Andal, the presiding goddess of Srivilliputhur temple - interesting facts.

Located 80 km from Madurai, the Andal temple at Srivilliputhur in Virudhunagar district, Tamil Nadu is a famous one and is being visited by lots of people especially in December and January.   Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandham, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD and is one of the 108 Divyadesam shrines. The presiding deity Vishnu is  here known as  Vadapathrasayi or Rengamanner  and his consort  is Lakshmi (Andal). It is  believed  that the temple  is roughly 2000 years old.
Goddess Andal - some interesting facts:

01. There are two parts in the temple, the one at SW direction has the shrine of Andal and the northern one is dedicated to Vadapathrasayi.  In the Tamil month of Margazhi, among the Vishnu temples of South India, two temples of Tamil Nadu gain prominence - Sri Ranganathar temple, Srirangam  and Sri Andal temple at Srivilliputhur, the latter is associated with the life of Andal who is an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi. The temple, each year, celebrates three festivals, the most famous  being the birth of Andal (Adipoorum festival) that falls in the Tamil month of Aadi -J uly August.

02. Kothai, the adopted daughter of Periazhvar (Vishnuchittar), a well-known Vaishnava sage became a down to earth devotee of Sri Krishna (Vishnu) and one day she was wearing the flower garland (made by Periazhvar) intended for the lord. Periazhvar was quite upset and reprimanded his daughter. But the god in his dream told  the sage  to offer him daily for the puja the flower garland worn by Kothai.  Kothai's (Andal)  love for the lord was so intense, ultimately she married the lord at Srirangam and merged with Ranganathar (Vishnu) who was later called Rengamanner. Hence, Kothai was called Andal and got the appellation Chudi Kodutha Sudarkodi (the woman who gave the lord the flower garland worn by her)

Srivilliputhur, Tamil Nadu, India.

03. Andal is well-known for her wonderful Tamil literary works -Thirupavai (consisting of devotional songs) and Nachiyar Thirumozhi. During the entire month of Marghazi, each day one verse (hymn) from Thirupavai is recited in most of the Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. She wrote 30  devotional verses. Thirupavai songs have philosophical and spiritual connotations.  Devotion to god is a must and the ultimate goal of life is to seek surrender and refuge at the Lord's feet.

04. Nachiar Tirumozhi, comprising 143 verses does not gain prominence unlike Thirupavai as it belongs to an erotic genre of spirituality, more or less similar  to Jayadeva's Gita Govinda. Some of Andal's verses express Andal's mad love for the lord (Vishnu). But, it is written vividly with both sensuality and eroticism. 

05. In the sanctum sanctorum  (garbagriha /srikovil) Thayar Andal  is giving darshan from under gold plated ‘Pranavakirthi vimanam’. The vimanam (mini tower) is beautified with the poems of Sri Andal. 

06. The unique feature of the sanctum  here is the presence of Garudazhwar idol  along with Andal Thayar and Lord Rajamannar. Normally, in all Vishnu temples Garudazhwar has a small separate shrine  in  front of main shrine facing the lord. Walls around the shrine have the paintings of Andal, depicting her life. 

07. Here in the sanctum. a  hand-crafted parrot with fresh green leaves adorns the left hand of Andal's idol. An  interesting fact is it is specially made daily by the florist for the goddess. It is a time- consuming and difficult task and it roughly takes four and half hours to make this beautiful parrot.  Pomegranate flower for beak and mouth, Bamboo sticks for legs, banana leaves, petals of pink oleander and nandiyavattai flower go into the preparation of the parrot.

08. Almost in all Vishnu temples of south India  there is a small shrine dedicated to Andal as  she happens to be an  incarnation of Bhumi Devi (Sri  Lakshmi). But, at Srivilliputhur, there is a separate temple dedicated to goddess Andal and the other one is for  Vadapathrasayi or Rangamanner. She is considered more a goddess than a saint as she married the lord. 

09. The garden, where Andal was found by Periazhvar under Tulsi plants as a little child, is called  Tiruppora mandapam. It is believed that this mandapam and Andal idol were built by Periazhwar after his return from Srirangam where he gave his daughter Andal in marriage to Lord Rajamannar.

10. Once Andal wanted  to offer 100 pots of butter and Akara vadisal (sweet food item) to Kallazhagar of Azhagar Koil in Madurai. She could not fulfill it  in her lifetime. The great saint Sri Ramanujar fulfilled Andal's desire  on her behalf. On his visit to the Andal temple, Sri Ramanujar heard  Andal's voice calling him “My dear elder Brother” ‘Anna’ Ramaunajar, later came to be called ‘Koil annan’ from that day.

11. The Abisheka (anointing) thailam, that is believed to contain 61 herbs, has medicinal qualities. People apply this oil on their body for various ailments.

12. The Srivilliputhur temple, every year, conducts  a number of festivals dedicated to Andal, among them, the  most notable being the Pavai Nonbu in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December – January).  Andal Thirukalyanam (wedding) in Panguni, Pagalpathu, Rapathu, Adi Thiruvizha, when Andal is depicted as sitting on the lap of  Ranganathar are other temple festivals that attract lots of devotees.

Andal temple  car festival , Srivilliputhur.

13. Aadi Pooram" festival in the Andal Temple draws lots of devotees. In the early morning after special pujas, the presiding deities, Thiru Rengamannar and Goddess Andal are taken in decorated palanquins to the ther (car or ratham or chariot). The festival is about  adoption of goddess Andal, by her father Periazhwar who, as per legend,  found her near a Tulsi plant in the garden of the temple at Srivilliputhur on the eighth day of the Tamil month of Adi.

14. For Tirupathi Venkateswara temple Brahmotsavam festival, every year, the garland worn by Andal in Srivilliputhur temple (Tamil Nadu) is reverentially sent all along to Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh one day before the Brahmotsavam. These  special garlands are used on the Garuda seva day at Tirupathi.

15. Every year Tirupathi Venkateswara’s garland is sent to Srivilliputtur Andal for Andal Thrukalyanam festival (wedding of Andal / Adi poorum).

16. Madurai Chithrai Thiruvizha (festival) is a major religious event attended by lakhs of people. Andal temple at Srivilliputhur has a tradition to  send the garland worn by Andal to Kallazhagar (Vishnu) during the Chithirai festival event.

Srivilliputhur Andal and her hair style. Photo Gallery - Divyadesams

17. Goddess Andal's hair style and ornaments are unique here unlike the ornamentation and hair style of goddess Lakshmi.  Andal Kondai (typical 
hair styling tilted to one  side and elaborate plaited hair) is famous and quite striking. In the Vaishnava Brahmin weddings, invariably, the bride wears  Andal Kondai and madisar and this tradition has been  in vogue for centuries.