The trees swayed with the wind in the garden. The air was filled with pleasant smell of flowers from the garden. The colors of the flowers were a real treat to the eyes. A melodic singing reverberated throughout the garden. The voice belonged to a pious Brahmin named "Perialwar" (originally called Vishnuchittar). He was taking care of his garden, inside a temple called Vadapathrasayee(Vada-pathra-sayee)temple in Srivilliputtur(Sri-villi-puttur), Tamilnadu, India. The main deity of the temple is Sri Ranganantha(Lord Vishnu) in reclining posture. Perialwar was a devout Vishnu Baktha. He was always filled with thoughts of Vishnu and his avatars. Perialwar was particularly attached to Sri Krishna, one of Vishnu’s Avatars. Apart from Vadapathrasayee, his one other favorite deity was Sri Ranganatha (Lord Vishnu) of Srirangam. (Srirangam is another village in Tamilnadu, India situated east of Srivilliputtur). Perialwar would always sing hymns on Sri Krishna and Sri Ranganatha. One of his daily rituals was to collect flowers from the garden, tie them into a garland and offer it to Vadapathrasayee.
On that day, like any other day, Perialwar was collecting flowers in a basket. His forehead was adorned with bright “ThirumaN and Srichurnam" (ThirumaN is holy white clay adorned by Sri Vaishnavite men mainly on their forehead, which represents the lotus feet of Sri Vishnu and Srichurnam is Red Tilaka worn in the middle of ThirumaN , which represents Sri Mahalakshmi). His hair was tied back of his shaven head. The sacred thread ran along his body. His white dhothi was tied into a Panchagajam. He was singing hymns on Sri Krishna, when he heard a baby cry. The cry of the baby puzzled him. He went around the garden in search of the crying sound. To his surprise, he saw a baby under a Tulasi (Tulasi is the most sacred plant for the Hindus) bush. The baby was crying loud, swinging its hand and kicking its legs in the air. With all his eyes on the baby, Perialwar put his basket down and slowly bent towards the baby. It was a pretty baby girl. Perialwar scooped the baby in his hand. Holding the baby’s head in his left hand and baby’s foot in his right hand, Perialwar went around and outside the garden to search for the baby’s parents. Nobody was there. The baby stopped crying by the time and now Perialwar took a close look at the baby. He was astonished by that baby’s flawless beauty. Perialwar cuddled the baby close to his heart. Perialwar thought only his “Vadapathrasayee” had blessed him with this beautiful baby because Perialwar did not have any kids of his own. He named the baby “Godhai” (beautiful garland) and took her home.
Perialwar showered all his love and affection on Godhai. Along with food and water, Perialwar also fed “Krishna Bhakthi” to Godhai. He would always tell Godhai about Krishna and HIS leelas. When Perialwar told Godhai that little Krishna lifted the big mountain “Govardhana” with HIS single finger, Godhai felt as if she was standing under the “Govardhana” along with Krishna and Gopikas. When Perialwar told that Krishna showed the entire world in his mouth to HIS mother Yasodha, Godhai felt like she was being inside Krishna’s mouth. Godhai’s mind was always occupied by Krishna only. Due to her influence even her pet parrot would always Krishna’s various names.
Godhai grew into a young girl, her Krishna Bhakti transformed into love towards Krishna. Like her father, even Godhai started writing hymns on Krishna. She would also accompany her father to the garden to gather flowers for "Vadapathrasayee."
One night Godhai dreamt that she was marrying Lord Krishna. The dream made her very happy. But she was not sure whether she would make a perfect match for Krishna. She wanted to confirm with her father. So she went in search of her father. But she could not find her father anywhere in the house. But she found the flower garland tied by her father for “Vadapathrasayee”. She thought if she were to be the bride for Krishna, she should look beautiful with the garland. She took the garland in her hand and adorned herself. She wanted to check her beauty. Since could not find any mirror, she went straight to the well in her backyard. She stood beside the well, raised her foot, bent her head and looked her image in the water. The well water reflected her beauty. Her round face was bordered with curly hair. Her ear rings were dangling from left to right. Her large eyes were like fish floating in the water. A small nose ring in her sharp nose glittered in the water. The red Sricharnum on her forehead enhanced her beauty. Her parrot was sitting on her shoulder saying “Govinda, Govinda”. Once she saw her image in the water, she was satisfied that she would be a perfect match for Krishna. She removed the garland and placed it in the same place where it was before. Unaware of all these, Perialwar took the garland and offered it to “Vadapathrasayee”. He felt Perumal looked more beautiful than ever before. Right from the next day, Godhai started adorning herself with Vadapathrasayee’s garland. She would then check her beauty in the well and she would place the garland back in its original place. This was happening for quite few days without Perialwar’s knowledge.
One fine day Perialwar saw Godhai wearing the garland. He was stunned and shocked. He felt ashamed that he had been offering the garland worn by Godhai to Vadapathrasayee. He scolded Godhai for wearing Perumal’s Garland. With tears in her eyes, Godhai tried to pacify Perialwar, but he wouldn’t listen. He hurried to his garden, collected flowers again and made a new garland and offered it to Perumal. Perialwar was restless the whole day. The same day night “Vadapathrasayee” appeared in his dream. He said that he liked only the garland worn by Godhai and that every day he wanted Godhai to wear the garland before he wore it. With that Perialwar woke up. He called Godhai and told all about his dream. Godhai was very happy that “Vadapathrasyee” wanted her to wear the garland first. Right from that day, Godhai would wear the garland before it had been offered to Vadapathrasayee. Since Godhai ruled Vadapathrasayee with her affection, Perialwar started calling her “Andal”- one who rules.
After this incidence Godhai alias Andal became more devoted to Krishna. When Perialwar started looking bridegrooms for Andal, Andal said that she would marry only Krishna and not any other normal human being. She also told Perialwar that she dreamt that Krishna was marrying her. Having heard all these, Perialwar scolded himself because he was the one who fed Andal with Krishnan bakthi . Now that Krishnan Bakthi has matured into love. Perialwar was quite perplexed. He didn’t know what to do.
Andal learnt from an elderly person, that, during Krishna Avatar all Gopikas performed a fast in the (tamil) month of Margazhi in order to marry Krishna. Since Andal wanted to marry Krishna, she followed the footsteps of those Gopikas and started the fast in the month of Margazhi(roughly from Dec.14- Jan. 14). Every day she would wake up early in the morning. Singing a new hymn every day, she would go door to door and wake up her friends to join the fast. Thus she sang 30 hymns for 30 days of the Margazhi month. The 30 hymns are collectively called as “Thiruppaavai”(Thiru-p-paavai). On the 30th day, she slept peacefully having completed the fast. She was sure that Lord Krishna would come to marry her.
On the same night Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam appeared in Perialwar’s dream and asked him to bring Andal to Srirangm fully dressed as a bride. Sri Ranganatha also appeared in the King’s dream (who was ruling Srivilliputtur) and asked him to make arrangements for Andal Kalyanam.
Early next morning Perialwar was waiting for Andal to wake up. As soon as she woke up, Perialwar hustled to Andal. Perialwar looked at Andal. The day he found Andal as a little baby under a Tulasi bush flashed in front of his eyes. Little did he know that she was going to become Sri Ranganatha’s bride. His eyes filled with tears. Andal was puzzled by Perialwar’s action. Then Perialwar wiped his tears and told Andal all about the dream. Andal could not believe her ears. Finally her wish was coming true. Perialwar asked her to get dressed soon. Meanwhile the king decked the whole Srivilliputur with flowers. The people of Srivilliputtur were all ready to go to Srirangam with Andal. The entire route from Srivilliputur to Srirrangam was decorated too. The king then sent a palanquin to Andal’s house. Andal dressed like a bride got into the palanquin. With Perialwar, king and people following, the palanquin reached Srirangam.
The palanquin stopped in front of the Sri Ranganatha’s temple in Srirangam. Andal got out of the palanquin. The priests received Andal with due respect. Andal stepped into the temple and slowly walked towards the main Sanctum. Of all these days Andal was only hearing about Sri Rangantha from her father, but today she is going to see that Sri Ranganatha in person. With her pounding and thumping, she entered into the Sanctum Sanctorum. The Sanctum was pretty dark but for a little oil lamp. With the help of the lamp, she saw th big black divine deity of Sri Ranganatha. Her eyes stopped to blink. Sri Ranganatha was (is) in a reclining posture in his snake (bed)Adisesha resting his head on the west and feet on the east. His body resembled like a big green mountain. His left hand was resting on his left thigh. His right hand was his pillow. His tall crown seemed to reach the heavens. His big dark eyes ran till his ears. His mouth was colored like coral. His red dress resembled the sun during sunset. His sacred thread ran around his waist. Andal was totally captivated by his beauty. Without knowing what to do, Andal slowly walked towards Sri Ranganatha. With trembling hands she touched his lotus feet. Lo and behold! Andal disappeared.
At that very moment, Perialwar and rest of the people entered the Sactum. Perialwar witnessed Andal disappearing just in front of his own eyes. He could not believe his eyes. It took more than a moment for him to realize that his sweet little daughter,Andal, has gone forever and won’t be with him anymore. His head started spinning. He was not able to stand. He caught hold of a nearby wall and fell slowly to the ground. Tears started rolling down his eyes. His little tears turned into sob and then into big cry. The king and the people were equally shocked too. At that very moment, a celestial voice from nowhere called Perialwar by his name. Puzzled Perialwar, slowly stood up and turned his head all around in search of the voice.
The voice belonged to Sri Ranganatha. Sri Ranganatha said that Andal was Boo Devi’s (Boo Devi is one of the consorts of Sri Vishnu) descent. Andal descended to Earth to show the humankind, the three ways to reach God. The first way is to think about him all the time, second is to say his name all the time and the last one is to offer flowers to him. Since the purpose of her descent was over, Andal went back to her permanent place, abode of Sri Ranganatha. Sri Ranganatha also asked Perialwar to build a temple for him and Andal in Srivilliputtur. With that the voice disappeared.
Perialwar realized that his daughter married the King of the Universe. Perialwar also realized that not only did Andal preach the three ways; she also lived like she preached. She was always thinking about Sri Krishna, she was always singing songs on Sri Krishna and never once she has forgotten to offer flowers for “Vadapathrasayee”. Perialwar wiped his tears. He slowly rose to his feet. Looking at Sri Ranganatha's deity, he put his two palms together in front of his chest, bowed his head.
Perialwar returned to Srivilliputtur. After some years, Perialwar transformed his house into a temple for Andal and Sri Ranganatha. But Sri Ranganathar is called Ranga Mannar in this temple. This temple along with Vadapathrasayee temple will always remind everyone of Andal and her true love towards Sri Krishna.
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