December 2007


This being the month of Maargazhi, a post about the unique Azhwar known to the world would be nice. The Azhwar is none other than Aandaal. She is unique in various respects

  • Of the twelve Azhwars, she is the only female Azhwar
  • She had an unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu and married him at Srirangam
  • She started the ritual called the Paavai Nonbu, that is followed to this day. This ritual is followed by girls so that they get a husband of a good character
  • She is considered to be the incarnate of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu
  • The temple for her at Srivilliputur stands as a official symbol in the seal of Government of the Tamil Nadu, as a symbol of the Art and Architecture of the Tamil Civilisation

Let us see the life history of Aandaal. She is believed to the incarnate of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Legend says that Goddess Lakshmi wanted to praise Lord Vishnu, by being the daughter of the famous Azhwar, Vishnu Sitthar famously known as Periazhwar. So she was born and was found as a baby under the Thulasi plant in the temple garden by Periazhwar. From then on Periazhwar considered her to be a gift that Lord Vishnu gave him and doted her a his own daughter. He taught her the all the philosophies and stories he knew about Lord Krishna and also taught her to attain poetic eloquence in the Tamil language. He named her Kodhai meaning Garland.

Kodhai grew up as a kid just thinking about Lord Krishna and she would consider herself as playing Lord Krishna when her father was away to perform the temple rituals. Everyday Periazhwar gathers flowers from the garden and makes a garland out of it to be presented to Lord Ranganathar. One day after making the garland he would go away to his garden to maintain it and then return back to get the garland to the temple. So when he was away, Kodhai would wear the garland to see if it suited her, only if it did, it should be offered to the Lord. One day, Periazhwar saw Kodhai doing this and got very angry as it is considered a sacrilege in Hinduism that anything that has been used by the humans should not be offered to the Lord. He shouted at her telling her to get out of his sight, but Kodhai told that she was unaware and she thought she was playing with Lord Krishna. But later Periazhwar composed himself and told her not to repeat it and that he will get a fresh garland made for the Lord. And when he offered it to the Lord, the garland fell out as if showing the Lord unacceptance of the offer. The Kodhai brought the garland that she wore and told that Lord Krishna will like children and that she was playing with Lord Krishna, so he should accept the garland. Periazhwar offered it to the Lord in the temple and to his surprise the place was illuminated showing the acceptance. Only then he realised how blessed Kodhai was and adorned her with the name “Soodi Kodutha Sudar Kodi” meaning “The bright star like lady who gave the Lord the garland after wearing them”. And as she ruled the Lord with her devotion she was adorned the name “Aandaal” meaning, the one who rules.

From then on she had an unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu and she when she reached the marriage age, she was stubborn that she will marry only Lord Ranganathar at Srirangam, which made Periazhwar baffle as to how it was humanly possible. Later Periazhwar felt the vision of the Lord at Srirangam to bring his daughter in full bridal adornment to Srirangam. When they went to Srirangam, Aandaal merged with Lord Ranganather completely at that point.

Aandaal is held in high respect and exalted to the level of Azhwar because of her unwavering and sincere devotion to Lord Vishnu. Her exemplary works, Thiruppavai and Naachiyaar Thirumozhi stand as a proof to her devotion. Not only she showed her sincere devotion, she also made the other girls of the country to follow that and started off a ritual called the Paavai Nonbu which she elaborates her work Thiruppavai. The songs in both Thiruppavai and Naachiyaar Thirumozhi express the grandeur and eloquence. This Paavai Nonbu, is being followed during the month of Maargazhi even today, and the songs from Thiruppavai and sung daily. It is correlation to what Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita, that in all the months he is the month of Maargazhi. It is so auspicious that in all the Vaishnavite temples it is celebrated widely to get the blessing of the Lord.

Now lets look at the very first song, that expresses the strong devotion and grandeur of Aandaal’s expression. The song goes like this




“Maargazhi Thingal Madhi Niraindha Nannaalal
Neeraada Podhuveer Podhumeeno Naerilazhaiyeer
Seer Malgum Aayippaadi Selva Sirumeergaal
Koorvael Kondunthozhilan Nandhagopan Kumaran
Yaeraarndha Kanni Yasodhai Ilam Singam
Kaarmaeni Sengann Kadhir Madhiyam Pol Mugathaan
Narayananae Nammakku Parai Tharuvaan
Paaror Pugazha Padindhaelor Empaavaai”

meaning, Oh! the wealthily adorned girls of Aaryarpadi, on the auspicious full moon lit month of Maargazhi, let us go and bathe and perform the paavai nonbu, because the Lord son of the Nandhagopan, who gives guards the country by given pain to his enemies with is long spear. The young lion of the beautiful eyed Yasodha, who has the body coloured like the dark rainy clouds, bright eyes and the bright and beautiful face like the full moon, who is none other that Lord Narayanan would bless us. So let us do the penance praised by the world – The Paavai Nonbu – by immersing ourselves in the water first.

We can see the literary eloquence and her power of faith to move the people to perform a ritual to get the blessings of the Lord is an exemplary feat.

The verses following from Naachiyaar Thirumozhi express the grandness in her thought and imagination. In the following songs she narrates to her friend about the dream that she had in the previous nights. She dreams about marriage ceremony between Her and Lord Narayanan. The grandeur and greatness of thought can be seen throughout the verses




“Vaaranamaayiram Soola Valam Seidhu
Naarana Nambi Nadakindraan Endru Edhir
Poorana Porr Kudam Vaithu Puram Engum
Thoranam Naata Kanaa Kandaen Thozhi Naan”

The situation of the this song is during the Maapillai Azhaippu ritual, where the groom (here the Lord himself) is invited and walked till the marriage hall. The meaning of the song, With a thousand elephants surrounded, Lord Narayanan walks majestically to the marriage hall. Because the Lord arrives and in order to receive him, the pot full and complete with gold is kept in front and in the places surrounding decorations with festoons and banners are done. This was the dream that she dreamt of.

Each of these verses are adorned with grandeur and in other verses she narrates the people who attended the dream wedding. The people are all the Gods, including the head of the Devars – Indran and many others who make the marriage ceremony a grand one. The narration of dream itself is greatly eloquent and shows the undiverted devotion She had to Lord Narayana.

The Srivilliputhur Aandaal temple adds the name Aandaal to its crown showing the divinity of Aandaal. Being so divine and Godly has made Aandaal a unique Azhwar and her works and the Paavai Nonbu will be remembered forever.

More to come until then…

Advertisements

Ravana is known to most of us as a demon king, and is portrayed as a person with moral turpitude etc, because he abducted Seetha and slayed many without mercy. But the fact is that Ravana is a great and a scholarly person admired by many. He mastered all the 64 forms of art and is a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He was a great singer and his eloquence and the knowledge can be realised through the song that he composed, which is being sung as the Shiva Thandava Sthothram even today. The song is so majestic and is in praise of
Lord Shiva.

The legend about this song goes like this. Ravana ruled Sri Lanka and wanted to worship Lord Shiva at Kailash, but when he went to Kailash and prayed Lord Shiva to appear before him, Lord Shiva did not. So Ravana got frustrated and wanted to show his strength, so he lifted Himalayas with all his twenty hands. The entire place shook like anything and Goddess Parvathi feared, when the place shook like earthquake striking. Lord Shiva then pressed the mountain with his feet and Ravana got crushed under the weight of the Himalayas and could not bear the weight of it and prayed to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva bestowed him, and then Ravana sang this song which was called the Shiva Thandava Sthothram. Hear to this and we can see the eloquence and the majestic composition, though in Sanskrit, it has the good rhythm, alliteration and resounding beauty. The pdf version can be found here.

Please wait until the song loads…

Download Shiva Thandava Sthothram

He is a man who patronised art and respected people with artistic skills. There is also a legend where he called Agathiar for a music competition, it was a very tough competition. The task was to make a mountain made of gold to melt just by singing. Agathiar won the competitionas the mountain melted for Agathiar’s music and song. Ravana accepted his defeat and gave a word to Agathiar that he will not disturb him and the people living near Agathiar’s place. Thus he respected a learned person like Agathiar.

He was a brave warrior and also is enduring is doing great penance that he was gifted with various powers. He is said that have had the scars of an elephant’s tusk, Vishnu’s Chakram and many others after fighting with them. He also had all the nine planet’s, Indran and all the devars under his feet. His braveness, his enduring penance and nobility have earned him a crowned name that only one person has this crown. He has the name Eashwaran adorned to his name and called as Elangeshwaran. The other person is the planet Saturn (Saneeshwaran). No other person, who is not a manifestation of Lord Shiva bears the name Eashwaran to his name. Such a fame could not be achieved easily, Saneeshwaran got his name, because he put everybody to test for a period of 7.5 years without mercy or bias. He does not even leave out even if they are Gods. Likewise, Ravana also has the endurance in achieving a power by severe penance.

There is another legend that says Ravana was a Dhvarapalaga (Gate keeper) of Lord Vishnu’s heaven, the Thirupar Kadal (The Ocean of Milk). Once upon a time, he and his friend another Dhvarapalaga were guarding the gates. Then one Rishi came to worship Lord Vishnu, but they both denied the entry, because it was the resting time for Lord Vishnu. But the angry Rishi, cursed them that they both be born in earth and suffer. They both worried and asked for mercy, the Rishi told that Lord Vishnu will tell the way for their salvation. When both the Dhvarapalagas fell at the feet of Lord Vishnu, Lord Vishnu gave them an option. Either they can choose to life seven lives as a good devotee and then attain salvation or live 3 lives as an opposer and enemy of Lord Vishnu and attain salvation. Ravana chose to oppose and attain salvation and reach Lord Vishnu in 3 lives, because he felt that he could not be away from Lord Vishnu for seven lives. So he became a demon and he was born as Eranyan, Mahabali and then Ravanan, later attained the Dhvarapalaga status again.

Ravana also followed, even in his deathbed, the discipline that a student has to give to his teacher. When Ravana was defeated by Lord Rama, he was in his deathbed and breath the last few moments of his life. Then Lord Rama, the incarnate of Lord Vishnu, knew about his knowledge and wisdom and told his brother Lakshmana, not to think bad or low about Ravana, because he is not only a demon king, but also a great scholar and a discipline man, and to see it for Lakshman to see it for himself asked him to go to Ravana and know about the procedure to wage a war. Lakshmana still not convinced that Ravana was a great scholar and a disciplined man, went and stood near Ravana’s head and told that he came to Ravana just because his brother Lord Rama, told him ask Ravana about the procedure to wage a war. Ravana, with a smile asked Lakshmana whether he learnt any discipline in his gurukulam. Lakshmana was shocked to hear that. Ravana continued saying that Lakshmana is asking him the procedure to wage a war and that he is in the position of a student and Ravana himself is in the position of a teacher. So, it is not a disciplined behaviour to stand near the teacher’s head and ask questions and ordered Lakshmana to come near his feet and ask his question. Lakshmana felt ashamed, went near his feet and heard to the last minute lectures of Ravana and realised what Lord Rama told him. And then Ravana got a deep reverence in the hearts of Lakshmana.

The sculpture of Ravana lifting Mount Kailash and Lord Shiva as Kailasanathar on top pressing the mountain with his feet is found in the 1,500 year temple Keezhapazhayaarai near Kumbakonam. It is believed that on worshipping this Kailasanathar, people get their debts cleared and acquire wealth and prosperous life. It is also said that famous Emperor King Rajaraja Cholan worshipped this Kailasanathar daily when Keezhapazhayarai was the capital city during the Chola reign. Photos of Keezhapazhayarai can be found in a previous post – Great temples in desolate ruins

Ravana, though he is portrayed as villain, is respected and honoured for his scholarly knowledge. Those qualities of wisdom would heralded for ages to come and his name and fame will exist for all time till Lord Rama’s name exists. Let us respect him for his knowledge, wisdom and discipline which even the God’s speak of respectfully.

More to come, until then…