India is a land of saints, since time immemorial. It is the land of living Tirthas – who demonstrated through their lives, the words of Vedas and Upanishads. The light emanating from these saints and sages have continued to guide many a traveler and showed them the source – the nectar of immortality.
This is my humble attempt to write on few such our country has seen over the years/ centuries.
A budding teenager – Andal…expressed her love for Ranganatha in words that spoke of deep emotion and utmost philosophy, reflecting maturity way beyond her tender years.
The lotus is greeting the rising sun
and the lily has closed its petals;
Wearing their saffron robes and ashes,
the ascetics are on their way to the holy temple
to sound the auspicious conch…..;
O talkative girl,
you, who boasted that you would be the first
to wake us up,
why don’t you get up!
We will sing the praises of the brave
and the beautiful Lord bearing
the conch and the wheel.
Andal was the very first lady poet of South India. She was one of the 12 Alwars and the only female of these illustrious Vishnu Bhaktas. Alwars were the saints who emphasized on devotion to God and worship through poetry, between the 5th and 9th Centuries. They were wanderers by nature and preached the love of Vishnu, phrased in words which were passionate and philosophical. This brought about a heritage of intensely emotional bhakti. Andal stands a striking example of such Bhakti. Her life and writings –are celebrated in Dhanurmasa (Margazhi) (Dec-Jan) every year.
Vishnuchitta was a Brahmin in Villiputtur, near Madurai. Quite accidentally, he found a girl child in his garden. Bereft of his own child, he happily adopted this flower and named her Godai – a gift of Mother Earth. Vishnuchitta was himself a great devotee of Krishna and Godai grew up in an environment of devotional poetry and philosophy. The child through her gentle ways, fell in love with Krishna and vowed to marry no one else but Him. She often play-acted her role of a lover and bride of Lord Ranganatha. She would adorn herself everyday with the garland prepared for the Lord at the temple and only then give it to the deity. Thus was her marriage every day to Lord Krishna.
One day her father found a stand of her hair in the garland adorning the Lord. He was aghast. Despite the philosophy and learning, rules and rituals seemed important. He strictly forbade his daughter from offering her garland to the Deity in the temple. He made another garland and offered it to the Lord. Lord Krishna appeared in his dream that night and asked him to offer only the garland adorned by Godai. From that day, she was called ‘Andal’ – the girl who ‘ruled’ over the Lord.
When Andal came of marriageable age, she refused to marry anyone but Ranganatha- the incarnation of Vishnu at Sri Rangam temple. Vishnuchitta was worried on this strange obstinacy of his daughter. In his dream, the Lord appeared and asked him to send Andal as a bride to the temple. She was thus taken to the temple as a bride and became the united with the Lord and disappeared in a haze of glory. Andal was only 15 at that time.
In North India, Radha is considered the queen of devotion. In Tamil Nadu, Andal is the epitome of love and bhakti.
Her first work is Tiruppavai, a composition of thirty verses, she imagines herself to be a cowherd girl (Gopi), communicating with Lord Krishna. Nachiyar Tirumoli (Sacred saying of our goddess) is her second creation, has 143 compositions – borne of deep longing of Andal for Vishnu. Her poetry remains a treasure house for Indian devotional literature.
Andal, the beloved, the poet-devotee, is present in all Sri-Vaishnava temples, next to her Lord as she always desired.