PeriAzhwar & Andal
Before getting into periyAzhwAr charithram, let us have a glance at the Great Villiputthoor charithram, where periyAzhwAr hailed from. In "Then PAndya" kingdom, there is a small town called putthoor, where great sholars pundits were residing. Nearby there is a forest where there were hunters living in it. The chief of these hunters had two sons named villi and kaNdan.
One day these two guys villi and kaNdan went inside the forest for hunting as usual. They spotted a tiger and it escaped the arrows from their bows. KaNdan started chasing vigorously and went deep inside the forest. After som time, the tiget hid behind a tree and pounced on kaNdan and killed him. Villi waited for kaNdan for along time and started seraching for him with a worried look on his face about his dearest brother. When he spotted the dead body of kaNdan, his heart almost stooped with grief and cried heavily and fell unconscious on his darling brother's body.
During his unconsciousness, he had a scene in front of his eyes; Sriman NarAyaNan with His consort VishNu pathni MahAlakshmi appeared and uttered opening His "pavaLachchevvAi" thus:"O villi, Do not lament and cry. Do not worry. We will get back your brother's life. And you both go to find out the Big Banyan tree in the midst of this forest where my moorthy has been lying for quite a long time. You both will also find a cave nearby the tree where there is lots and lots of Golden jewels and coins and treaure available. You can take them as much as you wish. using that wealth, you both need to deforest that place and build a temple and surrounding town." Then the Lord disappeared.
When villi came back to consciousness, he did not know whether what he saw (in his unconscious state) was true at all and was confused. But suddenly kaNdan got up alive as if he just woke up from sleep (without any wound even). Villi explained the whole thing to his darling brother and both of them hugged each other for having been blessed by the Lord and having been chosen by the Lord to establish the temple for Sriya: pathih. (I wish we too had been just hunters like villi and kaNdan, rather than studying all sorts of degrees and leading a life which in now way helps us reach towards the Lord.)
Then they did exactly as was told and with great enthusiasm built the temple with the co operation of all his people (who were pleasantly surprised at the Lord' mercy on their kulam). The place became an excellent sthalam and the temple looked majestic with VadabhathrasAyee as the moorthy. The place even today is being referred as Villiputthoor (named after the brother Villi).
Great scholars, BhaktAs, pundits migrated from putthoor to this holy place and started residing in this place. One of them was Mukunda Bhattar and he was a VaishNava GnAni and his wife was Padmavalli, a GuNavathi and a perfect match for Mukunda Bhattar. Both of them were parama bhaktAs of VadabhatrasAyee. On an auspicious day they were blessed with a male child and they named the child as VishNu chittar; means the one who thinks of VishNu always in his mind. The kid lived upto his name fully and always was contemplating on ways and means to achieve the Lord's DayA. He did not wish to spend and waste his time on education (vEdAs and SasthrAs) and concentrated only on praising the Lord. (PoiginRa Gnanamum pollA ozhkkamum... ). He knew that when Lord KrishNa appeared he had a liking for wearing Garlands made from variety of flowers. He chose that kainkaryam to pluck flowers in the early morning and make an excellent garland out of it to adorn the idol of Sri VadabhatrasAyee. He even sold some of his property and bought a small place near his home (and the temple) and converted that into a beautiful Nandavanam (a Garden). He grew all kinds of creepers and plants for various flowers and the Holy Thulasi. The place also housed a small beautiful pond where there was a clear crystal like water as pure as VishNuchittar's heart and mind. His time was wholly spent on cultivating this garden only and beatify them in order to get more and more and flowers for the Lord. (What a superb life! What a great Bhakti!) The flowers bloomed; Tulasi plant became bigger and bigger; The entire Garden looked divinely beautiful and had an exquisite sugandham (smell) due to jasmine, rose, lotus, pArijAtham, alli, Thulasi, etc., etc.. Every morning, before the Sun rises VishNu chitthar took bath completed his NityakarmAnushtAnangal, went to his garden and plucked all kinds of flowers to prepare garlands and garlands of various types for the Lord, while he sang songs in praise of the Lord. He used to take them to the temple and enjoy the scene of Lord wearing all his garlands. He got an immense satisfaction and great amount of blissful happiness in that. He was also blessed with a spouse Vrajai who also had similar taste for performing service to the Lord. (Never complain about your wife (or husband); If she had been better, she would have got a better husband!)
During those times (9 th century A.D?), there was a king by name "VallabhadEvan" ruling that area (Then madurai). He was a good king and was ruling excellently; He was a great VishNu BhaktA and wished to know the meaning of vEdAs and the glory of the Supreme truth. He enquired his chief minister on his desire and as to how to go about pursuing his interests. The minister said " Let us bring vEdic scholars and ask them your questins and seek clarifications from them; Whoever furnishes good, satisfactory reply and clarifies you can be greatly rewarded, O mighty king.". The king agreed and the announcement was made throughout the kingdom and it was alos told that there will be a bag containing Golden coins hanging at the top and with the power and truth of the vEdic statement/principle, it shall fall automatically. There were many scholars, pundits, vEdic viRpannargaL, arguments, discussions, seminars, pArAyaNams, etc, etc,; But the bag still was hanging! The true vEdic underlying principle/statement was known to anybody; The king was terrible disppointed. The Lord now plays! Sriman NarayaNan, Sri Vadabhatra sAyee appeared in VishNuchitthA's dream and said" O BhaktA, I am impressed with your poomAlai kainkaryam. Tomorrow you go the palace and speak vEdic principles and get the reward". VishNuchitthar said" I am not at all well versed in vEdAs; I did not even study them; I wasted(!) my time without learning all these vEdAs; I have doing only a simple Garland preparation for you, Lord. I can not tell any vEdic truths, since I do NOT know.". The Lord smiled; O VishnuchittA, You are only an instrument. We will speak through you. Not to worry; Just proceed. (ennE BhagawAn's vAtsalyam to bring His BhaktA to the limelight!)
The Lord appeared in the Chief minister's dream too and asked him to arrange to bring VishNuchittar the next day in the palanquin with full honours(GREAT!). The Next day VishNuchittar prayed the Lord and boarded the pallakku (palanquin) and came to the palace with full honours. The scholars laughed at his greed for they knew his limited (or no) knowledge on vEdAs. They made sarcastic statements at him loudly. But once our VishNuchittar started his explanation (after a small prayer) the murmurs stopped; The sarcasm disappeared; People sharpened their ears. The king, the ministers the people and the scholars, everybody could follow the simple statements which were full of deep meanings and were coming as if the waves were coming out of the great ocean; The entire meaning of his statement was clearly understood by one and all and when VishNuchitthar made a concluding statement that Sri MahAvishNu, the Sriya: pathih, is the only paramporuL who is protecting and blessing the whole Universe and all beings and is the only underlying principle of all four vEdAs, the bag FELL by itself! and fell into the hands of VishNuchitthar. The king got up immediately with full of tears in his eyes and prostrated at the feet of VishNuchitthar. He appreciated "I am now clear. You have clarified all my doubts. Sriman NarAyaNanE paramporuL. I have NEVER heard such deep meanings in such simple explanation". All scholars lowered their heads in utter shame and removed their pride and celebrated VishNuchittahr's victory. The king gave away further more lots of prizes and addressed him "BhattarpirAn". VishNuchitthar said "O king, I am dumb. I never spoke. It is HE who spoke here thorugh me. He is the flutist. I am only a bamboo stick. I am only a plant. He is the one who bloomed the flower. I am only a puppet. He is the karthA and a puppetter. Please do not say anything to me. Please do not prostrate at my feet. Let us all prostrate at HIS FEET. Come." and he said this deeply moved, hands shaking and shivering due to the Lord's mercy on his lowly self.
The king made VishNuchitthar sit on the Royal Elephant and arranged for a great procession in the streets of his kingdom. Everywhere people thronged to see the blessed soul and everywhere people were shouting "BhattarpirAn vAzhga! BhattarpirAn vAzhga!". VishNuchitthar was all the time crying with Anandha kaNNeer and was having his palms glued together with his mind fully thinking of him and His mercy. When all these festivities were going on, Do you think our Lord will lie down in PARKADAL. No! He has also wished to see this great scene and enjoy His BhakthA being admired and appreciated. He along with MahAlakshmi appeared on GarudA in the sky and the whole lot of crowd, the king the ministers, the jealous scholars everybody SAW HIM AND HIS CONSORT ON GARUDA! (What a blessed place and blessed people. Were we not even insects in that place during that time?). Seeing the Lord VishNuchitthar was ecstatic and using the bells which the elephant was wearing he made THALAMS and sang "pallaaNdu, pallaaNdu PallAyiratthAndu PalakOdi NoorAyiram" (Long live for many years, Long live for many years for Hundreds of thousands of years!) He is giving AsirvAdhams to the Lord! for living eternally and for ever!. That is why he is called PERIYA AZHWAR - The eldest AzhwAr because he greeted the Lord himself!
After being conferred "Bhattar pirAn", periyAzhwAr continued on his mAlai kainkaryam, while he enjoyed singing pAsurams on kannan. He sang as if he became His mother, yasOdhA. He bathed him, fed Him, dressed Him; played with him; and enjoyed and imagined all thollai inbam which yasOdhA had undergone. The Child's azhaghu, mischiefs, leelAs, were all sung by periyAzhwAr. All his pAsurams are to be read, re-read and enjoyed. All were bhakti laden pAsurams and taste like Grape fruit soaked in Honey.
One such day (on Adi pooram day) when he was plucking flowers and thulasi leaves in his beautiful nandhavanam, he heard a faint cry of a baby, which appeared as an incarnation of BhoomAdEvi. He was pleasantly surprised to find a little bundle of joy with beautiful pretty limbs and a divine golden face with great amount of tEjas, he immediately picked up the female child with both the arms lovingly and showered her with lots of kisses. His wife vrajai was extremely thrilled to hug the God-given child in their nandhavanam and melted with vAtsalyam for the kid. When they hugged the child they felt as if it is Lord BalakrishNan himself whom they were holding; They were getting tremendous amount of joy by bringing up this blessed pretty girl, whom they named "kOdhai".
Kodhai with their love, affection, and bhakti laden pAsurams and Bhagavadh kankaryam grew up with a GREAT amount of Bhakti for kannan (not surprisingly, since, kannan was also brought up by periyAzhwAr in the same house through his pAsurams). KOdhai grew up with "koLLai azhaghu", and with lots of intellect and GnAnam on bhagavadh vishayangaL. She also developed a great amount of affinity to kannan while she helped her father in his kainkaryam. She also used to pluck flowers and prepare garlands along with her father. Her talks and thoughts were always on kannan. With the garlands, she used to accompany her father to VadapathrasAyee temple to have His darshan.
Years rolled by and kOdhai grew up like a beautiful mullai creeper(kodi); Along with that, her bhakti for kannan too exponentially grew up and she longed to see him and be blessed by him. Her love fir the Lord was so much that she even wished to marry him. She took a vow to marry him only and could not think of getting married to any other person. She even dreamt of him coming to her like a male elephant adorned with pattu and peethAmbharam for the Great marriage with kOdhai. She spent her time always with such dreams of SenkaN thirumAl holding her hands and "agni valam". PeriyAzhwAr seeing all this got worried as to how he could make his darling daughter accomplish her wish( when it is not just impossible for anyone to marry the Lord).
Once, periyAzhwAr as usual prepared garlands of flowers and thuLasis and kept them in a safe, clean place and came out. KOdhai, seeing such beautiful garlands, thought for a while, "If I am going to marry only him, why should I not wear these garlands before He does?" and she did wear them. ( What an apachAram for an ordinary person! But our kuzhandhai is sAkshAt BhoomAdEvi and is there any thing wrong in wearing His garlands?) She saw herself wearing the garlands one by one and admired her beauty by looking at the mirror. When she heard some footsteps, she immediately removed them and placed them as usual. When periyAzhwAr adorned the Lord with those garlands, that day the Lord looked exquisitely beautiful and there was even a smile on his lips. The garlands were spreading an excellent sughandham throughout the temple and every one was talking about the speciality of garlands that day. PeriyAzhwAr did not know why on that day it was so different and special when there was nothing extraordinary he did on that day. It was same flowers; same thuLasi and same way of preparations. Why then all this good smell and beauty? He did not know. (We know.).
This continued everyday. Kodhai wore them secretly and saw herself; Lord enjoyed wearing them with great amount of happiness and satisfaction with good smell. No one knew why. One day on a krishna jayanthi day, periyAzhwAr saw kOdhai wearing the garland and he got terribly angry and depressed; felt very much sad and hurt and with lots of sorrow and "vEdhanai" asked her" kOdhaiyE, my child, why did you do such a mahA pApam? Is it not meant for the Lord, Sriman nArAyaNan? How can you impurify by your wearing them, my child?". Kodhai replied with regret and justification" appA, When there is Sriman NarayaNan is in my heart I wished to see him wearing them; Will the Lord get angry by a bhakthA wearing it?". She was welled with tears with the feeling of guilt and periyAzhwAr's heart melted seeing his darling child crying. He lightly hugged her and consoled her saying "Not that, kOdhai, This is meant for the God our Lord, Will it not become impure by our wearing it, kaNmaNi.. Okay. Do not worry.. Do not do this again. Today I will make another garland. Let it become waste. Don't cry." He made another set of garland and adorned the Lord and that day there was no smell; no beauty and no brightness on His face; nor there was any smile on His lips, too. The bhattars (archakAs) were also confused.
PEriyAzhwAr felt sad that he became angry with his sweet child that day for the first time and the Lord also did not look well with the second set of garlands. He had a restless sleep and just before dawn, Govindhan appeared in his dream. He opened His red beautiful coral lips and said" My dearest vishNuchittarE! PeriyAzhwArE!, BhattarpirAn!, For singing paamaalai(pAsurams) and wearing my poomaalai(garlands) only, kOdhai appeared as your daughter and that is what I love to wear, too. She has ruled over me with her paamaalai and poomaalai and hence, shall be called "AnndAL" hereafter. Do not try to stop her from wearing the garlands. She should continue wearing them." PeriyAzhwAr woke up and realised kOdhai's perumai and greatness. He became excited greatly thrilled to know that she is the one who ruled the Lord and called her " ANdALE!". He explained everything to her and AndAL's face became red with "vedkam"(shyness) and blushed. She became widely known as "Soodikkoduttha sudar kodi".
AndAL wrote TiruppAvai (30 verses) as a nOnbu to perform prapatti to the Lord and seek refuge at His Lotus feet. There were great seers who came later appreciated the depths of this philosophical composition of AndAL. When periyAzhwAr brought marriage discussion to kOdhai, she mentioned only Govindhan's name as Her groom. PeriyAzhwAr knew well of her intentions, since he himself was the culprit for his bringing her up only with kannan's thinking at all times. He also knew that Sri AranganAthan was her heartthrob who stole her heart. He was rightfully worried as to how it is possible to get her married to the Almighty. His worry and burden increased day by day as much as Sri AndAL's love for the Lord increased.
The Lord appeared in periyAzhwAr's dream and asked him to come to Sri Rangam the next day. He also appeared in the king Pandyan vallabhan's dream and asked him to arrange to bring AndAL and periyAzhwAr to Sri Rangam with full honours. Next day the King along with his parivArangal, Srirangam kOil archakAs, the chief officers, ministers, all people of Sri villiputthoor, thronged at periyAzhwAr's house. Palanquin, kudai(umbrella), kavari, temple elephant and Royal elephant were all brought to bring the blessed great father and the daughter. The ladies beautified the already beautiful lloking AndAL with pattu, ponnagai, maNI, etc.,. PeriyAzhwAr and vrajai brought kOdhai slowly lovingly and affectionately to the palanquin. Sri AndAL boarded and sat down in the palanquin, symbolifying "peNmayin ilakkaNam". Throughout the way there were arches of flowers and decorations and festive looks. People thronged to see the blessed Beauty of Villiputthoor. (How nice it would have been, sister and brothers.- How great our Sri AndAL would have looked in such an attire with the pretty face getting prettier with "nANam".) They reached Sri Rangam and the temple. They were guided straight to the Sanctum sanctorum, the sannidhi of Thiruvarangan. Our kOdhai stepped into the inner court, looked at him and His face and immediately merged and united with the Lord as a JOTHI (a light).
PeriyAzhwAr and Vrajai were saddened with terrible grief and were crying heavily for having missed their darling daughter to the Lord. Even though periyAzhwAr knew all bhakti and vEdha poruL, etc., etc., he could not control his tears for the separation from his dearest kOdhai.
"Oru magaLai udaiyEn; ulagam niRaindha pugazhAl |
(meaning: Only one daughter I had; The one who became very famous (with her love for Lord); I brought her up like mahAlakshmi; (Now I have lost her;) That Red lotus eyed Lord has snatched her from me) (Poor periyAzhwAr. We can really feel his feelings and sadness. Those who have sisters and daughters will know the feelings; More so when the daughter will not even come home for thalai DeepAvaLi or delivery, etc., She has gone for ever!)
periyAzhwAr and vrajai felt old suddenly for having lost the child. With the help of the king, he consecrated an AndAL statue in Sri Villiputthoor and till last day he was doing his usual kanikaryam of Malai to Sri VadabhathrasAyee but with a heavy heart thinking of kOdhai always.
pAthagangaL theerkkum paramanadi kAttum*/
(The one which removes all our sins and shows the feet of The Lord; Equal to all vEdAs and even the essence of all vEdAs; they are the THIRTY verses of ThiruppAvai sung by kOdhai; and if one doe not know that, he (or she) is a BURDEN to the earth.- Oh my dearest sisters and brothers, Please make it a point to recite these excellent 30 verses every morning and be blessed by Sri ANdAL, who is none other than Bhoomi pirAtti and can only save us from our samsaaric afflictions.)
PeriyAzhwAr thiruvadigaLE saraNam