As I had mentioned in the post on Margazhi thingal, Aandal is one of the main godesses of the month and is known for her work – Thiruppavai, a composition of 30 verses. She sings these on each day of the month. On the 30 day, she gets married to the Lord Ranga Mannar, because of her Supreme love and devotion towards Him.
Her story starts like this…
Vishnucitta, who was incharge of doing pooja to Lord Vishnu in Srivalliputthur, a place in South India, found a beautiful girl child beneath a tulsi plant in his garden. Vishnucitta was delighted and named her Kodai or Mother Earth’s gift, and took her home. As she grew up, he used to tell her stories of Lord Vishnu and His various forms. Soon, she started helping her father string the floral garland for the Lord every morning.
She always imagined herself to be like one of the gopis of Krishna and had so much of love for Him, that she wanted to get married to the Lord. One day, she wanted to see how the garland she made for the Lord looked on her. So, wearing the garland, she peeped into the well in the courtyard to take a look at her garlanded self. When she was doing so, her father caught her doing this. As, it is generelly considered inauspicious to offer anything to the Lord, that was already used by a human being, he was extremely upset and scolded Kodai for commiting such a sin and made a new garland and offered it to the Lord. But, the Lord did not accept it. It kept falling down again and again. Perplexed and worried, he prayed and cried to the Lord as to why He did not accept his garland.
That very night the Lord appeared in Vishnuchitta’s dream and asked him why he had discarded Kodai’s garland instead of offering it to Him. He told Vishnucitta that He wanted only that mala that was worn by Kodai. This moved Vishnucitta so much and he started to realize the Divine Love that existed between the Lord and his daughter.
From then, Kodai has been respected by the devotees and came to be known as “Aandaal”, the girl who “ruled” over the Lord through supreme love. She is also known by a phrase “Soodi kodutha Sudarkodi” which means “The bright creeper-like woman who gave her garlands after wearing them”. She is one amongst the Alvars* and is also regarded as Bhoodevi, or the Goddess of Earth, as she was first seen on the ground.
During the month of Margazhi, with full love for the divine, she does a cute penance of waking up early in the morning (early = bhrama muhurtham, 4:00 am), taking cold water bath, waking up all her friends and then going to the temple singing songs of the divine, focussing and dedicating the whole month only to the divine. The whole month she does not eat any dairy products, which is supposed to be a necessary part of food and does not beautify herself. This, she does for 26 days and on the 27th day, she, along with her friends, finishes her vrat and makes a ghee saturated and overflowing “sakkarai pongal” and everyone celebrates – this day is called the “Koodaraivalli”! 🙂 In almost all the houses in Tamilnadu, they prepare this dish on the 27th day of Margazhi … it’s yummy, no adjective can fully explain it’s taste!!!;-)
One of the most romantic works of Aandaal is “Nachiyaar Thirumozhi”(Nachiyaar = Aandal, Thirumozhi = wise sayings), in which she narrates in vivid detail, her dream of marrying Lord Vishnu. This is a celebrated poetic work and is chanted during wedding rituals even today :-).
It is said that the Lord once again appeared in Vishnuchitta’s dream and directed him to bring His bride Aandaal to the temple at SriRangam, where He would marry her. Following the divine ordinance, Vishnuchitta led Aandaal in a bridal procession to the grand temple at Srirangam, where Aandaal walked in and disappeared into the sanctum of the temple, merging completely with the Lord. (It’s so cool, isn’t it??!!)
The story of Aandal and her love towards the Lord Vishnu is very much similar to that of Radha during the time of Krishna. I personally love this story because, I have always felt a personal connection with all the Gods and Godesses, that they are not somewhere high above, but can be attained through divine Love – bhakti :-).(If you get what I mean!)
Vishnuchitta, a great devotee himself, came to be called as Periyalvar and is also one amongst he alvars (*Alvar / Aazhwar – meaning those immersed in God).
The temple at Srivalliputtur is wonderfully constructed, you can even today see a garden there where Aandal was first found. The Gopuram huge and very beautiful. It is contained in the emblem of Tamilnadu Government.(my sis wanted me to put this emblem thing here! :-))
Note: My dear staunch learned friends : the above story is based on my limited knowledge.:-) You can differ! 😉
PS: This year, 2010, on the Koodaraivalli day, 7 of us(thanks to Priya and my mom for the apt suggestion of the dish) prepared lunch for Guruji!! And guess what??!! We had prepared the ghee overflowing Sakkarai Pongal for Him, and believe me, it had never ever tasted like it, till date!!! The most lovliest tastiest Pongal we had!