Yesterday Aug 11th was Thiru Aadi Pooram, the day on which, the one and only lady Azhwar Andal was born. Azhwars were poet-saints who were at the forefront of establishing the Vaishnava bhakti tradition. Do read about them – Azhwars. Their devotional songs are compiled into the Naalayira (4000) Divya Prabandam. There are 12 Azhwars whose lives spanned over 2000+ years from 4000 BCE to 2700 BCE. Ofcourse as expected the modern distortians would like to bring them into the current 2000 (CE) years that they have on record 😃.
My Athimber is an expert in reciting the Naalayira Divya Prabandam. Some of my cousins and their spouses are learning to recite them from memory 🙏🏿..
Andal – Srivilliputhur
Vishnucittan or Periyazhwar, was a priest at the Vatapatrasayi Vishnu temple at Srivilliputhur. He did not have a child and longed for one. He found a baby girl under a Tulsi plant one day as he went to collect flowers for Vishnu’s garland. Periyazhwar realised that this was Mahavishnu’s way of fulfilling his desire for a child. He adopted the baby girl and named her Kothai.
Kothai was deeply devoted to MahaVishnu and wanted to marry him. Without her father Periyazhwar knowledge, she would wear the garland meant for the Vishnu idol everyday imagining herself to be the bride. She was caught in the act and Periyazhwar was very disturbed as the Shastras were violated. We never use the flowers used by us for the Gods. That day the Vishnu idol went without a garland.
That very night, Vishnu appeared in Periyazhwar’s dream and asked him about the garland worn by Kothai. Periazhwar immediately recognized Kothai’s divinity and he gave another name to her – Soodi-Kodutta-Nachiyar or the “one who gave what she had worn”. Kothai then learnt about the different avatars of Vishnu and wrote the 30 paasurams (songs) of the Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi.
Kothai had made up her mind to marry Sri Ranganatha (Vishnu) in Srirangam after hearing about him from her father. Once again Periazhwar received instructions from Vishnu in a dream saying he is ready to accept Kothai as his wife. A royal procession arranged by MahaVishnu himself was sent to Srivilliputhur to Kothai to Srirangam. The minute Kothai entered the Garba Griha of Ranganatha Perumal, she vanished and became one with him. Very similar to Mirabai at the Ranchoddas temple and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at the Jagannath temple.
Kothai from then was known as ‘Andal’ – the one who rules (the world or the Lord).
The Living Andal
To this day garlands from the Srivilliputhur Andal temple are sent to the Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam and the Kalazhagar temple in Madurai. For the Brahmotsavam and Garudasevai at Tirupati, garlands are again sent from the Andal temple. In Vaishnava Brahmin weddings, a song from Nachiyar Thirumozhi is recited and the bride is dressed up as Andal.
The Thiruppavai is sung in Vishnu temples and during the month of Margazhi, I have grown up listening to the Thiruppavai sung by MLV (M L Vasanthakumari) everyday. I have been meaning to write about the Thiruppavai every year, will hopefully get to it this year. Mahaperiyava of the Kanchi Mutt had asked MLV to sing the Thiruppavai and its the only voice in which I can hear the songs. Its an intensely spiritual experience.
Thiru Aadi Pooram
The day when its the “Pooram” nakshatra in the month of Aadi is celebrated as Andal’s birthday. I have a different connection to this day. In 2007, Amma, Appa, Krishnan and I had visited the Andal temple in Srivilliputhur as part of our September vacation to Poovar. We drove down to Tirunelveli stopping at Srivilliputhur enroute.
In 2008, on Andal’s birthday, Appa and I spoke for the last time in this life. He had his cerebral haemorrhage on Aug 4, 2008, on Thiru Aadi Pooram. Muthu Periyamma had infact given milk and coconut to be given at the temple for Thiru Aadi Pooram and Appa and Amma had dropped it off for her. They came home and parked the car. A few minutes later Appa went to the first floor to get the terrace cleaned along with a help.
We still don’t know why he got onto the parapet wall …. he had the cerebral haemorrhage while standing on the wall and fell down unconscious. Every Thiru Aadi Pooram this memory comes back, but life is like that ! Appa lived a full life and his presence is felt every single minute. Yes, I miss hearing his voice, but he continues to watch over us and thats what matters.
Happy birthday Andal. May your blessings be with all of us and as Bhu Devi, you continue to nourish all of us 🙏🏿