- by T.S. Sundara Rajan.


The asterism 'tiru-vADippUram' (the next one falls on Aug 6 Wednesday) marks a fragrant day in our calendar, as the 'tiru-nakshatram' of ANDAL. This blessed day is highlighted by SrI maNavALa-mAmunigal in the 'upadESa-ratnamAlai' stanza ~

"periyAzhvAr peNpiLLai-yAi ANDAL piranda
tiruvADip-pUrattin SIrmai, oru nALaikku
uNDo? manamE uNarndu pAr, ANDALukku
uNDAgil oppu idaRkum uNDu."

On this day, the 'rathOtsavam'/'tiruttEr' festival is celebrated in SrIvilliputtUr, when ANDAL in her bridal finery and her winsome consort SrIrangamannAr mount the imposing 'ratham' (the loftiest in the country), to course through their domain. This is verily a heavenly celebration of the profoundest of mystical and literary traditions of the country.

ANDAL is venerated as divinity per se. The great hagiographer pinbazhagia perumAL jIyar affirms this by citing the SlOkam ~

dEvasya mahishIm divyAm AdAu gOdAm upAsmahE |
yan-mAuli-mAlikAm prItyA svIkarOti svayam prabhu: ||

It is said that for the mental peace of a disciple who confessed to restlessness, SrI parASara bhaTTar composed two SlOkam: the first one, "bhUtam saraScha mahadAhvaya..." naming the ten 'divya sUri' (AzhvAr) and SrI uDaiyavar, and the second one, "nILA-tunga- stana-giri-taTI-suptam..." exclusively devoted to the 'daivatam' (ANDAL). These two SlOkam constitute important 'taniyan' to 'aruLic-cheyal anusandhAnam' (recitation of 'divya-prabandham).

'kOdai' and 'gOdA'

'kOdai' was the first name periyAzhvAr gave to ANDAL. This Tamil word stands for 'a string of flowers'. In the golden quadrangle of tirukkuRunkuDi, vAnamAmalai, AzhvAr-tirunagari and SrIvilliputtUr, girl-children were commonly named 'mAlA-nAcchiyAr'. When the Tamil name was Sanskritised as 'gOdA', it yielded a rainbow of meanings. In Sanskrit, the root 'gAuh' means, inter alia, the 'vEdam'; hence, 'gOdA' signifies one who gives of the 'vEdam'.

ANDAL Book is scripture

"vEdam anaittukkum vittAkum kOdai tamizh" is how SrI vEdappirAn bhaTTar affirmed tiruppAvai's scriptural status. As SrI parASara-bhaTTar perceives it, ANDAL in her Book seems to instruct ISvara Himself on his majesty, on the several proofs of the Sruti, in his being One without a second: "kr*shNam pArArthyam svam Sruti-Sata-Siras-siddham adhyApayantI". This was no parochial or denominational boast.

It was given to SrI kAnchI (prativAdi-bhayankaram aNNA) svAmi of blessed memory, to identify the several vEdic sources of not only tiruppAvai but of 'nAcchiyar tirumozhi' as well. In the best of poets' traditions in all climes and languages, the ANDAL Book reisters many an echo of revelations in the smr*ti as well. The well- known line "achalAm Sriyam ApnOti" (in the 'sahasranAma phalaSruti') reads as "nIngAda Selvam niRaindu" (in the 'Ongi ulakaLanda...' tiruppAvai).

"sakhEti matvA prasabham yad-uktam...
ajAnatA mahimAnam tavEdam... tat kshAmayE..."
(from SrImad-bhagavad-gItA 11:41-42) reads as
"aRiyAda piLLaikaLom, anbinAl untannai
SiRu-pEr azhaittanavum SIRi aruLAdE,
(in the 'kaRavaikaL...' tiruppAvai).

The dear and auspicious 'rukmiNI-pariNayam' chapter of SrImad-bhAgavatam contains rukmiNI-dEvi's heart-rending appeal to SrIkr*shNa to rescue her from being forced in marriage to SiSupAla. She urges that a lowly character like SiSupAla be not allowed to appropriate the offering (that is, herself) already dedicated to SrIkr*shNa.

"mA vIrabhAgam abhimarSatu chaidya ArAd
gOmAyuvan-mr*gapatE: balim ambujAksha!"

These charged lines, we know, translate into nAcchiyAr tirumozhi (1:5) as

"vAniDai vAzhum avvAnavarkku
maRaiyavar vELviyil vakutta avi
kAnidait-tirivadOr nari pukundu
kaDappadum mOppadum Seivadoppa..."

One could stray outside of SrIvaishNavam and discover in the Bible books of Solomon's Song and the Psalms several parallelisms (of lyrical expression, sentiment, episodic situation and even doctrine) with texts from nAcchiyAr Book, and from the entire run of aruLiccheyal. Thus, the following texts read like translations of each other:

~ "the smell of thy garments..." (SSong 4:11)
~ "peNNin varuttam aRiyAda perumAn araiyil pItaka- vaNNa-vADai..." (nAcchiyAr 13:1);
~~ "his lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh" (SSong 5:13)
~~ "karuppUram nARumO, kamalap-pU nARumO? tirup-pavaLac-chevvAi tAn.." (nAcchiyAr 7:1)

The 'aruLiccheyal' occasionally brings up to an episode or two which are not traceable in the popular Sanskrit canon. I for one could not guess the source of "Amai-yAi gangai-yAi" of periyAzhvAr (4:9:5) till I came across a 'rasOkti' essay of SrI kAnchi-svAmi tracing it to harivamSam. Likewise ANDAL speaks of a fine point of ritual procedure in,

"muLLum illAc-chuLLi eri maDuttu
muyanRu unnai nORkinREn kAmadEvA!" (nAcchiyAr 1:2).

I discovered (and I regarded the discovery as a blessing of ANDAL) from the relatively less-known 'vishNu-dharmOttara- purANam' that the pippala (ficus indicus?) samit (twigs offered in hOmam/oblation) with spiky notches were prescribed for 'black' rites (abhisArika yajna) provided for in the (AitarEya?) brAhmaNa; accordingly, in organising the rite for winning over tiruvEnkatam-uDaiyAn, this young prodigy takes care to select for her sAttvika-hOmam the notch-free twigs. These are only a few illustrations of ANDAL Book as scripture.

ANDAL in SrIrangam

It is important to note that as many as three shrines are dedicated to ANDAL in Srirangam. It is well-known that to-day's chitra (originally, mADa) vIthi constitutes the seventh and last of the dedicated enclosures (tiru-vIthi / prAkAram) of periya- perumAL. There is an eighth enclosure, known as 'aDAiya- vaLAindAn' (meaning, 'all-embracing'). [Even though this eighth enclosure is the 'outer' one, its name served as a metaphor for a gloss ~ aDAiya-vaLAindAn arum-pada-urai ~ on tiruvAimozhi, written after the IDu.] At the time when periyAzhvar escorted ANDAL on pilgrimage to Srirangam, the present-day uttara (trivikraman) and chitra (mADa) vIthi were tenanted by only the temple functionaries; accordingly, the AzhvAr (and, of course, ANDAL) put up in the south-western part of 'aDaiya-vaLaindAn', so as to be within easy reach of the streamlet 'tirumanjana- kAvEri'. On this site came up the first ANDAL sannidhi in Srirangam. Here ANDAL is represented in the 'seated' posture and is worshipped only in the 'mUla' form; since the sannidhi is on the 'veLit-tirumuRRam' [outer yard] of the periya-kOyil, it is referred to as the 'veLi ANDAL sannidhi', and it could be almost as ancient as the SrIvilliputtUr ANDAL sannidhi. This sannidhi is administered by SrI kOyil kandADai aNNan tirumALigai.

The second ANDAL shrine (commonly referred to as the 'uL ANDAL) is approached from the 'ranga-vilAsam'; the 'utsava mUrti', also in the seated posture, was moved here from the veLi ANDAL sannidhi. SrIrAma is also worshipped in this sannidhi, and one can notice a replica of uDaiyavar's 'tAn-Ana tirumEni' in a sub-shrine here. It is on this spot that the enchanting episode of "vAraNam Ayiram" is recalled, after namperumAL dismisses the Anai-vAhanam (elephant mount) and pauses to exchange garlands with ANDAL.

A few steps to the east of chandra-pushkariNI, and across SrI-kOdanDa-rAman sannidhi, is the parama-pada-nAthan sannidhi where all the AzhvAr are in 'sAlOkyam' with perumAL. In this sannidhi, ANDAL (in standing posture as in SrIvilliputtUr) is worshipped in a sub-shrine. In simhAchalam (near viSAkhapatnam), uDaiyavar had raised a shrine for ANDAL (in the same stance) near the SrI varAha-nr*simha sannidhi, to recall the 'mAri-malai muzhanchil mannik-kitandu uRangum SIriya Singam..." tiruppAvai.

periyAzhvAr's darling child

'archA' or vigraham or pratimA, for the SrIvaishNava, is the sentimentally satisfying and self-sufficient proof, and manifestation of the Deity; this is the case in every one of our 108 'divya-dESam'. The Lord beckons to each of us and admits us to His epiphany in a 'divya-dESam' of his choice; the entirety of 'aruLic-cheyal'/'divya-prabandham' is but a luminiscent record and testament of each AzhvAr's experiences during such ecstatic visitations. Just to gaze ('sadA paSyanti) at ANDAL at SrIvilliputtUr is indeed such transport; one verily is reminded of periyAzhvar's remembrance (8:1) of ANDAL ~

"oru-makaL tannai-yuDaiyEn, ulakam niRAinda pukazhAl
tirumakaL pOl vaLarttEn, SenkaN-mAl tAn konDu pOnAn!"

periyAzhvar is consistent in the memory of his precious child ANDAL. His initial book tirup-pallAnDu declares that he had 'no want', being in the service of the Lord:

"ennAL, emperumAn! un-tanakku aDiyom enRu ezhuttuppaTT annALE aDiyOngaL aDik-kudil vIDu-petru uindadu kAN!"

ANDAL having attained mystic union with 'periya-perumAL' in SrIrangam, periyAzhvAr returned all by himself; nevertheless, he exclaims (in his final decad) in fulfilment, "Who in this world but me can be so blessed as my being yours?":

"ninnuLEnAip-peRRa nanmai ivvulakinil Ar peRuvAr?"

ANDAL's shrine in SrIvilliputtUr

We cannot but marvel at the manner in which ANDAL shrine dominates that of SrI-vaDa-perum-kOyil-uDaiyAn ('vaTa-patra- SAyI) in SrIvilliputtUr; just the same with nammAzhvAr shrine and that of Adip-pirAn in AzhvAr-tirunagarI, of uDaiyavar and of SrI AdikESavap-perumAL in SrIperumpudUr.

The vaTa-patra-SAyI 'gOpuram' at SrIvilliputtUr acquired a distinction of recent history when it was adopted as the emblem of the government of Tamil Nadu; the sacred temple's lofty gOpuram is presently in near-ruin condition nevertheless. Not much is being spoken of the huge and surpassingly beautiful terra-cotta images of lakshmI-nArAyaNa and SrI-nr*simha cresting this gOpuram. The fine-carved wooden images in the courtyard (tirumuRRam) of vaTa-patra-SAyI, like the breathtaking stone freizes on the interior of tiruk-kuRun-kuDi gOpuram, deserve notice.

We should learn to contemplate a divya-dESam in its entirety. When great souls like uDaiyavar visited any of these, they absorbed everything that was to a place: the streams, the mountain-stretch, the orchards and arbours, the approaches and streets around the temple, et al. In SrIvilliputtUr, there is a whole street (to the north of the temple) named after the 'kandADaiyAr' clan which yielded jewels of AchArya like SrI mudali-ANDAn (uDaiyavar's nephew), SrI kOyil aNNan, tirumaNi appan svAmi, sholingur (SOzha-singha-puram) doDDAchar who wrote the well-known 'chanDa-mArutam' commentary on svAmi-dESikan's 'SatadUshaNI'.

SrIvilliputtUr happens to be among the places where SrInAthamuni's institution of aRAiyar / viNNappam-seyvAr (reciters of 'aruLiccheyal') has survived. Other places are SrIrangam, AzhvAr-tirunagari, tiruk-kuRun-kudi and mElkOte/ tiru-nArAyaNapuram. It is blessed soil, this place named after the wild bowmen tribe of 'villi'; mutter to yourself the verse of vEdappirAn bhaTTar if you sought to know how rich it is in vibrations:

"kOdai piranda Ur, gOvindan vAzhum Ur,
SOdi maNi-mADam tOnRum Ur -- nItiyAl
nalla pattar vAzhum Ur, nAn-maRaigaL Odum Ur,
villiputtUr vEdak-kOn Ur !"

While in SrIvilliputtUR, wait for the bewitching moment when aRAiyar recites svAmidESikan's hymn-consummate 'gOdA-stuti' ~~

sAkshAt kshamAm karuNayA kamalAm-ivAnyAm
gOdAm ananya-SaraNaS-SaraNam prapadyE !"

ANDAL tiruvaDikaLE Saranam.