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Title: Andal  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Thiruppavai, Alvars, Periyalvar, Nila Devi, Bhūmi
Collection: Alvars, Bhakti Movement, Hindu Female Religious Leaders, Hindu Religious Figures, Tamil Deities
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Born Kodhai
3025 BCE
Titles/honours Alvars
Philosophy Srivaishnava Bhakti
Literary works Tiruppaavai, Naachiyaar Thirumozhi
Andaal at Pundarikaksha, Perumal Temple, Tamil Nadu

Andal ([3]


  • Early life 1
  • Dedication to Vishnu 2
  • Andal's Bhakthi 3
  • Marrying the Lord 4
  • Literary works 5
  • Status in Society 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Periazhwar (originally called Vishnuchittar) was an ardent devotee of Vishnu and he used to string garland to Vishnu everyday. He was childless and he prayed to Vishnu to save him from the longing. One day, he found a girl child under a Tulsi plant in a garden inside the temple. He and his wife named the child as Kothai, who grew up as a devotee of Krishan, an avatar of Vishnu. She is believed to have worn the garland before dedicating it to the presiding deity of the temple. Periazhwar, who later found it, was highly upset and remonstrated her. Vishnu appeared in his dream and asked him to dedicate only the garland worn by Andal to him. The girl Kothai was thus named Andal and was referred as Chudikodutha Sudrakodi (lady who gave her garland to Vishnu). The practise is followed during modern times when the garland of Andal from Srivilliputhur Andal temple is sent to Azhagar Koyil on Garudostavam during the Tamil month of Puratasi (September - October) and Tirumala Venkateswara Temple during Chitra Pournami.[4]

Dedication to Vishnu

Kodhai was brought up by Vishnuchitta (Periyalvar) in an atmosphere of love and devotion. As Kodhai grew into a beautiful maiden, her fervor for the Lord Vishnu grew to the extent that she decided to marry only the Lord Himself. As time passed, her resolve strengthened and she thought constantly about marrying Ranganathar of Srirangam (the reclining form of Vishnu).[5][6]

Vishnuchitta (Periyalvar) understood the Divine Love that existed between the Lord Vishnu and his daughter. Kodhai was well-respected by devotees and came to be known as "Andal," the girl who "ruled" over the Lord. She is also known by the phrase, "Soodi kodutha Sudarkodi," which literally means, "The bright creeper-like woman who gave her garlands after wearing them."

Andal's Bhakthi

In North India, [3] emphasizes that the ultimate goal of life is to seek surrender and refuge at the Lord's feet. Initially, the Gopis ask Krishna for the Parai and other materials needed for fulfilling their vow, which they observe in the month of Marghazhi. But towards the end of the hymn, the request assumes philosophical tones, and their only wish is to serve Lord Vishnu at all times, vividly describing the permanent bond between the Paramatma and the Jivatma. The Gopis view Krishna as the Supreme Brahman (Lord).

Andal extols Krishna's Paratva, which coexists with His Saulabhya when He is in the midst of devotees. She praises Vamana for saving Indra; how He grew in size as Trivikrama; and how He measured the world with His auspicious feet. As Rama, He went to Lanka to kill Ravana and retrieve Sita. Then, as child Krishna, He saved Himself from the dangers posed by the emissaries of Kamsa who came to kill Him. Andal sings about how Krishna protected the entire Vrindavan people from many dangers; and how He saved the Vrindavan from the torrential rains by holding the Govardhana hill as an umbrella at the tip of His little finger.

Marrying the Lord

Parvathi (Lord Shiva's devotee) and Andal (Lord Vishnu's devotee) are similar in the sense that they showed their extraordinary bhakthi and love when they were four years old. Andal was four years old when she started to compose the hymns of the Thiruppavai, Nachayiyar Thirumozhi, and Vaaranam-Aayiram. Andal, like her father, sang a Pallandu to hail the Lord Vishnu as the unfailing Protector of all. She regarded Periyalvar not only as a father, but also as a preceptor. Her wish was that Lord Vishnu should accept them as His servants although they were only simple folk. This Dasya Bhava is the trait of a true Bhakta, and Andal taught how to cultivate this Bhava in all. Initially, the common people commented and mocked Andal as being insane, but Periyalvar supported her and encouraged her to be devoted to Lord Sri Vishnu. Periyalvar played an important role in nurturing Andal's Bhakti and helped her attain divine ecstasy. Even though she was born into a Brahmin family, she thought of herself as a Gopika and dressed herself as a Gopi, demonstrating her simplicity, humility, pure love, and devotion.

One of the ancient stories about Andal tells that she dressed herself as a bride, looked in a mirror, and wore a flower garland. Periyalvar, busy in his daily preparations to go to the temple, took that same flower garland to the temple. The temple priest noticed a strand of Kodhai's hair on one of the garlands and became annoyed that a used flower garland had been offered to the Lord Vishnu. Periyalvar was shocked, and realized that Andal had worn the garland. Meanwhile, Andal was happy thinking that her Lord would have accepted her garland. She grew sad, however, when Periyalvar rebuked her saying that Lord Vishnu had refused to wear the garland. Later Periyalvar tied together new garlands for Lord Vishnu made up of fresh flowers and took them to the temple. Miraculously, however, the Merciful Lord said that He wanted only the garland which had been worn by Andal. Periyalvar, in complete awe, immediately rushed to his house and brought the garland that Andal had worn (Periyalvar is believed to be an incarnation of Garudan, the vehicle of Lord Sri Vishnu). Thus, it became Periyalvar's wish that Andal should marry only Lord Sri Vishnu. Andal then told her father about her beautiful dreams in which the Lord came on an elephant to wed her. Andal described how she had composed her dreams into poems such as '"Vaaranam Aayiram".' The poems describe how Andal and Lord Sri Vishnu got married according to customs and rituals. The bride, Andal, was then taken to the Srirangam temple where she entered the sanctum sanctorum and was ushered into the Lord's presence. Periyalvar and others present were wonderstruck on witnessing these events, but the wise Periyalvar remained balanced and the absence of his daughter never disturbed him or broke his heart. As a father, he felt that his daughter was married and sent to her husband's home.

It is also believed that Ranganatha of Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple married Andal, who later merged with the idol. Since Andal married Ranganatha, who came as a king (called Raja), the presiding deity is called Rangamannar.[7]

Literary works

Andal composed two literary works, both of which are in Tamil verse form and express literary, philosophical, religious, and aesthetic content. Her first work is the Thiruppavai, a collection of 30 verses in which Andal imagines herself to be a Gopi, one of the cowherd girls known for their unconditional devotion to Lord Krishna. In these verses, she describes her yearning to serve Lord Vishnu and achieve happiness not just in this lifetime, but for all eternity. She also describes the religious vows (pavai) that she and her fellow cowherd girls will observe for this purpose. It is said that Thiruppavai is the nectar of Vedas and teaches philosophical values, moral values, ethical values, pure love, devotion, dedication, single-minded aim, virtues, and the ultimate goal of life.[8][9]

The second work by Andal is the Nachiar Tirumozhi, a poem of 143 verses. "Thirumozhi" literally means "Sacred Sayings" in a Tamil poetic style and "Nachiar" means Goddess. Therefore, 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 Vedas and Puranas, Andal creates imagery that is possibly unparalleled in the whole gamut of Indian religious literature. However, conservative Srivaishnavite institutions do not encourage the propagation of Nachiar Tirumozhi as much as they encourage Thiruppavai because Nachiar Tirumozhi belongs to an erotic genre of spirituality that is similar to Jayadeva's Gita Govinda.[10][11][12]

These works form an important part of the daily religious life of South India. The daily services in most Srivaishnava temples and households include recitation of the Thiruppavai which, like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, is recited with great religious fervor by women, men, and children of all ages, particularly in Tamil Nadu. Both of these works, particularly the Thiruppavai, have been studied extensively by scholars and have been translated into a number of languages over the centuries.

Some of Andal's verses express love for Lord Vishnu, written with bold sensuality and startlingly savage longing, hunger and inquiry, that even today many of her most erotic poems are rarely rendered publicly. In one such verse Andal dispenses with metaphor and imagines that she herself in lying in the arms of Krishna, and making love to him:


Andal whilst admiring herself wearing the garland which was meant for the deity,

the guilt glazed love lay on Andal's breasts.
thick and heavy as him.
frightened with force
and locked away, she conjured him every night,
her empurumaan, her emperor-man.


In one of her poems, Andal says that her voluptuous breasts will swell for the lord alone, and scorns the idea of making love to mortal beings, comparing that with the sacrificial offering made by Brahmins being violated by jackals in the forest,[18] and in another verse she dedicates her swelling breasts to the Lord who carries conch.[14]

Status in Society

Andal is now one of the best-loved poet-saints of the Tamils. Pious tradition holds her to be the incarnation of Bhūmi Devi (Sri Lakshmi as Mother Earth) to show humanity the way to Lord Vishnu's lotus feet. Representations of her next to Vishnu are present in all Srivaishnava temples. During the month of Margazhi, discourses on the Thiruppavai in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Hindi take place all over India.[19] The Andal Temple at Srivilliputhur consists of twin temples, one of which is dedicated to Andal. Most South Indian Vishnu temples have a separate shrine for Andal. There are a number of festivals dedicated to Andal, among the most notable being the Pavai Nonbu in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December – January), Andal Thirukalyanam in Panguni, Pagalpathu, Rapathu, Adi Thiruvizha, when Andal is depicted seated in the lap of Ranganathar.[20] Andal is known for her unwavering devotion to god Vishnu, the God of the Srivaishnavas. Adopted by her father, Periyalvar, Andal avoided earthly marriage, the normal and expected path for women of her culture, to marry Vishnu, both spiritually and physically. In many places in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Andal is treated more than a saint and as a form of god herself and a shrine for Andal is dedicated in most Vishnu temples.[21]

Thousands of people from the state participate in the "Aadi Pooram" festival celebrated in the Andal Temple. After early morning special pujas, the presiding deities, Sri Rengamannar and Goddess Andal are taken in decorated palanquins to the car. The festival marks the adoption of presiding deity, Andal, by Periyazhwar after he found her near a Tulsi plant in the garden of Vadabadrasai Temple at Srivilliputhur on the eighth day of the Tamil month of Adi.[22][23]


  1. ^ Chitnis, Krishnaji Nageshrao (2003). Medieval Indian History. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 116.  
  2. ^ Bryant, Edwin Francis (2007). Krishna: A Sourcebook. Oxford University Press. p. 188.  
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Rao, A.V.Shankaranarayana (2012). Temples of Tamil Nadu. Vasan Publications. pp. 195–99.  
  5. ^ "Andal Biography". Archived from the original on 23 July 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  6. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 192. 
  7. ^ Anantharaman, Ambujam (2006). Temples of South India. East West Books (Madras). pp. 177–181.  
  8. ^ "Life of Andal". Archived from the original on 5 July 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  9. ^ "Andal's Wedding". youtube. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Rao, Shivshankar (31 March 2013). "Saints - Andal". Sushmajee: Dictionary Of Hindu Religion Sketches. US Brahman Group. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  11. ^ Andal (14 October 2000). Andal: Tiruppavai/Nachiyar Tirumozhi. Penguin Books Australia.  
  12. ^ "Nachiyar aesthetically conceived". The Hindu. 5 January 2001. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  13. ^ Dalrymple, William (10 July 2015). "In search of Tamil Nadu’s poet-preachers" (London). Financial Times. The Financial Times Limited. Retrieved 13 July 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Chakravarty, Uma (1989). "The World of the Bhaktin in South Indian Traditions - The Body and Beyond" (PDF). Manushi. 50-51-52: 25. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  15. ^ Kandasamy, Meena (2010). Ms Militancy. Narayana.  
  16. ^ Mulchandani, Sandhya (2014). "Divine Love". The Indian Quarterly. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Bilwakesh, Champa (16 March 2011). "Ms Militancy, by Meena Kandasamy". Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  18. ^ Ghai, Anuj. "Reflections on Andal". Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  19. ^ "Āndāl, Saint Goda". Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  20. ^ S., Manickavasagam (2009). Power of Passion. Strategic Book Publishing. p. 163.  
  21. ^ "Architectural grandeur". The Hindu (Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India). 12 August 2005. 
  22. ^ "Thousands of devotees likely to throng Srivilliputtur today". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 25 July 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  23. ^ "Hundreds participate in Andal Temple car festival". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2006-07-30. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 

External links

  • Works by Andal at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
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