Andal, a Tamil saint is known all over the world for her unparalleled devotion to Lord Krishna. She is said to be always immersed in her devotional ecstasy. Andal is known in the Tamil language as an Alwar, one who is “immersed” in the depths of enjoyment of God. Of the twelve Alwars, Andal is the only female Alwar of Vaishnavism. These saints revitilised the Tamil region of South India between the fifth and ninth centuries by their dedicated devotion for the Lord. She is credited with the Tamil works of Thiruppavai and Nachiar Thirumozhi which are still recited by the devout in the month of Margasira. The Srivilliputhoor temple is dedicated to her and is also her birthplace.
It is a well known fact that Mother Sita, the consort of Sri Rama was found in the royal gardens of Mithila by Janaka Maharaja. Andal was born as the incarnation of Bhudevi in the garden of Vishnuchittar under a Tulasi plant. Sri Vishnuchittar was endowed with the title of “Periazhwar” meaning “the most enlightened who could rule over the Lord Himself.” Periazhwar raised Andal with great love, affectionately calling her as “Godai (child of the earth) or “Kodai” (garland of flowers) and enchanting her with stories of Krishna. As a result, Andal developed deep love for Krishna and considered herself as God’s bride. This love for her Lord blossomed into the immortal work “Thiruppavai.” Andal was so profoundly enthralled by the Bhakti of Gopis and the deeds of Krishna in Mathura and Brindavan during the Dwapara Yuga (aeon) that she too desperately wanted to immerse in the Divine experience.
Sri Thiruppavai Mahotsavam is a three-day programme culminating on the afternoon of 11th September with Sri Andal Kalyanotsavam. Sai Kulwant Hall was elaborately decorated with flowers; the periphery of the hall was punctuated with the portraits of the 12 Alwars. On the dais of the hall was installed the lustrous idols of Sri Rangamannar in the centre and Sri Andal and Sri Garudalwar on either side. The festivities began on the morning of 9th September 2009 at 7 a.m. with Swasti Vachanam (in Krishna Yajus, there is a topic called Swasti Vachanam, which comprises 4 Anuvakas. These Anuvakas are recited during Utsava Parayana, accompanying the Acharyas and such other occasions). Then the Prathishtaapana (ritualistic installation of the idols) and Puja (worship) of the idols in the centre of the dais was done. Parayana of 1-10 Pasurams (an eight-lined verse) of Thiruppavai was performed by the priests with devotional fervour. Collective chanting of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama (1008 names of Vishnu) was then done by all devotees present in the hall with Akshatas (sanctified rice) supplied by the organisers. The morning programme came to a close with Bhajan and Arati at 9.40. The function is being conducted by 7 priests headed by Sri Gopala Bhattar.
The proceedings for the evening started with Puja at 4.00. Bhagawan came to the hall at 4.15 and proceeded to the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre for Sports. He returned to Sai Kulwant Hall at 5.10 p.m. The speaker for the evening was Vidwan (scholar) Nidumaamidi Sri Srikanta Rao on the inner significance of Thiruppavai. Offering his salutations to Bhagawan, the erudite speaker said that Thiruppavai was suffused with Bhakti Rasa (essence of Bhakti). Beginning his speech with the circumstances leading to birth of Sri Andal (explained earlier), Sri Srikanta Rao said that Andal was called Choodi Kodatha Nachiyar, since she wore the garland before it was placed on the idol of the Lord. Sri Andal transformed herself into a Yadava girl of Mathura and beseeched the Lord for His love. She undertook a vrata (vow) much similar to the Karthiyayani Vrata of the Gopis of Brindavan beginning on the first day of Margasira (mid-December to mid-January) and adorning each day of the month with a new Pasuram.
Sri Andal wanted all women to perform the Vrata and earn the grace of the Lord, said the speaker. Thiruppavai is a mangalakara (sacred and auspicious) vrata. In Tamil language, this text is very revered and placed on an exalted state. There is Advaita Tattwa in Thiruppavai since she worshipped the Lord with one-pointed devotion, said the learned speaker. Thiruppavai function is held for Loka Kalyanam (good of the world). There are 30 Pasurams in Thiruppavai, on each day of the three-day function, 10 Pasurams will be chanted. Explaining the first Pasuram of Thiruppavai – “MargazhiThingal …”, Sri Srikanta Rao said that the month of margazhi (margasira) is very sacred. Even Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says, “Masaanam Margasirshohum” (among the months, I am margasira). It is important for one to take a sacred bath. By sacred bath, the learned speaker said is to take bath chanting the name of the Lord. If we do such vrata, we will attain Narayana, he said. In the second Pasuram, Sri Andal further reiterates that one should chant the name of the Lord contemplating on His form while taking bath and then do the vrata. This vrata should be done to attain the grace of the Lord.
Continuing his speech, Sri Srikanta Rao said that in the third Pasuram, Sri Andal waxes eloquent praises on the Vamana Avatar. He transforms Himself into virat swarupa (gigantic form), having taken the form of a dwarf. Samasta jiva sukhino bhavantu! (may all individuals of all the worlds be happy!) is the undercurrent of the sacred text Thiruppavai.
When Vishnuchittar comes to know that Sri Andal was wearing the garland before offering to the Lord, he takes offence and feels that a sin was being committed all these days by not offering a fresh garland to the Lord. He does not offer the garland to the Lord on that day. Lord Narayana appears in the dream of Vishnuchittar that night and says that He wants only the garland worn by Sri Andal. Such was the devotion of Sri Andal, opined the speaker. Even a small leaf, flower or water offered with a sacred heart is enough for the Lord; He will accept it gladly.
Goda Devi, as Sri Andal was called used to beckon everyone to sing Nagarsankirtan in Srivilliputhoor. While singing the name of the Lord, one should not think of worldly matters. Lord Krishna says there are eight types of flowers like santhi pushpam, daya pushpam … One should offer the flower of mind to the Lord.
Sri Srikanta Rao ended his speech by saying that the spiritual teaching of Andal Kalyanam was to bestow peace, prosperity and happiness to the whole world. After a few bhajans, prasadam was distributed to everyone present in the hall. This evening it was the turn of Sri Vaidyanathan serving in the Book Stall of Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust, Publications Division to offer rose to the Lord. Arati was offered to Bhagawan at 6.15 p.m. Thus, ended the first day function of Sri Thiruppavai Mahotsavam.