A Saint who married God through her worship: Andal - Goda Devi
Andal ( Goda Devi )
Significance of Andal's birth
Goda Devi or Andal was the only female Alwar of the 12 Alwars of Sri Vaishnava sampradaya in South Indian Hindu Religion. She took birth around 3000 BCE and merged with God after her marriage with Him. She is believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Earth just like Sita in Ramayan. She took birth as a human being to help people in solving their worldly problems and save them from evil deeds and bad thoughts and to lead them towards self-realization and spirituality so that they can live happily and attain moksha. Unlike Lord Sri Krishna, who always portrayed himself as a God and Saviour even in his human form by preaching Bhagavad Gita, Andal lived the actual life of a human being and showed people the path by herself becoming an example to them in reaching God.
Andal's Birth and childhood
Andal is said to have made her first appearance as a baby in the garden of a temple in Srivilliputtur under a Tulasi plant (known as holy basil) when another Alwar known as Vishnu Chitta was digging there for seasoning the soil. He considered it as God's grace and took the baby and grew her up in his house within that temple premises of Srivilliputtur. As Vishnu Chitta (also known as Periyalwar) was a great saint, he used to worship God in that temple by treating Him as his own son and doing every service since early morning to night with great love and affection. Naturally, that girl also learnt all those habits and developed an intimate attachment to God.
Location map for Srivilliputtur & Srirangam
Andal's attachment with God
As she began growing into teenage, Andal developed great attachment and longing for God. She used to think of Him throughout the day and talk about His beauty and glories and everything about Him. She began craving for Him very deeply. She used to wear herself the flower garlands prepared by her father for offering to God to see whether they are good and suitable to God. She used to see in the mirror and admire herself before offering them to God. One day, her father witnessed this and grew angry at her and threw the garland into dust bin and prepared fresh garland for God. But God appeared to him in a dream and asked him to bring only the garlands worn by his daughter as they are the true garlands offered with pure devotion and love. Then, Vishnu Chitta began knowing about her true love and attachment towards God. Andal began realising that she loves God and wants to marry Him and nobody else.
Tiruppavai & Dhanurmasa vratam
Andal comes to know of the method of Vrat or keeping austerity and fast by Gopis to attain Srikrishna. She also wants to possess the blessings of God and marry Him. So, she performs the vratam of Dhanurmasa during the 30 days period of the entry of sun in the Dhanur Rasi or Sagittarius till his entrance to Makar Rashi or Cancer. This period is considered as very much auspicious and liked by God as all angels worship him during this period (Margashirsha masa or month). This period generally falls during 16th December to 14th January each year. The last day is known as Makar Sankranti. Andal decides to keep fast all these 30 days and she composes hymns daily to worship Him with one hymn daily. These 30 hymns are known as Tiruppavai. God Vishnu gets pleased with her humble and sincere worship, dedication, and love. So He decides to grant her wish of marrying Him.
Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple
Andal's marriage with God, Sri Ranganathaswamy
On completion of the Tiruppavai & Dhanurmasa Vrat of Andal, God one night appears in the dream of her father Vishnu Chitta and asks him to come to Srirangam Temple along with his daughter. Then God tells his temple priests at Srirangam to bring Andal and her father with a full welcome to His abode by appearing in their dreams also. Immediately, the priests bring Andal fully decorated as a bride along with her father to the temple. Andal enters the sanctum sanctorum and the wedding ceremony takes place with full rituals by positioning Andal by the side of God. After the ceremony is completed, Andal also transforms herself into an idol to stay with God forever in that temple.
Srirangam Temple decoration & celebrations
Andal's message to humanity
Through her own way of life, Andal or Goda Devi showed the people how to possess God's grace with a true longing or desire, pure love, and devotion for Him.
- She emphasized the need that each person should submit himself or herself before God like a lover. They should realise their soul wants union with the supreme soul of God.
- He or she should surrender themselves to God and think and believe that God is the only way of their life. He is there to save them from all problems of their life.
- In her hymns, Andal has incorporated all the essence of four Vedas, Puranas and all spiritual knowledge about God. Even though the hymns in Tiruppavai are only 30 in number, they contain the full knowledge of God's essence and means of attaining Him.