Azhwar Srimati Andal
Every person who has an affinity with Sri Sampradaya would come across the works of the Azhwars. (Also written as Alvars)
Azhwars form a group of 12 most profound devotees.
They were popular in the 7th Century for their teachings of undiluted Bhakti.
Among the 12 Azhwas, Srimati Andal Devi was the only female Vaishnava, popularly known for her famous poetic works that praise Lord Krishna, Narayana.
On becoming famous, devotees called her by many names.
Call her Andal, Kothai, Nachiar, or Godadevi, she is a living name of every household in South India.
Thiruppavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi are some of her most notable works of devotional poetry.
She made devotional service widespread through her pure works.
Even today, devotees in the winter festival of Margazhi in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, still recite these hymns.
Andal is a role model for many Hindu women in South India.
The 12th-century historical evidence deems her as the living inspiration for people to take up Bhakti.
Many people regard her as the Mirbai of the South and Srimati Radharani of Vrindavan.
In the 9th century, Andal was well known as the Poetess of the Bhakti Movement.
Birth and Youth of Andal
The story of Andal’s birth is unique.
Vishnuchitan, popularly known as Periazhwar, was childless.
Daily he would dedicate time in the temple, serving the deity of Perumal, Lord Narayana.
He used to make flower garlands for the deity with love and affection.
But, life without offspring, created a vacuum in his heart.
So, he longed for a child and would often surrender this desire onto the feet of Perumal.
One day, he found a child lying under a Tulasi plant, in the garden inside the temple.
Bhudevi herself incarnated as that child, claim scholars and great devotees.
Vishnuchitan was spellbound.
So, he adopted the child and named her Kothai.
Kothai means the beautiful one, the flawless one.
Years passed by and Kothai grew up to be a beautiful maiden.
She became an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna (Vishnu) the Supreme Lord.
One day, she wore a garland that was meant to be offered to Perumal.
Periazhwar later found out the truth and rebuked her.
That night Periazhwar saw a dream of Lord Vishnu wherein He insisted to wear only those garlands which Srimati Andal wore!
From then on the temple priests would observe that garlands directly offered to Perumal would fall off from His neck.
It never stayed stable, held around the Lord’s neck.
So, they changed the principle of garland offering following that dream.
The priests first offer the garlands to Andal Devi.
Those garlands, the Lord wore were much to His pleasure.
After a while, the priests would observe that the garland would turn into gold.
Her name Kothai then changed into Andal Chudikodutha Sudarkodi (the lady who wore and gave her garland).
Andal’s Marriage and Her garlands
Even today, there is a common tale wherein Andal is known after her love for flower garlands.
Her devotion knew nothing other than Krishna.
Her very breath was Perumal and she thought about no one else.
So, she decided to wed Lord Ranganathan.
Andal always avoided earthly marriage with any living entity, as she only found Sri Vishnu as the best suitor.
Hence, through her works, she delivered this message to women of her culture.
She inspired people to surrender to Sri Vishnu for all their requirements.
If you seek love, simply love Krishna.
It is only Sri Vishnu who can satisfy our desires, be it spiritual or material.
So, over the years she saw dreams of marrying just Sri Ranganatha Swamy.
It is a result of these devotional mellows that the enchanting works of Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Tirumozhi exist today.
Lord Ranganatha married Andal.
He came as a King called Raja Sriman Andhra Vishnu.
This unique form stands on the altar of Srivilliputhur Andal Temple in Srivilliputhur.
In this temple, He is the presiding deity by the name Rangamannar.
Even today, on the auspicious day of Tirupati Brahmotsavam, garlands worn by Andal in Srivilliputhur are sent to Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.
Hence, most of the south Indian Vishnu temples have a separate shrine for Andal.
This is an exchange of love, of devotion.
Similarly, Sri Tirupati Venkateswara’s garland is sent to Srivilliputhur Andal for the marriage festival of Andal, on Andal Jayanti.
This is Andal’s first work which consists a set of 30 verses.
She imagines herself as a gopi, known for her unconditional love for Sri Krishna.
In this work, she describes her yearning to serve the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and get the supreme bliss forever.
She also has mentioned the religious vows (or Pavais) that she and her cowherd friends maintained so that they attain their objective, love for Krishna.
It teaches us to unconditionally love Krishna and for this reason, it is sometimes even compared with the Vedas.
This is the second work by Andal, consisting of 143 verses.
“Tirumozhi” literally means “Sacred Sayings” and Nachiar means Goddess.
So, the title means “Sacred Sayings of the Goddess”.
This Poem reveals Andal’s love for Lord Vishnu, her divine beloved.
People consider it to be similar to Jayadev’s Gita Govinda.
There are many Vishnu temples (mostly in the south) where devotees worship Andal, not only as a saint but as a Goddess.
The festival of Aadip Pooram marks the adoption of Andal by Periazhwar, when he first time saw her near a Tulsi plant in the garden of Vatapatrasayi Temple, at Srivilliputhur.
Andal Devi was found on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Tamil month of Aadi.
So, this festival is a significant and auspicious event for all devoted Tamilians of Sri Vaishnavism.
In the early morning after the special pujas, in decorated palanquins, the priests carry the deities of Sri Rangamannar and Goddess Andal into the streets where devotees seek their Darshan.
Thousands of inhabitants of Tamil Nadu observe this festival, in the honor of Srimati Andal Devi.
Andal Influences the Telugu King
The Great King of Vijaynagar Krishnadevaraya used to consider Andal as his elder sister.
He composed an epic poem, celebrating Srimati Andal as his elder sister.
So, Krishnadevaraya writes Amuktamalyada in Telugu is this famous poem.
It is a masterpiece describing the story of Andal, the daughter of Periazhwar.
Additionally, this piece also describes the pain and separation experienced by Andal who is the incarnation of Laxmi Devi the consort of Sri Vishnu.
Also, this poem even describes Andal’s beauty in 30 verses.
Rendered exquisitely in keśādi-pādam style, this segment of the poem describes Srimati Andal’s beauty right from her hairstyle till her lotus feet.
In a nutshell, Andal not only influenced, ascetics, poets, and common man, but also the valorous king of South India.
Thanks for reading!