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
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…