AANDAAL (KODAI), INCARNATION OF BHOODEVI
(DISCOURSE BY N.R. SRINIVASAN—2011)
Bhudevi incarnated as Aaandaal in Srivilliputtur of Tamil Nadu several centuries back. According to the great Srivaishnava philosopher and Guru Manavala Maamuni she descended on earth in 3005 B.C.E. As per the modern historians her birth is guesstimated to 716 A.D. She was found as a baby in the Tulasi (Basel) groves of Vishnuchittar (Periyaazhwaar) in his back yard. He raised her with love and affection as his own daughter and called her affectionately as Kodai (Goda in Sanskrit). Kodai means beautiful flower garland in Tamil. Aandaal means one who conquered; by her devotion and persistence she could prevail upon the Lord. She was trained in preparing garlands for the Lord with beautiful flowers and was also educated in Bhaktimarga by her beloved father.
Aandaal wanted to avoid earthly marriage with any human being. She wanted to marry Lord Ranganatha only and strived hard for it in her short but sweet life. Pleased by her devotion and steadfast love, Lord Ranganatha ordered priests in their dreams one day to make all arrangements for her wedding. By intuition Aandaal reached Srirangam on that day and ran straight into the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord. She is then believed to have merged with Ranganatha completely. Thus her Jeevaatma merged with the Parmaatman (Supreme Spirit) similar to what happened in Mathura for Gopis and particularly Radha. Radha and Aaandal represented typical Jeevaatma seeking Jeevanmukti (liberation) by Bhaktimarga (path of devotion) and attain not Saalokya or Sammeepya but only Saayujya about which we talked about while discussing Madhva and his philosophy, that is complete merger with the Supreme Spirit.
In her short life span of 15 years or so, being a child prodigy she composed two baffling literary compositions in Tamil--Tiruppavai and Nacchiyaar Thirumozhi surprising all stalwart scholars in the field. This raised her to the status of Azhwaars and beyond and she is the youngest female amongst the 12 great Azhwaars of Srivaishnava Sampradaaya (Tradition). Tiruppavai is part of the Tamil Veda, popularly known as Naalaayira Divy Prabhandam (4000 divine compositions by 12 Azhwaars). Her other literary work is of esoteric nature like Jayadeva's Geeta Govinda, an outcome and flow of extreme love to Lord Krishna. Her Tiruppavai is regularly chanted in all Srivaishnava Temples of South India, particularly in the Tamil month of Maargazhi, dedicating each Paasuram for a day, which are in all 30. Paasuram can be compared to what is called Psalm in English in the Holy Bible. Her other work is not sung in Temples as some orthodox Vaishnavites recognize the esoteric and amorous nature of the composition. Tiruppavai also renders itself to classical Carnatic Music and is a favorite of Tamil artists like Gita Govinda for North Indian Musicians.
Almost every Srivaishnava Temple in South India where worship is mandated as per the guidelines of Sri Ramanuja the great philosopher saint of Srivaishnavas, there is a sanctum sanctorum for Aandaal where her image is consecrated and worshipped as Bhoodevi (Mother Earth) and by some as Sita. Both were not womb-born and were found on the earth and were brought up by their foster parents. She is always presented to the devotees as a beautiful bride, like Parvati, bedecked with glittering Jewelry and bedecked with flowers on her tress, sometimes even excelling Parvati. In Srivaishnava tradition the bride is always offered to the bride groom by the bride's parents dressed like Kodai, particularly amongst Brahmins.
On the 27th day of Margazhi monthy the hymn starting with the words "Koodaarai Vellum" from Tiruppavai is dedicated to Aaandaal and sung with all reverence before offering the sweet pudding (Sakkarai Ponga, Akkaar Vadisal, Ksheeraannam etc) to the deity. The festival is named after this Paasuram. The hymn in Tamil is as follows:
Koodaarai vellum seer Govidaa undhannai(p) | paadi parai kondu yaam perum sammaanam |
Naadu pugazhum parisinaal nanraagha(ch) | choodagamae thoel valaiyae thoede sevippoovae |
Aadai uduppoem adhan pinnae paar choru | mooda nai paidhu muzhngai vazhivaara (k) |
Koodi irundu kulirndaeloer empaavaai ||
"The benefit we get by observing this ritual is immense. On this festive occasion let us wear gorgeous silks, beautiful jewelry, colorful arm bands, decorate our tress with sweet swelling colorful flowers, dress in new clothes, enjoy the rich sweet pudding made of rice, milk, ghee and flavoring agents and take great delight in enjoying the limitless company of beloved Krishna and we together. The milk rice pudding should look like as if being taken out after dipping in a trough of ghee. While relishing it the ghee should drip down the wrist till the elbow. We should enjoy the supreme bliss with you here itself, Oh Govinda! similar to what your regular and favorite devotees enjoy and also those liberated souls in Vaikuntha".
On this day, in Srivaishnava Temples milk pudding (Akkaravadisil) is offered with devotion to the deity in 100 silver vessels etched with Conch and Discus (Sankha and Chakra), the symbols of Lord Vishnu and consecrated during the special Pooja (worship) as per the traditions set by Ramanuja and ordained for his devotees. This was also the wish of Aaandaal who wanted to get married to Lord Ranganatha and attain Moksha. To signify this on this day a special puja (worship) is held at the temples for those desirous of attaining matrimonial status by the grace of God. On this day the idols of Sridevi and Bhoodevi are taken in procession to their mother's place. The lady devotees offer Kanu (rice mixed with turmeric, vermilion, sugarcane, sesame, cardamom and seasonal fruits) to deities of the Nature.
Aashaadhe poorvaphalgunyaam tulasee kaananoedhbahavaam |
Paandyae visvambharaam Godaam vandae Sriranganaayakeem ||
I worship Sri Ranganatha's consort (Aandaal) who was born in a Tulasi (basel) grove in the month of Ashadha (Julu-August) under the influence of the asterism Poorva-phalguni in the region of Pandyadesa; who is the manifestation of Bhoodevi (supporter of the Universe) and popularly called as Goda.