Appearance of Sri Godadevi

Today is the appearance day of Sri Godadevi, popularly known as Andal, the only female alwar saint. Her compositions include the Tiruppaavai, and the Nachiyaar Tirumozhi. Of these two compositions, the verses of the Tiruppaavai are sung by most south Indians, especially in the month of Margasirsha (Dec-Jan)…

Sri Andal, an incarnation of Bhu devi appeared as a baby girl, at the base of a Tulasi plant in the garden of Perialwar (another famous alwar) while he was picking flowers for making a garland for the deity of Vishnu at the local temple – Sri Vatapatrasayee Perumal (“The Lord reclining on a Banyan Leaf”). Perialwar accepted the miraculous child as his own, and raised her with much love and affection.

The exact place of Sri Andal’s divine appearance

Years passed, and Sri Andal grew into a beautiful young woman, raised with stories of Lord Krsna’s heroic deeds. She yearned to be Lord Krsna’s lover, and passed her days dreamily hoping that the Lord would appear, and help make her dream a reality. Perialwar both admired his daughter’s devotion to the Lord, but was afraid that she was simply imagining the impossible.

Sri Andal

Each day, without the knowledge of Perialwar, Andal would adorn herself with the garland meant for the Lord Vatapatrasayee, and admire herself. Perialwar would offer the garland to the Lord, and the Lord accepted, pleased to receive a garland first worn by His own beloved Bhu devi. One day, Perialwar caught Andal wearing the garland, and chastised her for committing such an unthinkable offence. He made a fresh garland, and offered this to the deity of the Lord. The deity refused the garland, and Perialwar’s repeated attempts were futile. The deity was satisfied only when He was offered a garland first worn by Sri Andal.

Sri Vatapatrasayee Perumal with consorts

In the month of Margasirsha, Andal, desiring Lord Krsna as her husband, performed the paavai nombu (Katyayani Vrata) which had been performed by the gopis in the previous yuga. Since they had been successful in their pursuit of the Lord, Andal hoped for the same. She gathered her girlfriends each day, and glorified the Lord in simple Tamil verses, now known as the Tiruppaavai. (These verses are recited daily during deity worship in the Sri sampradaya, and the poems have popular appeal, making short appearances in movies, and classical music performances.)

Sri Andal with Her Lord, Sri Rangamannar

The story continues with Andal’s longing for union with the Lord, and ultimately the Lord marries Andal in person. Dressed in bridal splendor, the radiant Andal merged into the deity of Lord Ranganatha, returning to her eternal position beside the Lord, as His consort (this incident is mentioned by Srila Prabhupada in the purport to CC Madhya 9.79). Although rejoicing for his daughter’s good fortune, Perialwar lamented the her “loss,” and he installed a deity of Sri Andal in Srivilliputhur. To this day, the deities of Sri Andal, along with Sri Rangamannar, and Sri Perialwar are lovingly worshipped in Srivilliputhur, the town of Andal’s birth.

Sri Rangamannar in the wedding procession

Sri Andal’s appearance day is celebrated in Srivilliputhur with a special darshans, processions, and performances enlivening the entire celebration. Sri Andal is dear to devotees of the Lord, for her innocent and all-consuming devotion to Him. The verses of her compositions (now considered “bridal mysticism) exhort us to take shelter of the Lord’s Holy Name, and engage in constant remembrance of His lotus feet, and His ever-fresh pastimes.

Sri Andal on hamsa vahana (swan vehicle)

Sri Tondaradipodi Alwar said that the deity of Sri Ranganatha faces south, because He wanted to gaze constantly at Sri Lanka. Sri Perialwar said that Sri Ranganatha faced south in order to always bestow His auspicious glance on Vibheeshana, His pure devotee. Not to be outdone, Sri Vedanta Desikan said that Sri Ranganatha faces south, gazing at the town of Srivilliputhur, where His beloved Andal would appear to marry Him! Just from this, one can guage the depth of the Lord’s love for Sri Andal…

All Glories to the Daughter of Sri Perialwar! All Glories to the Goddess of Srivilliputhur!

{Pics courtesy of: http://picasaweb.google.com/venkatachariar}

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