The Divine Lass To Whom Love And Devotion Were Inseparable
Tomorrow (August 2) is a significant day in the Sri Vaishnava calendar as we are to celebrate Thiru AadipPooram, the day Andal manifested in this world to be adopted as the daughter of Vishnu Chiththa, also known as Periyazhwar. For the record, Andal’s other well-known names include Godha and Soodi-koduththa Naachchiyaar.
Andal’s unique status in our Sampradaya is, in a way, akin to that of Nammazhwar as both don a dual role. If Nammazhwar doubles up as an Acharya, Andal, an incarnation of Bhu Devi, grew up to join and embellish the ranks of Azhwars with her exquisite poesy soaked in love and devotion.
In fact, there doesn’t seem even an iota of difference between love and devotion in her quest of achieving the ultimate goal — the Lord Himself. The shades of eroticism discernible in her verses should not be mistaken for mere human desire driven by physical attributes. The fact that she was no ordinary girl but very much an incarnation of a Consort of the Lord Supreme should put the issue in proper perspective.
While the other Azhwars who took to Naayika Bhavam had to draw from the realm of imagination and feign feminism, it was so natural for Andal to lament separation or rejoice union. This makes her outpourings inherently effervescent and delectably candid.
The story of Andal is widely known and hence, in this Note, let me briefly bring forth the outline of the works of this refreshingly expressive divine lass. The lone female Azhwar has composed two Prabandhams of literary brilliance — ThirupPaavai (30) and Naachchiyaar Thirumozhi (143) — for a total of 173 Paasurams.
ThirupPaavai is immensely popular and is recited daily in all the temples. The month of Margazhi has special significance what with its foremost theme being observance of Paavai festival during this month. The others to follow are: awakening girls and urging them to join in the ‘Nonbu’, awakening Kannan and praising Him and emphasising the doctrine of self-surrender. (Saranaagathi).
The glory of ThirupPaavai is well brought out by VedapPiraan Bhattar, a descendent of the Periyazhwar clan, in the following tribute which begins with “Kodhai Pirandhan Oor”:
|... பாதகங்கள் தீர்க்கும் பரமன் அடி காட்டும்|
|வேதம் அனைத்துக்கும் வித்தாகும் – கோதை தமிழ்|
|ஐயைந்தும் ஐந்தும் அறியாத மானிடரை|
|வையம் சுமப்பதும் வம்பு.|
“… ThirupPaavai washes away one's sins, shows the way to the Lord and is the seed of all the Vedas. Those who do not know the 30 Paasurams sung by Andal are a burden to this earth."
Normally, we see the seed first and the off-shoot later. But in this case, all the philosophical ideas contained in the age-less and legendary Vedas are found compressed in this beautiful little hymn of 30 verses, which is of a relatively recent origin as compared to the Vedas.
This sweet Prabandham consists of 14 decads whose synopses are as follows:
- Thai Oru Thingalum: In the opening decad, Andal seeks the help of the Love God Manmatha in quest of her union with Sriman Narayana. She avers not to live on if she ever heard that she would be in wedlock with a mortal.
- Naamam Aayiram: This is about little cow-herd girls playing in the sand and it starts with calling out Narayana as one who is praised in a thousand names. Fearing that a young and mischievous Krishna would come and destroy the castle they had built they plead with him not to do so.
- Kozhi Azhaippadhan Munnam: The begging of embarrassed young girls after Krishna's mischievous act of stealing their clothes while they bathe in a pond is recounted by Andal. The girls praising him and pledging to oblige to his diktats in an effort to get back their clothes and save their honour is beautifully brought out here.
- Thelliyaar: Krishna’s anticipated arrival triggers off reading of omens to that effect. The attributes and great deeds of the Lord are sung by the cow-herd girls and Andal recalls them in this decad.
- Mannu Perumpugazh: This is about urging the Koel to reach for the Lord and fetch Him for her sake. Andal cajoles and makes promises to the bird in order to get her wish fulfilled while describing the Lord with various adjectives.
- Vaaranamaayiram: This famous decad depicts her auspicious dream of marrying the Lord as Andal tells her friend the nuptial sequence as happened in the dream. These are: Decking up of fastoons, entering of the groom, her being draped with bridal saree and garland, tying of the talisman-thread, the groom storming into the dais, holding hand-in-hand, circumambulating the fire-altar, stepping on the grinding-stone, feeding fire with puffed-rice and bathing with scented water.
- Karuppooram Naarumo: Here Andal praises the Conch and envies its great fortune of proximity and physical contact with the Lord (as it is blown by Him). In the opening Paasuram she enquires of the Conch whether Lord Madhava’s mouth and lips would bear the fragrance of camphor or lotus and whether they are sweet or tasty.
- Vinneela Melaappu: This is all about sending the cloud for a messenger to the Lord of Thiruvenkatam, expressing her loneliness and helplessness. Her woes of separation and longing find ample and fitting outlet in this exquisite decad.
- Sindhura-Chempodi: Andal records here her devotion to her favourite Lord Sundarajara of Thirumaalirun-Cholai. She addresses a friend, Karuvilai and Kaya flowers, koels and peacocks, beetles, lakes and lotuses along the way and tells them about the Lord’s deeds and her love. In a highlight of the decad, Andal promises the Lord with the offer of 100 containers of butter and another 100 of sweet-rice, if only He would come and accept them.
- Kaarkkodal Pookkaal: In this decad, Andal addresses various entities such as Kodal flowers, Kaanthal flowers, Kovai creeper, Mullai creeper, singing Koels, dancing peacocks, rain clouds, vast ocean and expresses her plight of loneliness.
- Thaam Ugakkum: Her deep love for Lord Ranganatha manifests here as she calls Him sweet Lord who has beautiful locks of hair, beautiful lips, beautiful eyes and a beautiful lotus on His navel. She further calls Him the sovertign Lord who reigns the entire universe.
- Matru Irundheergatku: In a bold appeal to the society, Andal submits that she be united with the Lord. She tells people in a tone of disdain: “Your advice to me on my affair with Madhava is like the words of the mute to the deaf (will not have any effect at all)”. Not only that, she urges them to take him to where the Lord was.
- Kannan Ennum: Caught in the vortex of despair and acute love disease for Krishna, Andal asks that she be quenched with applying things that are dear to the Lord, like His yellow vestment, the cool Thulasi, the Vanamala, the spittle from His sweet mouth, the trickle from the holes of His flute, the mud trodden by Him, etc.
- Patti Meyndhu: And finally she finds Him at Vrundhaavan. Two groups of cow-herd girls are engaged in beautiful exchanges — one enquiring whether the other found Krishna and the other replying in the affirmative that they indeed saw Him at Vrundhaavan.
The power of her determination finally prevailed in her real life too as she united with Rangamannaar to signal that the agenda of her incarnation was fulfilled. Hail to Sri Andal!
Meet you in the next Note.
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