Andal & Thiruppavai are well known terms to the pious, whether they are from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka and the
month of Marghazi is celebrated across the southern states and also
by people staying overseas from these states with great piety and
religious fervour. For Tamil Iyengars it is more significant as the 30
verses of Thiruppavai is considered as a significant rendering
forming part of Nalayaria Divya Prabhandam or the 4000 verses in
praise of the Lord Vishnu. Almost in every village in south India, it
would be a quaint sight to see Marghazi Bajanai Koshtis (Bardssinging Thiruppavai) going from house to house in the early hours ofthe morning braving the mild to heavy winter period of DecemberJanuary.The tradition of setting aside days, weeks or months for abstinencefrom food mainly and all other worldly vices is common acrosscultures and religion. Hindu religion being one of the oldest and mostmature, has prescribed certain days of the year as days of abstinenceand piety. But with the entry of Sri Andal, one of the dozen alwars (orHoly saints) of the Vaishnavaite
(worshipers of Vishnu, one of the Trinity of Gods) tradition and the only one woman among them,towards seventh century, the tradition of an entire month being set aside for piety took root.The thirty verses of one of the most popular rendering in the Vaishnavaite and now Hindu tradition in general, Thiruppavai is sung with gusto and piety among the Hindu adherents all over the world in the Tamil month of Margazhi culminating in the Harvest festivals, Pongal, Sankranti, Baisaki etc.,
Thiruppavai, far from being a hymn alone, is also a literary poem with descriptions of places and events with great vivacity and elan. The usage of simple and elegant Tamil words adds to the tremendous value ascribed to these thirty verses sung one verse at a time each day invoking the blessings of the Lord and asking Andal's friends to wake up and join her. Through the celestial song, one could also understand and appreciate the way of life, the environment in which they lived, the way girls adorned themselves, their dress,their jewelry, the games that they played, their economic status, their convictions and their commitment to following traditions and of course, their love for Krishna, one of the Ten Reincarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Krishna was ordered to be killed as soon as he was born by the King Kamsa who feared his own death at the hand of one of the children born to Krishna's biological parents, Vasudeva and Devaki as prophesied earlier. Despite being the brother of Devaki, Kamsa ordered the death of each of the seven siblings born to Devaki and being the last one Krishna as soon as he was born was smuggled out and replaced by Devi and returned to Brindhavan to be raised among the cowherds by Nandagopala & Yashoda. Krishna, later avenged himself after returning to Mathura as a grown up by killing Kamsa. All these events are described briefly in one or the other of the verses of Thiruppavai.
Andal herself is considered to be a sort of an enigma as her birth is not normal as she was found near the Tulasi bush by her foster father Nammalvar and he named her Nappinnai and brought her up as his own dotting child. She had been taught all the best education that was available at that time and she was also adept at singing, legend says.Her love for parrot is celebrated even to this date by the ardent devotees by making a parrot each day using banana leaves and other embellishments for the resident Andal Deity at the Srivilliputtur temple in deep south of India. Andal having discovered her consort to be fairly early in her age had started pining for him and her poetry collection of 134 verses (not Thiruppavai) going by the name Nachhiar Thirumozhi or the words of the Consort of the Lord contains amazingly intimate references toher Lord and her pining to be by his side permanently.
Having nurtured such thoughts, it was impossible for her to think of any other(iv)earthly person for marriage and as such she started refusing any alliance brought by her father Nammalvar.That her Lord also had the same design was quite evident by the episode fondly narrated by the devotees.
Nammalvar was perplexed that Andal was spurning every alliance he brought for her and continued to chant the name of Lord as her choice for a bridegroom in marriage. The stressed out father had a vision one day in which the Lord Ranganatha appeared to tell him that his daughter was none other than Lakshmi his celestial consort who has now taken an avatar as a normal human, only to join Him eventually.
This event of Andal's reunion with the Lord is celebrated with pomp and piety every year in Srirangam temple. Andal possibly is the only deity in the world of the pious from any calling, to be given a credit line as a lyricist for her poem starting with the word “Varanamayiram” in the Nachhiyar Thirumozhi rendering. The credit line to Andal was given by the well known music director Illyaraja in the movie Hey Ram!In this book we bring to you the series that was written in 2018/19 December 16 to January 14 in my Facebook pages with additional information as and when needed. The three format brings to the context the meaning behind the poem, the actual poem in Tamil and finally the literal meaning of the poem. That this type of treatment to the celestial song collection as welcome was evident by the feed back his series received in Facebook. Many felt that putting things in context clarified a lot of doubts that they themselves had whilereciting the verses.
Even my friend Laurel Vicklund from WyomingUSA was regularly following and commenting on the experimenteach day as she felt that the songs went beyond the usual pattern ofany hymn. Dr Kerron Reddy, Chairman of AIMS Acharya group ofeducational institutions Bangalore felt that the treatment rendered inthe series was quite refreshing and put things in context helping toexperience the festivities associated with Marghazi better.We are grateful to all those who regularly followed the series on myFacebook wall. I would also like to thank my family members fortheir encouragement in trying this new approach to understandingand propagating what is possibly the best and most beautiful songsever written using such elegant Tamil language phrases and bringing(v)to mind the most beautiful life led by Andal and her friends in thetimes past.Our Acharyan Sri Madurakavi Ramanuja Jeer has been continuingthe tradition of encouraging observation of Marghazi monthtraditions set and followed by all the Jeers beginning withPonnaddikal Jeer who started the Nanguneri Vanamamalai Mutt atthe instance of his Guru Manavala Mamungal who lived in the 13thcentury.Thothathri Raman&Smitha Raman14th January, 2019