Goddess Andal and Margazhi month - Hindu religious tradition and worship

Andal and Vishnu, Srivilliputhur temple. -Divyadesam

Birth of Andal, Srivilliputhur, TN.  sojournwithsan.com

Above image: The birth of Andal. The baby  was found in the temple garden by Periazhwar . When she grew up, she was admiring the flower garland  worn by her in the mirror. The garland was intended for the presiding deity - Vishnu, not to be worn by the mortals.........................................  
The Tamil month of Margazhi (December 14 to January 14) is very much synonymous with rendering of  ''Thirupavai'  at Vishnu temples, particularly, in Tamil Nadu.   Andal or Kothai Nachiyar is the one who composed those soul-stirring and heart rending Thirupavai  devotional hymns  in chaste Tamil. Daughter of Perizhawar (originally called Vishnuchittar), a well known exponent of Vaishnavism and Tamil poet,  Andal is one of the twelve Azhwars  or saints in the Vaishnava tradition.

Periazhwar idol, Srivilliputhur. anudinam.org

Vaishnavite Tamil saint Periazhwar,Srivilliputhur. anudinam.org 

Above image:  Periazhwar  (born Vishnuchittar) is one of the revered  12 Vaishnavite  Tamil saints -Azhwars, South India. In the complication of  Nalayira Divya Prabandham, they glorified 108 Vishnu temples  in their works. The  Vaishnava tradition is part of Hinduism. and he is the foster father of Andal, the only woman Azhwar saint. His devotional verses Thirupallandu and Periya Azhwar Thirumozhi are well-known.   At many Vishnu temples, the festivals are associated with him and the popular  Garudasevai festival in Srivilliputhur temple, in which five Vishnu temples in this  vicinity participate, is  dedicated to him for his status among the saints,....................................

Born at Srivilliputhur  (80 kilometers from Madurai), in the Tamil month of Adi (July 15th to August 15th) under birth-star Pooram,   Andal was  the adopted daughter of Periyazhwar who found her near a Tulasi tree in the  garden of the Perumal  temple  known as  Sri Vatapathra Sayee.  Childless Periazhwar and his wife  took her as their  own daughter and right from  the early age  Kothai, as she was named, evinced keen interest in the worship of the presiding deity there and her spiritual surroundings helped her shape up her life to the service of god - lord Vishnu. She enjoyed listening to the  holy discourses in mythology, epics like  the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and to the recitals of devotional songs. Among the mythological stories she listened to, the story of Sri. Bala Krishna (an avatar of Vishnu), his pranks (Leelas) with Gopikas drew her attention very much.  It became her obsession and she developed a deep love and devotion for Sri. Krishna. 

Andal temple main Gopuram (tower), Srivilliputhur,alamy.com

Sri Andal temple, Srivilliputhur, TN. tripadvisor.in

Srivilliputhur. TN:Andal temple raja gopuram TripAdvisor  

Andal's father Periazhwar daily used to offer flower garland made by him for the lord in the temple. Kothai used to help him make the garland. Actually, the child was none other than Mahalakshmi (consort of lord Vishnu) herself  and incarnated to test the devotion of Periazhwar.  One day, upon seeing his daughter wearing the flower garland that was made  for the lord  before dedication, and admiring it in the mirror, he was shocked and was not happy about it. The garland worn by her became unfit to be used  for pooja purpose. He felt it was  an act of irreverence and disdain and reprimanded Kothai. Consequently, that day he did not offer the garland to the lord.

Andal temple, TN  srivilliputhurandaltemple.tnhrce.in

That night Periazhwar had a dream, the lord told him that he liked  very much the  flower garland worn by Kothai.  After this strange dream, he realized his folly and understood the depth of devotion of his divine daughter to the lord. Periazhwar, then onward, offered the garland worn by his daughter to the lord for pooja ritual at the Srivilliputhur Perumal temple. Kothai came to be called Andal and got the appellation  ‘Choodai Kodutha Nachiar’ meaning one who offered flower garland worn by her to the presiding lord.

When she came of age, there was no stopping of Andal and  her love for the lord became intense. She made up her mind to marry the lord (Sri Ranganathar at Srirangam) at any cost. As advised by the elders, she observed the  Margazhi prayer rituals,  a custom observed by unmarried girls to get a suitable husband.  In the month of Margazhi, Andal, along with her friends used to play at Ayarpadi (Brindavan), she assuming herself as Gopika and performing pujas to the deity of Sri Krishna.  She sang  devotional songs that she composed in praise of Krishna. These thirty Tamil devotional hymns are about how she and her friends were engaged in bhajans and puja rituals of Sri Krishna on the river banks. These  mesmerizing songs bring about Andal's passion, depth of  devotion and her keen desire to take refuge at his feet.  This is what Thiruppavai is all about and its rendition in musical form is quite appealing to one's mind and soul. It is a spiritual quest for the devotees who seek salvation. 

Location map.  Srivilliputhur  weather-forecast.com

Her other Tamil literary work is Nachiar Tirumozhi that has 143 hymns. These hymns bring out the various moods of a bridal love -  joy and sorrow, dejection and hope and triumph and total surrender.
Following the instructions given by the lord in a dream, Periazhwar took Andal to Srirangam Ranganathar temple in bridal attire. As instructed by the lord in a dream to the chief temple priest, a simple wedding party was arranged at Srirangam temple. It is believed that lord Ranganathar came there as King Raja Sriman Andhra Vishnu. Soon Andal gracefully entered  the Garbagriha - sanctum and fell at the feet of Lord Ranganathar and  merged with him  and became one in the presence of a small crowd that stood there in astonishment. She, through utter devotion, attained divinity and became  a venerated goddess. Ranganathar assumed the name of Rangamanner.

The holy month of Margazhi is closely associated with Sri Andal and her unalloyed devotion to Sri Krishna. At every Vishnu temple in Tamil Nadu  in the early morning  reverberates her devotional hymns that give us spiritual awakening and enlightenment. Thus Andal / Kothai Nachiyar  who is believed to have lived in the first half of 8th century CE,  has become an immortal and a venerated saint in the Vainshnava Sambradhayam.


Goddess Andal in Thanjavur paintings -22 ct gold foil. jlineexoticarts.com

01. Every year, tradition has been that for Tirupathi Venkateswara temple Brahmotsavam festival, the garland worn by Andal in Srivilliputhur temple (Tamil Nadu) is reverentially sent  to Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh one day before the Brahmotsavam.   These traditional garlands are made of tulasi, sevanthi and sampangi flowers.  These garlands adorn the deity at Tirupathi on  Garuda seva day  when  the lord  appears as Maha Vishnu.

02. Likewise, every year Tirupathi Venkateswara’s garland is sent to Srivilliputtur Andal temple for marriage festival  (Thirukalyanam) of Andal Thayar

03. During the famous Chithrai festival at Madurai,  every year  Andal's  garland is being sent to Kallazhagar (Vishnu) when he visits to see Meenankshi's wedding (Thirukalyanam) with Sudareswarar (Shiva). 

04. Pavai Nonbu in the Tamil month of Margazhi  is an important festival dedicated to Andal. 

05. Devotional Andal songs of Thirupavai has inspired countless classical dancers. The colorful display of dances is choreographed in different styles  and Andal songs are set to music for them.

06.  Thirupavai gives much emphasis on various aspects of good life -  philosophical, moral and ethical values that the humans need to possess,  coupled with devotion to god, faith in him. and self realization.

07.  Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar Dynasty composed the epic poem Amuktamalyada in Telugu that describes the story of Andal or Goda Devi, the daughter of Periazhwar of Srivilliputhur..