The Girl who Loved Garlands

Just as Meera is venerated in North India for her bhakti, Andal is a poetess saint who is revered for her devotion in South India during the Dhanurmasam month that begins during Margasira month. She is the only woman Alvar among the twelve Alvars and was the foster child of one of the Alvars. And who are Alvars – Alvars are medieval Sri Vaishnava poets of Tamil Nadu who composed poems in Tamil to make the essence of Vedas accessible to the masses. Historical documents suggest that Andal lived around 3000 BC. Others suggest she was born in the 8th century. 

Andal composed the Tiruppavai a poem composed of 30 verses and the Nachiar Thirumozhi - Sacred Sayings of the Goddess, a compilation of 143 verses. In Thiruppavai Andal depicts herself and her friends as as Gopikas or cowherd girls who have a longing to see the Lord and get eternal bliss.

In the temple town of Sirivilliputtur lived Perialvar Vishnuchittan. He was a childless man and would pray to Lord Vishnu to bless him with a child. After many years of ardent prayers one day, Vishnuchittan, found a baby girl under a Tulasi plant in the temple premises. He brought the girl home, named her Godhai and raised her as his own child. He taught her everything he knew about his dearly loved Lord Krishna.

Vishnuchittan used to make garlands that were given to the Lord. Godhai would watch her father going about his tasks every day. She loved playing with the flowers that were in the basket ready to be strung into a garland. She would make sure that her father took only the best flowers for the garland. Vishnuchittan was impressed by her attention to detail. Time went by and the girl was growing up as was her devotion to the Lord. Not just selecting the flowers Godhai would even ensure that the garland was perfect and she would actually wear the garland herself to check this. She would look at her reflection in the well to see how she looked. Vishnuchittan did not know about this. When he found out he chided her, but she would not listen to him.

Vishnuchittan was puzzled. He prayed to the Lord, “I found this girl in the tulasi garden, she wears the garlands I make for you. I have scolded her, but she does not heed”. The Lord appeared in Vishnuchittan’s dream and asked him not to chide Godhai for her acts. He said he liked her garlands. From that day Godai was called Andal, the one who ruled over the Lord.

When Andal reached puberty, Vishnuchittan began looking for matches for her marriage. But Andal was not interested in anyone. Her devotion to the Lord was complete and she would say I will marry the Lord Himself. She imagined the Lord wearing her garland and herself alongside Him.  Vishnuchittan was even more puzzled this time.

As the young teenaged Andal’s Bhakti reached its pinnacle there was an outpouring of devotion in the form of her poetry Thiruppavi and Nachiar Thirumozhi.

One day Lord Ranganatha came in Vishnuchittan’s dream and asked him to send Andal to his temple in all the wedding finery. Andal was very excited as she got into the palanquin.  At last, she was going to meet her Lord. As she neared the temple she jumped out and ran into the sanctum sanctorum. There was a flash of light and the temple doors closed. Andal had merged into the Lord. Andal was just about fifteen years of age at that time. She was SriBhudevi come to life and to this day finds a place next to the Lord in temples as Goda Devi.. 


More by :  Sujata C

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