Aandaal

Aandaal ( _ta. ஆண்டாள்) is a 10th century Tamil saint and one of the twelve Alvars (saints) and the only woman Alvar of Vaishnavism. She is credited with the great Tamil works of Thirupavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi that are still recited by devotees during the Winter festival season of Margazhi. Aandaal is known for her unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu. The Srivilliputhoor Temple is dedicated to her and marks her birth place. Adopted by her father, the famous saint Periyalvar who found her as a baby, Aandaal avoided earthly marriage, the normal and expected path for women of her culture, to "marry" Lord Vishnu, both spiritually and physically. In many places in India, particularly in Tamilnadu, Aandaal is treated more than a saint and as a form of God herself, similar to tradition of Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ.

Early life

Aandaal is believed to have been discovered under a Tulsi(Basil) plant in the temple garden of Srivilliputtur, by a person named Vishnucitta who later became one of the most revered saints in Hinduism, Periyalvar. The child was named Kodhai (meaning, a beautiful garland, in Tamil)cite web |url=http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ramanuja/magazine/RD_0103_online_vers.pdf |title= "Ramanuja Darshanam" |accessdate=2007-07-14] and she was raised by Vishnucitta. Goda (Sanskrit version of Kodhai) grew up in an atmosphere of love and devotion. Vishnucitta doted on her in every respect, singing songs to her about Lord Krishna; teaching her all the stories and philosophy he knew; and sharing with her his love for Tamil poetry. As Goda grew into a beautiful maiden, her love and devotion for the Lord grew to the extent that she decided to marry none but the Lord Himself. As days progressed, her resolve strengthened and she started to live in a dream world with her beloved Lord and was constantly fantasizing about marrying Him.cite news| title="Andal Biography"
url=http://www.freeindia.org/biographies/greatdevotees/andal/index.htm
accessdate= 2007-07-10
]

Vishnucitta had the responsibility of delivering flower garlands to the Lord's temple, everyday. Goda made these garlands and sent it to her beloved Lord through her father. Eventually she started acting unusual by wearing the flower garland which was meant to be offered to the Lord. This is generally considered sacrilege in Hinduism because the scriptures teach the devotees not to offer to the Lord, a thing that has already been used by a human being. However, Goda felt she should test to see how the garland suited her and only if it did, she should offer it to the Lord. One day, she was caught red-handed by her father in this strange act, and as an orthodox devotee he was extremely upset. He rebuked her and told her not to repeat the sacrilegious act in the future. Frightened and apologetic, Goda made a new garland for the offering that day. Legend says that that very night the Lord appeared to Vishnucitta in his dream and asked him why he had discarded Goda's garland instead of offering it to Him. The Lord is believed to have told Vishnucitta that He had whole-heartedly accepted Goda's offering all this time. This moved Vishnucitta so much even as he started to realize the Divine Love that existed between the Lord and his daughter. From this day on, Goda is believed to have been respected by the devotees and came to be known as "Aandaal", the girl who "ruled" over the Lord. She is also known by a phrase "Soodi kodutha Sudarkodi" which means "The bright creeper-like woman who gave her garlands after wearing them".

Marrying the Lord

As Aandaal blossomed into a fifteen-year-old beautiful young woman of marriageable age (girls were married at a much younger age in those days), her father prepared to get her married to a suitable groom. Aandaal, however, was stubborn and insisted that she would marry only the Lord at Srirangam. This perplexed and worried her father. Legend has it that he had a vision give by the Lord, once again, and was instructed to send Aandaal to Srirangam; the lord simultaneously commanded the priests at Srirangam, in their dreams, to prepare for the wedding. Aandaal who was anxious to reach Srirangam was unable to control herself in her urgency to meet her beloved Lord. She ran into the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord and is believed to have merged with Him completely at that point.cite news| title="Life of Andal"
work= [http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/alvars/andal/ ramanuja.org]
url=http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/alvars/andal/
accessdate= 2007-07-10
]

Literary Works

Aandaal composed two works in her short life of fifteen years. Both these works are in Tamil verse form and are exceptional in their literary, philosophical, religious, and aesthetic content. Her contribution is even more remarkable considering that she was a girl of fifteen when she composed these verses and her prodigiousness amazes readers till date.

Her first work is the Thiruppavai, a collection of thirty verses in which Aandaal imagines herself to be a Gopi or cowherd girl during the incarnation of Lord Krishna. She yearns to serve Him and achieve happiness not just in this birth, but for all eternity, and describes the religious vows (pavai) that she and her fellow cowherd girls will observe for this purpose.cite news| title="Life of Andal"
work= [http://www.thiruppavai.org tiruppavai.org]
url=http://www.thiruppavai.org
accessdate= 2007-07-10
]

The second is the Nachiar Tirumozhi, a poem of 143 verses. Tirumozhi, literally meaning "Sacred Sayings", is a Tamil poetic style. "Nachiar" means Goddess, so the title means "Sacred Sayings of the Goddess." This poem fully reveals Aandaal's intense longing for Vishnu, the Divine Beloved. Utilizing classical Tamil poetic conventions and interspersing stories from the Sanskrit Vedas and Puranas, Aandaal creates imagery that is possibly unparalleled in the whole gamut of 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 is belongs to an erotic genre of spirituality that is similar to Jayadeva's Gita Govinda.

The impact of these works on the daily religious life of the South Indian has been tremendous. Just like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Thiruppavai is recited with great religious fervor by women, men, and children of all ages, particularly in Tamil Nadu. The daily services in most Vaishnava temples and households include this recitation. Both of these works, particularly the Thiruppavai, has been studied extensively by innumerable scholars. It has also been translated into a number of languages over the centuries.

tatus in the Society

Aandaal is now one of the best-loved poet-saints of the Tamils. Pious tradition reckons her to be the veritable descent of Bhumi Devi (Mother Earth) in bodily form to show humanity the way to His lotus feet. She is present in all Sri Vaishnava temples, in India and elsewhere, next to her Lord, as she always desired. During the month of Margazhi, discourses on the Tiruppavai in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and English take place all over India.cite news| title="Āndāl, Saint Goda"
work= [http://womenshistory.about.com/library/bio/blbio_andal.htm womenhistory]
url=http://womenshistory.about.com/library/bio/blbio_andal.htm/
accessdate= 2007-07-10
]

References


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