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Andal

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Andal
By Shivshankar Rao, in US Brahman Group, March 31, 2013

Goda Devee or Andal was the 9th among the 12 Vaishnav Saints called Azhvars. As the name suggests, she was a boon given by Mother Earth to the world.

To understand the significance of the incarnation of Bhoo Devee into this world, one should go back to the time when Lord Vishnu took the form of a Divine Boar (Varaah Avataar). Hiranyaaksh (brother of Hiranyakashyap) had hidden the Earth in the mire of ocean. The Lord retrieved the Mother killing Hiranyaaksh after a fierce fight with him and brought her out holding her on his nostrils as a small bundle. After this, Vishnu found to his astonishment tears in her eyes. When questioned about the reason for thi , she replied that she was thinking about her children who are drowned in the ocean of Sansaar and who do not know the way to come out of this shackle. She requested Him to help these children. The Lord replied that they would get Moksh provided they practice intense Bhakti to Him. Bhoomi Devee promised to take birth at an appropriate time to take people along with her to the Lord.

It was in this backdrop that Bhoomi Devee came as a small baby girl in to the household of Vishnuchittar. Vishnuchittar was a priest in Srivilliputtur in the temple of Vat-patra-shayee (who sleeps on a banyan leaf - Krishn). When Vishnuchittar, who was issueless, was plucking flowers and Tulasee to make a garland for the Lord, he found a girl baby near the Tulasee plant. He happily took the child home and named her Goda (she was also called as Chudikudutha Nachiar). He treated the child as a boon given by Bhoomi Devee and was brought up with great care and she grew up into a beautiful damsel. Vishnuchittarís household was Bhakti laden and vibrating with love for Krishn. She was given fascinating account of Krishnís Leelaa. The child grew up with extreme love and devotion to Krishn to such an extent that she would not think of anybody or anything else.

It was the daily routine of Vishnuchittar to pluck flowers from his garden and make a garland out of them to be taken to the temple of Vat-patra-shayee. Goda used to help her father in this task. On a fine day, when Vishnuchittar stepped out, after making the garlands, before giving to the temple, Goda in all her innocence thought of trying the garland on herself before Krishn was garlanded. She then put on the garland, admired her beauty in the mirror and stealthily put it back. This went on for days and the father did not know about it. One day when Vishnuchittar lifted the garland he found to his surprise a human hair stuck among the flowers. When questioned, Goda confessed to her trying on the garlands before they were taken to the temple for garlanding Him. He was shaken and sat in solitude asking for the Lordís forgiveness. That night the Lord appeared in his dream and told him that Goda did no wrong and in fact He was only too pleased that Goda wore the garlands before it decorated Him. From then onwards, the practice of Goda wearing the garlands as before was continued. Hence, she was named Choodi Kodutha Nachiyaar.

Though she lived in Srivilliputtur she imagined herself to be in Vrindaa Van and her fatherís mansion to be the mansion of Nandan and Yashodaa Devee. She considered the girls in her neighborhood  as Gopee. Goda started the Vrat of waking young damsels in the neighborhood in the pretext of going for a bath in the early hours of the morning. The real aim was to bathe in His glory and attain His lotus feet.

Andal's Works - Thiruppavai and Nachiyaar
She composed "Thiruppavai" consisting of 30 verses Ė one verse for each day of the month. This is in Tamil verse form and is exceptional in the literary, philosophical, religious, and aesthetic content. Her contribution is even more remarkable considering that she was a girl of 15 when she composed these verses. Andal imagined herself to be a Gopee or a cowherd girl and yearns to serve Him and achieve happiness not just in this birth, but for all eternity, and describes the religious vows that she and her fellow cowherd girls will observe for this purpose. This beautiful song / composition is the most precious for the devotees of Krishn. They have a poetic beauty laden with spiritual truths. The composition details the various steps to be undertaken to attain Him. Its first 5 verses describe the equipment required for undertaking the Vrat; 6 to 16 verses is waking up girls in various households; and 17 onwards waking up Balaraam, Yashodaa, Nand Gop, etc. The last 2 verses are of Sharanaagati. It also speaks of the Lordís Avataar - verse 3 speaks of Vaaman Avataar, Trivikram Avataar, Raam Avataar, Narasinh Avataar, etc.

The other composition of Andal is Nachiyaar Thirumozhi in which she talks of her dream of Ranganaath marrying her. It contains the various details of marriage preparations. Nachiyaar Thirumozhi is a poem of 143 verses. Tirumozhi, or "Sacred Sayings" , is a Tamil poetic style. "Nachiar" means Goddess, so the title means "Sacred Sayings of the Goddess." This poem fully reveals Andal's intense longing for Vishnu, the Divine Beloved. Utilizing classical Tamil poetic conventions and interspersing stories from the Ved and Puraan, Andal has created an imagery that is unparalleled in Indian religious literature. However, conservative Vaishnavite institutions do not encourage the propagation of Nachiar Tirumozhi as much as they encourage Tiruppavai. This is because Nachiar Tirumozhi belongs to an erotic genre of spirituality that is similar to "Geet Govind" of Jayadev.

Just like Mahabhaarat and Raamaayan, Thiruppavai is recited with great religious fervor particularly in Tamil Naadu. The daily services in most Vaishnav temples and households include this recitation. Both of these works have been studied extensively by many scholars. It has also been translated into a number of languages over the centuries.

During the month of Margazhi, discourses on the Thiruppavai in Tamil, Telugu, Kannad, Hindi and English take place all over India. Andal's idols are installed in several Vaishnav temples next to her Lord.

A Glimpse of Thirupavai
30 stanzas of Thiruppavai contains are of a high standard as literature and fertile imagination. They reflect the philosophy of PRAPATTI or complete surrender to the Lord. The theme is for Andal and her friends going to the Lord and wake him up from sleep in the morning. The description is of dawn in rural setting, description of woman typified by Lakshmee and other girls of the cowherd type. The similies she makes are beautiful. For example, she compares a woman to a slender flowering creeper. The description of the paddy fields overflown with water and fishes jumping there, birds coming out of their nests chirping etc., makes us feel as if we are there.
Its message is -
(1) Woman is the manifestation of Jeev and man is the manifestation of Paramaatmaa.
(2) By her good nature woman upholds the culture and traditions.
(3) It is essential to protect cows and other cattle wealth for integrated development.
(4) Village life is more pleasant than city life.
(5) Pray to Varun and Parjanya for sufficient rains in time.
(6) Development should be based on Dharm.
(7) Early morning is the best time of the day especially of Dhanur Maas when we should pray.
(8) Never talk ill of others.
(9) Be naturally beautiful, there is no need for women to use artificial aids.

 

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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
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Updated on 04/01/13