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Devi Andal or Godadevi idol

7th or 8th century CE[1][2][3]
PhilosophyVaishnavism Bhakti
Religious career
Literary worksThiruppavai, Nachiar Tirumozhi

Andal (Tamil: ஆண்டாள், Āṇṭāḷ ), also known as Godadevi, Nachiyar and Kothai, is the only female Alvar among the 12 Alvar saints of South India. She is human incarnation of Goddess Bhudevi. The Alvar saints are known for their affiliation to the Srivaishnava tradition of Hinduism. Active in the 8th-century,[2][4] with some suggesting 7th-century,[3][note 1] Andal is credited with the great Tamil works, Thiruppavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi, which are still recited by devotees during the winter festival season of Margazhi. Andal is an important female figure for women in South India and has inspired women's groups such as Goda Mandali.[6]

Story of Andal[edit]

Periyalvar (பெரியாழ்வார்), originally called Vishnuchithan, was an ardent devotee of Perumal (Vishnu) and he used to string garland to god every day. He was childless and he prayed to God to save him from the longing. One day, he found a girl child under a Tulasi in a garden inside the temple. The child was Goddess Bhudevi herself. He named the child as Kothai, who grew up as a devotee of Lord Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, the supreme God. She is believed to have worn the garland before dedicating it to the presiding deity of the temple. Periyalvar, who later found it, was highly upset and remonstrated her. Lord Vishnu appeared in his dream and asked him to dedicate only the garland worn by Andal to him because when the new garland was put it fell down but when the garland worn by Andal Vishnu turned into gold. The girl Kothai was thus named Andal and was referred to as "Chudikodutha Sudarkodi" (சூடிகொடுத்த சுடர்க்கொடி), meaning the lady who wore and gave her garland to Lord Vishnu. The practice is followed during modern times when the garland of Andal from Srivilliputhur Andal Temple is sent to Tirumala Venkateswara Temple on Garudotsavam during the Tamil month of Purattaasi (September – October) and Azhagar Koyil during Chitra Pournami.[7] Andal is also called as Nachiar or Andalnachiar.

Devotion to Perumal[edit]

Kodhai was brought up by Vishnuchitta (Periyalvar) in an atmosphere of love and devotion. As Kodhai grew into a beautiful maiden, her fervor for the Lord grew to the extent that she decided to marry only the Lord himself. As time passed, her resolve strengthened and she thought constantly about marrying Ranganathar of Thiruvarangam (the reclining form of Vishnu). Andal had another name too, it was Nachiar. She wrote Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi.

Andal's Bhakti[edit]

In North India, Radha is celebrated as the "Queen of Bhakti (devotion)." Among the female devotees, Mirabai's name is also taken as an example of complete devotion or Bhakti to Lord Krishna. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu Andal is remembered for her pure love and devotion. In the Thiruppavai, Andal, as a Gopi in Ayarpadi (Brindavan),[8] emphasizes that the ultimate goal of life is to seek surrender and refuge at the Lord's feet.

Andal's Garlands[edit]

It is also believed that Ranganatha of Ranganathaswamy temple married Andal, who later merged with the idol. Since Andal married Ranganatha, who came as king Raja Sriman Andhra Vishnu, the presiding deity is called Rangamannar.[9]

For Tirupati Brahmotsavam, garlands worn to Andal in Srivilliputhur temple are sent to Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. These traditional garlands are made of tulasi, sevanthi and sampangi flowers. These garlands are worn by Lord Venkateswara during the Garuda seva procession.[10]

Every year Tirupati Venkateswara's garland is sent to Srivilliputtur Andal for marriage festival of Andal.[11]

Andal garland is also sent to Madurai Kallazhagar temple for the Chithirai Festival.[11]

Andal's Hairstyle[edit]

Andal's hairstyle and ornamentation are unique to ancient Tamil culture. The tuft of the hair is bunned to the side and adorned with jasmine flowers and elaborate jewellery [12]

Andal's Parrot[edit]

Srivilliputhur Andal's hand-crafted parrot is made with fresh green leaves each and every day. This parrot is kept in the left hand of Andal.[13] It takes approximately four and half hours to make this parrot. A pomegranate flower for beak and mouth, Bamboo sticks for legs, banana plant, petals of pink oleander and nandiyavattai are used to prepare this parrot.[14]

Literary works[edit]

Andal composed two literary works, both of which are in the rich Tamil verse form and express literary, philosophical, religious, and aesthetic content.


Her first work is the Thiruppavai, a collection of 30 verses in which Andal imagines herself to be a Gopi, one of the cowherd girls known for their unconditional devotion to Lord Krishna. In these verses, she describes her yearning to serve Lord Vishnu and achieve happiness not just in this lifetime, but for all eternity. She also describes the religious vows (pavai) that she and her fellow cowherd girls will observe for this purpose. It is said that Thiruppavai is the nectar of Vedas and teaches philosophical values, moral values, ethical values, pure love, devotion, dedication, single-minded aim, virtues, and the ultimate goal of life.[15][16]

Nachiar Tirumozhi[edit]

The second work by Andal is the Nachiar Tirumozhi, a poem of 143 verses. "Thirumozhi" literally means "Sacred Sayings" in a Tamil poetic style and "Nachiar" means Goddess. Therefore, the title means "Sacred Sayings of the Goddess." This poem fully reveals Andal's intense longing for Vishnu, the Divine Beloved. Utilizing classical Tamil poetic conventions and interspersing stories from the Vedas and Puranas, Andal creates imagery that is possibly unparalleled in the whole gamut of Indian religious literature. However, conservative vainava institutions do not encourage the propagation of Nachiar Tirumozhi as much as they encourage Thiruppavai because Nachiar Tirumozhi belongs to an erotic genre of spirituality that is similar to Jayadeva's Gita Govinda.[17][18][19][20][21]

Importance in South India[edit]

Andal Temple of the Hoysala period, Chennakeshava Temple, Belur

Andal is one of the best-loved poet-saints of the Tamils.[citation needed] Pious tradition holds her to be the incarnation of Bhūmi Devi (Sri Lakshmi as Mother Earth) to show humanity the way to Lord Vishnu's lotus feet. Representations of her next to Vishnu are present in all vaishnava temples. During the month of Margazhi, discourses on the Thiruppavai in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Hindi take place all over India.[22] The Srivilliputhur Divya Desam at Srivilliputhur consists of twin temples, one of which is dedicated to Andal. Most South Indian Vishnu temples have a separate shrine for Andal. There are a number of festivals dedicated to Andal, among the most notable being the Pavai Nonbu in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December – January), Andal Thirukalyanam in Panguni, Pagalpathu, Rapathu, Adi Thiruvizha, when Andal is depicted seated in the lap of Ranganathar.[23] Andal is known for her unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu, the God of the Gods. Adopted by her father, Periyalvar, Andal avoided earthly marriage, the normal and expected path for women of her culture, to marry Vishnu, both spiritually and physically. In many places in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Andal is treated more than a saint and as a form of god herself and a shrine for Andal is dedicated in most Vishnu temples.[24]

Thousands of people from the state Tamil Nadu participate in the "Aadi Pooram" festival celebrated in the Andal Temple. After early morning special pujaas, the presiding deities, Shri Rengamannar and Goddess Andal are taken in decorated palanquins to the car. The festival marks the adoption of presiding deity, Andal, by Periyazhwar after he found her near a Tulsi plant in the garden of Vatapatrasayi Temple at Srivilliputhur on the eighth day of the Tamil month of Aadi.[25][26]

In poetry, 9th-century Andal became a well known Bhakti movement poetess, states Pintchman, and historical records suggest that by 12th-century she was a major inspiration to Hindu women in south India and elsewhere.[6] Andal continues to inspire hundreds of classical dancers in modern times choreographing and dancing Andal's songs.[27] Andal is also called Goda, and her contributions to the arts have created Goda Mandali (circle of Andal) in the Vaishnava tradition.[27]

Through poetry of saints (such as Andal) women are thought to be able to connect with the Lord directly and those words are thought to encapsulate their personal emotions.[6]

Goda Mandali (circle) which was named after Andal was formed in 1970 and reorganized in 1982 spreads Andal songs widely through TV and radio programs.[28][29] The group would gather weekly to learn songs and would sing at events such as festivals where they would raise money for shrines.[29]

Contemporary commentaries and inspired poems[edit]

Bhakti Poetry[edit]

In contemporary commentaries on Tamil bhakti poetry, A.K. Ramanujan's work remarks on how many other religious traditions would keep and treat passionate love and devotion to God as separate, while in the bhakti tradition, they can be in resonance with one another:

"All devotional poetry plays on the tension between saguna and nirguna, the lord as person and the lord as principle. If he were entirely a person, he would not be divine, and if he were entirely a principle, a godhead, one could not make poems about him. The Vaishnavas, too, say that the lord is characterized by both 'paratva, 'otherness' and soulabhaya, 'ease of access'; he is both here and beyond, both tangible as a person and intangible as a principle-such is the nature of the ground of all being. It is not either/or, but both and; myth, bhakti and poetry would be impossible without the presence of both attitudes". Prentiss, Karen Pechilis (1999). The Embodiment of Bhakti. OUP. p. 25. ISBN 9780195128130.

Feminist Interpretations[edit]

Marriage to Vishnu[edit]

Contemporary interpretations view her act of marrying Vishnu as feminist.[30] Divine marriages and virginity allowed women's subjectivity, as she is able to choose her husband, and given an "aristocratic freedom".[31] It is said that by devoting herself to God and rejecting marrying a human, she avoided the regular duties involved with being a wife that would inhibit her freedom.[30] Feminist interpretations see Andal's pursuit of marrying Vishnu as rejecting the patriarchal institution of marriage.[30] Virgins with divine marriages were often able to practice educational freedom through reading and/or writing[31] such as Andal did.

Quoted from Feminism and world religions by Arvind Sharma, Katherine K. Young: "What Andal and other women poets did by living the way they did was to negotiate a space within a marriage-dominated society and made at least some sections of society make room for them".[30]

Andal fulfilled the expectation of becoming a wife by marrying God, but since her husband was divine, she gained her autonomy.[30] This act is referred to as virginal feminism by numerous scholars in patristic theology.[32] Virginity is viewed as giving women the option to avoid childbearing, "male domination" and live a new life of devotion to God.[32]

Andal's Poetry[edit]

It is thought that women used poetry as a tool in Hindu society as a way to claim a form of agency.[33]

Feminist interpretations look at some of Andal's verses as her open acknowledgement of her love for Lord Vishnu, written with bold sensuality and startlingly savage longing, hunger and inquiry as widely found in Tamil Sangam literature that express women's longings and their separation from their men; even today, her most erotic poems are rarely rendered publicly.[34] In one such verse Andal dispenses with metaphor and imagines herself lying in the arms of Krishna, making love to him:[35]

My life will be spared
Only if he will come
To stay for me for one night
If he will enter me,
So as to leave
the imprint of his saffron paste
upon my breasts
Mixing, churning, maddening me inside,
Gathering my swollen ripeness
Spilling nectar,
As my body and blood
Bursts into flower.

William Dalrymple- In search of Tamil Nadu's poet-preachers[36][37]

tell him I will survive
only if he will stay with me
for one day –
enter me
so as to wipe away
the saffron paste
adorning my breasts

Vidya – The Body Adorned: Sacred and Profane in Indian Art(p. 140)[38]

Andal admiring herself whilst wearing the garland that was meant for the deity:

the guilt glazed love lay on Andal's breasts.
thick and heavy as him.
frightened with force
and locked away, she conjured him every night,
her empurumaan, her emperor-man.

Meena Kandasamy, Ms Militancy[39][40][41]

In one of her poems, Andal says that her voluptuous breasts will swell for the Lord alone, and scorns the idea of making love to mortal beings, comparing that with the sacrificial offering made by Brahmins being violated by jackals in the forest,[42] and in another verse she dedicates her swelling breasts to the Lord who carries a conch.[37]

My surging breasts long to leap to the touch of his hand which holds aloft the flaming discus and the conch.

Coax the world-measurer to caress my waist, to encircle the twin globes of my breasts

[43]-Ravi Shankar (poet)[44]

Krishnadevaraya's Amuktamalyada[edit]

Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar Dynasty composed the epic poem Amuktamalyada in Telugu, which is considered as a masterpiece. Amuktamalyada translates to one who wears and gives away garlands, and describes the story of Andal or Goda Devi, the daughter of Periyalvar.[45]

Amuktamalyada describes pain of separation (viraha) experienced by Andal, who is described as the incarnate of Lakshmi the consort of Vishnu. Further the poem describes Andal's beauty in 30 verses written in the keśādi-pādam style, starting from her hair, going down her body till her feet.[46][47]


Andal has sung in praise of eleven holy sites:[48]

S.No. Name of the temple Location Photo Number of Pasurams Presiding deity Notes/Beliefs
1 Sri Rangam 10°51′45″N 78°41′23″E / 10.8625°N 78.689722°E / 10.8625; 78.689722
10 Sri Ranganatha Swamy
Sri Ranganayaki Thayar
Thiruvarangam temple is often listed as the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world, the still larger Angkor Wat being the largest existing temple. The temple occupies an area of 156 acres (631,000 m²) with a perimeter of 4,116m (10,710 feet) making it the largest temple in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world.[49][50] The annual 21-day festival conducted during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January) attracts 1 million visitors.[51]
2 Paramapadam Heaven
Vishnu, Lord of Vaikuntha
1 Sri Paramapada Nathan
Sri Periya Piratti
Vaikuntha is the celestial abode of Vishnu.[52][53][54] Vaikuntha is an abode exclusive to him, his consort Lakshmi and other liberated souls that have gained moksha.
3 Tirupathi 13°08′35″N 79°54′25″E / 13.143°N 79.907°E / 13.143; 79.907
Tirumala 090615.jpg
18 Sri Venkateswara Swamy
Sri Alarmelmangai Thayar
Venkateswara Temple is a landmark Vaishnavite temple situated in the hill town of Tirumala at Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Thiru Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu, who is believed to have appeared here to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga. Hence the place has also got the name Kaliyuga Vaikuntham and Lord here is referred to as Kaliyuga Prathyaksha Daivam.[55]
4 Thiruparkadal Heaven
3 Sri Ksherabthinathan
Sri Kadalmagal Nachiyar
In Hindu cosmology, Thiruparkadal (Ocean of milk) is the fifth from the center of the seven oceans. It surrounds the continent known as Krauncha.[56] According to Hindu mythology, the devas (gods) and asuras (demons) worked together for a millennium to churn the ocean and release Amrita the nectar of immortal life.[57] It is spoken of in the Samudra manthana chapter of the Puranas, a body of ancient Hindu legends. It is also the place where Vishnu reclines over Shesha Naga, along with his consort Lakshmi.
5 Mathura 27°30′17″N 77°40′11″E / 27.504748°N 77.669754°E / 27.504748; 77.669754
19 Sri Govardhanesan
Sri Sathyabama
The temple in Mathura, is among the most sacred of Hindu sites, and is revered as the birthplace of Krishna.[58] Kehsav Dev (Krishna) is the deity of this temple. According to traditions, the original deity was installed by Bajranabh, who was great-grandson of Krishna.[59]
6 Dwarka 22°14′16.39″N 68°58′3.22″E / 22.2378861°N 68.9675611°E / 22.2378861; 68.9675611
Dwarka temple
4 Sri Dwarakadeesha Perumal
Sri Kalayana Nachiyar
The temple is dedicated to the god Krishna, who is worshiped here by the name Dwarkadhish, or 'King of Dwarka'. The main shrine of the 5-storied building, supported by 72 pillars, is known as Jagat Mandir or Nija Mandir, archaeological findings suggest it to be 2,200 – 2,000 years old.[60][61][62] Temple was enlarged in the 15th- 16th century.[63][64]
7 Thirumaliruncholai 10°04′27″N 78°12′52″E / 10.074136°N 78.214356°E / 10.074136; 78.214356
Temple tower
11 Sri Kallazhagar
Sri Sundaravalli Thayar
The temple is constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines. The temple has a seven-tiered rajagopuram. The temple is surrounded by a large fort, part of which is dilapidated. Kallazhagar is believed to have appeared sage Suthapava. The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of worship.[65]
8 Thirukudanthai 10°57′34″N 79°22′29″E / 10.95944°N 79.37472°E / 10.95944; 79.37472
Temple tower
1 Sri Sarangapani Perumal
Sri Komalavalli Thayar
This temple is along Kaveri and is one of the Pancharanga Kshetrams. The temple is believed to be of significant antiquity with contributions at different times from Medieval Cholas, Vijayanagar Empire and Madurai Nayaks. The temple is enshrined within a granite wall and the complex contains all the shrines and the water tanks of the temple. The rajagopuram (the main gateway) has eleven tiers and has a height of 173 ft (53 m).[66]
9 Thirukannapuram 10°52′7″N 79°42′6″E / 10.86861°N 79.70167°E / 10.86861; 79.70167
Temple tower
1 Sri Sowriraja Perumal
Sri Kannapura Nayagi
The presiding deity is believed to have appeared with a wig (called sowri locally) to save a devotee, leading to the name Sowrirajan. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines and three of its seven bodies of water. The temple has a seven-tiered rajagopuram, the temple's gateway tower and a huge temple tank in front of it. The temple is believed to have been built by the Cholas, with later additions from the Thanjavur Nayaks.[67]
10 Srivilliputhur 9°30′32″N 77°37′56″E / 9.50889°N 77.63222°E / 9.50889; 77.63222
Temple tower
1 Sri Vadapatrasayanar
Sri Andal
The temple is associated with the life of Andal, who, according to legend, was found by Periazhwar under a Tulsi plant in the garden inside the temple. She is believed to have worn the garland before dedicating it to the presiding deity of the temple. Periazhwar, who later found the garland, was highly upset and stopped the practice. It is believed Vishnu appeared in his dream and asked him to dedicate the garland worn by Andal to him daily, a practice followed unto the modern day. It is also believed that Ranganatha of Thiruvarangam Ranganathaswamy temple married Andal, who later merged with him. The temple has two divisions – the one of Andal located on the southwestern and the second one on the northeastern side. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines, the garden where Andal is believed to have been born and two of its three bodies of water. The Vijayanagar and Nayak kings commissioned paintings on the walls of the shrine of temple, some of which are still present.[9][68]
11 Thiruvaipadi 26°57′00″N 80°26′19″E / 26.95009444667719°N 80.43869165722663°E / 26.95009444667719; 80.43869165722663
Gokul temple
4 Sri Navamohana Krishna
Sri Rukmini Sathyabama
believe that Lord Krishna spent his childhood in this place.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The hagiographic tradition asserts that Andal lived around 3000 BCE.[3][5]


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