was tending his nandavana(garden) in Srivilliputhur. He brought her up in simple and godly surroundings natural to a pious, vedic, dhwaija. The child prodigy thus fostered lovingly grew into a beautiful maiden and became an embodiment of love for Sri Krishna.

Sri Andal's love for Krishna/Sri Vatabhadrasayee:

Being a devotee of "Sri Vadabhatrasayee", the presiding deity of srivilliputhur, Vishnuchitha would weave a garland of tulasi leaves daily and keep it sacredly rolled in a flower basket so that he may, after attending to his other course, take the garland later to the temple for offering to the lord. The child ?kodai?(Andal) in her profound innocence would take out the garland daily without her father's knowledge, adorn herself and look into the mirror to satisfy herself whether she was suitable bride to the lord and then would remove the garland and replace it in the basket in its original form. This was going on for days and without actually knowing that her daughter had adorned the garland around herself, Vishnuchitha would offer this to the deity who wore it beatifically.

One day to his surprise, Vishnucitha saw the child wearing the garland before he could take it to the temple. He was shocked for he considered this as a great defilement. He remonstrated her for this act. He fasted that day and did not offer the garland and was all repentant. But lo! What a surprise? At night, the lord appearing in dreams asked Vishnuchitha, why you did not offer me the tulasi wreath today? I am ever eager to have the things touched by my devotee. Think not Andal kodai to be a mere mortal.?

To his wonder Vishnuchitha found that tulasi wreath worn on the previous ay by Andal had not faded. But, was fresher than a freshly made garland. Thereafter, he offered the garland to the deity after being worn by Andal. The lord continued to give his the bliss of ineffable ?darshan?. (Even today, this practice is being observed at the temple of Srivilliputhur.)

When Andal attained her marriageable age, her father was worried to find a suitable match for her. But, the divine child would not marry anyone except lord Krishna.

Therefore, Vishnuchitha narrated all the KALYANA GUNAS of all the Archa-Murthis of the one hundred and eight Sri Vaishnava Kshetras in India, so that she may for herself choose the deity. When she heard of the Soundarya of lord Sriranganatha, tears of joy came over her and her heart prayed to HIM to come and accept her in wedlock.

Wedlock of Sri Andal with Sri Ranganatha:

At this, Vishnuchitha, knowing not what to do, meditated. Sri ranganatha spoke to him in a dream: ?Do not hesitate to offer your daughter to Me, for she is Bhudevi herself.? Simultaneously the lord bade the sthanikas(officials in charge) of Srirangam to go to Srivilliputhur and bring Andal in a palanquin in all royalty.

King Vallabhadeva along with his retinue joined the procession from Srivilliputhur to Srirangam with Sri Andal in a palanquin.

The whole route was decorated on either sides with flowers and wreaths of finely weaved green saplings (called thoranam). As sri Andal entered the inner shrine of Sri Ranganatha, the magnetic beauty of the lord instantly attracted her. She boldly mounted up His serpent couch and joined the eternal lustrous light of Sri Ranganatha in the presence of the gathering.

Sri Andal's works:

To posterity, Sri Andal gave two gems as masterpieces:-

TIRUPPAVAI (30 verses)

NAACHIYAAR THIRUMOZHI (143 verses) which are considered as the summum bonum by the Srivaishnavaits.

Swamy Desikan mentions about Andal in GodhA sthuthi:

SrivishNuchittha kulanandana kalpavaleem
Srirangaraaja harichandana yoga drusyaam I
SakshAth KshamAm karuNayA KamalAmivAnyAm
GodhAm ananya saraNa: SaraNam prapathyE II

(Meaning ) : O GodhE ! I perform Saranagthi at Your sacred feet as one, who has no other recourse! I have no one else to save me. You are the Kalpaka creeper adorning the Lord standing as the auspicious HarichandanA tree in the flower garden of the Kulam of VishNuchitthA, your father. The darsanam of you united with Your Lord tightly as the divine kalpakA creeper and the celestial HarichandanA tree is a blessed sight to see.

Saakshaath kshamaam- In Your infinite patience with the aparAdhis , You areBhumi dEvi and in your limitless compassion, You are like Maha Lakshmi Herself.

I offer my Prapatthi at your sacred, lotus feet as the one who has no other means!

Thus, Swamy says: She is BhumA dEvi and Sri Devi as well.

His Holiness added: Swami Desikan also says in his GodhAsthuthi:
Oh GodhA Piraatti! Sriman NarayanA's role is to carryout punitive actions against us (who are trespassing sasthrAs and are committing sins/apachaarams). But Periya Piraati MahAlakshmi, the Most Merciful Mother
is there by His side to be soft on us and always recommends us (the sinners) to Sriman Narayanan for forgiving our apachaarams out of Her compassion. How many times He can yield to Her recommendations? (before even the performance of our sins gets dried, Sri Lakshmi recommends us for His pardon!). He gets vexed and is totally helpless and turns His face to the other side (in disgust- THAT He is always asked by the Mother MahAlakshmi- Periya Piraatti- to forgive us (the sinners)- How merciful She is!).

On such occasions when the Lord turns away from Lakshmi, on the other side there sits equally Most Merciful (if not more) BhUmi Piraatti GodhA Piraatti- who is taking her turn to recommend us again to the Lord! He, simply smiles at both of You (Periya Piraatti and GodhApiraatti) and forgives us! When you and Periya Piraatti are there, GodhA! What is there to worry about?

Thus Swamy beautifully narrated GodhA PiraaTTI's greatness and Swamy blessed the devotees with sakala sowbhAgyam with nArAyaNa smaraNam.



SrimatE Gopaladesika MahadesikAya Namaha,

Dear Bhaktas,

On this most sacred Tiruvadi Pooram day, the Tirunakshatram of Andal, adiyen wishes to share the following reflections.Srivilliputtur, the birthplace of Andal is sanctified because, Andal chose to incarnate there. Unlike avatarams of the Lord where He incarnated through GarbhavAsam, Periya Azhwar found Andal in his flower garden. Therefore, Her birth was Avirbhava. It is significant to note that two months of the year designated as Shoonya masams are - Adi and Marghazhi. Significantly, both of these months have been rendered sacred by Andal - Adi due to Her incarnation and Marghazi due to the brilliant delivery of the Tiruppavai verses, at the end of which She attained eternal union with Lord Narayana. Significantly, Lord Krishna Himself declares in the Bhagavad Gita "mAsAnAm marghashIrshOsmi"(among the months I am the MargashIrsha) in anticipation of His union with Andal. For Andal, expression of Her pangs of separation from Her Beloved (Lord Narayana) came naturally. Therefore, She did not need to adopt Nayaki Bhavam in her outpourings like Swami NammAzhwar or Tirumangai Azhwar.

Andal, being an Amsham of Bhumi Piratti is the epitome of compassion. This is glorified in the Purusha Sooktam rk "HrIscha thE lakshmIscha pathnyoU". The term Hri denotes compassion- Andal's compassion. Since Lord Narayana is the father of the entire universe, Andal as His consort becomes the mother of the entire universe.

Her limitless compassionfor Her children (erring baddha jIvans, who are subject to a seemingly endless cycle of births and deaths), who perform SharaNagati manifests itself in the form of Her impassioned appeals to Lord Narayana to forgive their sins. The act of granting refuge to a Prapanna is a yajna performed by Lord Narayana. The term Patni is reserved for exclusive use in the context of yajna. Andal's elevated role in this yajna of protecting Prapannas is glorified in the Bhu Sooktam Rk
"shrungE shrungE yajnE yajnEviBhishaNIi"

A remarkable feature of Andal's incarnation is the harmonious unison of theory and practice underlying SharaNagati. We may remember that when Bhumi Piratti was rescued from the depths of the ocean by Lord Narayana, in his incarnation as Varaha (jnAna Piran), her overwhelming compassion for Her Children (errant baddha jivans) took the form of a question seeking the upayam for redemption. The
response from Bhagavan Varaha is the famous Varaha Charma Shlokam, which briefly outlines the theoretical principles underlying SharaNagati. We may observe that Swami Desikan dedicates an entire Chillarai Rahasyam entitled "rahasya shiKhamaNi" to the discussion of the esoteric meanings underlying the Varaha Charma Shlokam.

Not satisfied with this, Andal's extreme compassion for Her children is such that She undertook the performance of the Vratam (nombu) of SharaNagati to llustrate the jiVatma -ParamAtma relationship. The 30 verses of Tiruppavai contain a consummate description of this relationship, which has been elaborated upon in the Upanishads and in the Bhagavad Gita. It is instructive to note that recitation of Vedic hymns have significant restrictions in that one must be aware of the time and place to recite these hymns. Furthermore, not everyone is qualified to recite these hymns. Only Gruhastas can recite some hymns, while some are the privy of Sanyasis alone and so forth. Whereas no such restrictions apply to the recitation of verses from Tiruppavai. Also, the Vedas are quite cryptic in their reference to the margam of SharaNagati. Therefore, they are often termed as Marai (that which is not visible to the naked eye). However, Andal being an Amsham of Bhumi Piratti beautifully intuited the nuances and prescriptions of SharaNagati from the Vedas and described it a simple-to-understand language using 30 delectable verses of Tiruppavai. The following important messages are contained in this outstanding literary masterpiece.

(1) Every jivAtma is irrevocably the property of the ParamAtma, Lord Narayana, who is its Sheshi, ruler, Swami.
(2) The existence and activities of every jivAtma are solely for the pleasure of Lord Narayana.

Andal illustrates (1) and (2) through the "ariyAdha piLLaihaLO"
salutation in the Tiruppavai.

(3) The surest way to restore the property (jivAtma) to its rightful owner is through the path of unconditional, total surrender to the Lord's Lotus Feet, i.e., SharaNagati.
(4) The performance of sharaNagati is simply Atma vivAham, i.e., a wedding between the jivAtma and the Paramatma.
(5) The rules underlying the performance of this nOmbu are clearly stated in the Tiruppavai. For example, verse 2 elaborates on the yama and niyama exercises. The term yama means that which must be given up, whereas the term niyama means that which must not be given up, i.e., that which must be followed. Some of the rules contained here are significant in that they echo important upanishadic messages. First, upon waking up one must recite the name of Lord Narayana-this seems to be the basis of Swami Desikan's Vaishnava Dinasari, where he notes that upon waking up one must recite the name Hari 7 times. Next, Andal discusses that which must be given up-neyyuNNOm pAluNNOm. This is not interpreted to mean that one must give up partaking of ghee and milk. However, it is merely an instruction that these should be partaken only upon offering to Lord Narayana. Further, Andal discusses what must be given in charity.

This is a remarkable echo of the Taittriya Upanishad
salutations "shraddaya DhEyam" and "shriyA DhEyam" and the Dharma Shastras (Manu Smriti for example)that contain stipulations for setting apart a percentage of one's income for charitable /philanthrophic purposes. Exponents of Yoga have also commented that verse 2 is a prescription for facilitating the realization that Lord Narayana who resides in the milky ocean is forever resident in the lotus of one's heart. This illustrates the Mahanarayana upanishad salutation "yOanta samudhrE kavayO vayanti"

(6) The thirty verses of the tiruppavai represent the condensed essence of the esoteric messages contained in the three Srivaishnava rahasyams. The gist of these three rahasyams is that (i) Lord Narayana is the supreme being-Tattvam (ii) Performance of SharaNagati (unconditional, total surrender) at His Lotus Feet is the surest way of redemption-Hitam (iii) Upon performance of SharaNagati,
one must take delight in performing Kaimkaryam for Lord Narayana, His Bhagavatas, and Acharyas. Nithya Kaimkaryam at the behest and for the pleasure of the Divine Couple follows at the end of one's earthly existence-PurushArtham

(7) It may be questioned as to what is the authority for performing this Nombu of SharaNagati? Andal answers this through the salutation "melayAr seyvanagal", i.e. treading the path established by elders. The reference here is to the mahOpakaram of Swami NammAzhwar-the Prapanna jana Kootasthar, who established the efficacy of SharaNagati beyond doubt.

(8) The salutation "unakkE nAmATchaIvOm" is the condensed essence of the sAma vedam, which glorifies Lord Narayana to the exclusion of all other deities.

(9) The glorification of Lord Narayana as dhamOdharanE is a succinct illustration of the Bhrahma Sutra "janmAdhyasyayathOnvayAdhitharaThaschArthEshva vijnya svarAt"

Swami Desikan's Goda Stuthi seems to follow the path of Andal's 30 verses in letter and spirit. Specifically, Swami Desikan's opening contains a surrender to the Lotus Feet of Goda ". In the concluding verse of this Stuthi, Swami Desikan elqouently describes the fruit of this surrender through the salutation "charaNa kamala sevAm shAshvatIm abhyupAishyan". The bountiful blessings arising from the performance of SharaNagati are also described by Swami Desikan as he echoes the message of Andal's "shara mazhai pOl" salutation in the Daya Shatakam verse "shArnga DhanvAnukampa" It is instructive to note that in the war against Ravana, after the killing of Indrajit, Ravana
was grief stricken and ordered his fiercest hordes of demons to launch a full scale offensive on Lord Rama and the Vanara army. The Vanara army suffered heavy casualties as a result of this attack by the asuras, who used the darkness of the night to full advantage. Lord Rama entered the fray at this juncture and rained an unending stream of arrows from his bow, which effortlessly repelled the attack of the Asuras. Adikavi, Valmiki, states in the Ramayana that the arrows came so swiftly from Lord Rama's bow that it appeared as if a multitude of Ramas were present on the battlefield. This is illustrative of the
fact that every baddha jIvan is unaware of its true swaroopam and is thus steeped in the darkness of ignorance on account of its bondage to samsara by the rope of Karma. Sri Sookthis from Acharyas bestow the light of knowledge upon the Baddha jIvan causing the baddha jivan to realize its true swaroopam (eternal servitude to Lord Narayana), resulting in the performance of Prapatti. The bountiful fruits arising from the performance of Prapatti are akin to the copious stream of arrows from Lord Rama's bow. This is indicative of the Vedic messages "tamasOmA jyOtirgamayA" and 'mruthyOrmA amruthanga mayA". The bliss arising from the performance of eternal Kaimkaryam at the behest and for the pleasure of the Divine Couple is described in the VishNu Sooktam Rk "Tad vishNO: Paramam padagam sadhA pashyanthi soorayaha" and the Taittriya Upanishad salutations

"sa yEkO brahmaNa Ananda:", "AhamannAdO"
and the Chandogya Upanishad salutation
"na cha purnarAvarthathE na cha purnarAvarthathE".

Sri Andal Thiruvadigale Saranam

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