SRI ANDAL- A BRIEF LIFE-SKETCH
Sri Andal, one of the twelve Alwars and the only female saintess, lived in the first half of 8th century A.D. Some scholars fix the possible date of Andal as far back as 3000 years B.C.
Andal was born at Srivilliputhur near Madurai, in the Tamil month Adi, with the birth-star Pooram, on a Tuesday, on the fourth day of the bright fortnight.
Andal was a treasure-trove infant, obtained in the Tulasi garden, in the premises of the temple of Sri Vatapatra Sai. Perialwar, her father, found her while tending the garden and brought her up as an adopted child.
Andal grew up in holy surroundings, worshipping the Deity and listening to holy discourses, Vedas, Epics, Bhajans, Keerthans, etc.. From childhood onwards she listened to the Leelas (pranks) of Krishna with rapt attention and developed a deep love to the Lord.
Andal helped her father in weaving flower garlands to offer to the temple Deity every day. One morning, Perialwar observed her wearing and adorning herself with the flower-garland intended for the Deity and herself looking into a mirror and enjoying. He considered this as an act of sacrilege and, with great anguish, failed to offer the garland to the Deity on that day. The Lord appeared in his dream and informed him that He relished only the garland worn by Godai and that in future flower garlands worn by Godai alone be offered to Him.
Perialwar realised the Divinity in Godai, and from thence she was reputed as “Andal” (one who ruled Bhagwan) and “Choodi Kodutha Nachiar” (patroness who would offer flowers after adorning herself). It became a routine for Andal to wear the flower garland prior to offering to the Deity.
As Andal grew up, day by day, her love for Krishna also increased and she resolved to marry Him.
When Andal attained adolescence, Vishnuchittar was amazed at her conviction to marry Krishna. She was advised to observe Margali Bath rituals, which was a custom of yore for marriageable girls to have choice husbands.
Andal imagined herself as a cow-girl at the time of Sri Krishna, collecting all girls at Ayarpadi at dawn during the Margali month, day after day performing the ritual on the banks of the river Yamuna and bathing the Deity. This procedure, expressed lucidly in thirty Hymns, awakening her mates and proceeding to the river-bed, with Bhajan and Keerthan and to bathe the Deity, is the topic of Tiruppavai.
Apart form Tiruppavai, Andal also sung 143 Hymns in Nachiar Tirumozhi in which her expression of intense love to Krishna, in varying moods of bridal love--tender hope, utter dejection, joyful triumph, woeful sorrow and total surrender--are depicted.
Andal concluded that Lord Krishna was none else than the Deity of Sri Rangam--Lord Ranganatha-- and chose Him as her Consort.
Lord Ranganatha bade Perialwar in a dream to bring Andal to Sri Rangam in bridal decoration. A palanquin, duly decorated, was sent from the Sri Rangam temple, as instructed by the Lord in a dream to the temple chief.
King Vallaba Deva made elaborate arrangements, decorated the procession route and greeted Andal with music and other paraphernalia of a Divine wedding. People cheered; King Vallaba also joined the bridal party.
Andal proceeded inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and became one with the Lord, as she worshipped the Lotus Feet of Him. To the astonishment and wonder of the people assembled, Andal's physical body merged with the Deity, Lord Ranganatha.