Andal Alvar Pastimes by HH Bhakti Rasamrita Swami Hindi
Kulashekhara Alvar and Andal Alvar Glories by HH Radhanath Swami
The life of Andal is remarkable in its romantic simplicity. A devout brahmin named Vishnuchitta lived in Villiputtur, a town near Madurai. His daily duties included procuring Vishnuchitta discovering Andal. Scultpure above the Tulasi garden in Shrivilliputtur flowers for the worship of the Lord at the local Temple. One morning, as he went about his business, he discovered a baby girl lying under a Tulasi plant in his flower garden. Having no family of his own, Vishnuchitta felt it was God's grace that gave him this child and named her Godai, or "gift of Mother Earth." Filled with joy, he took her home and raised her as his own.
Godai grew up in an atmosphere of love and devotion. Vishnuchitta doted on her in every respect, singing songs to her about his Beloved Krishna, teaching her all the stories and philosophy he knew, and sharing with her his love of Tamil poetry. The love Vishnuchitta had for his Beloved Lord intensified further in his daughter, and before long she was passionately in love with Lord Krishna. Even as a child, Godai made up her mind to marry none but the Lord of Vrindavana, and refused to think of any human being in similar terms.
She imagined what it would be like to be His bride, playing the role of His beloved, enjoying His presence. Unknown to her father, she adorned herself daily with the flower garland he prepared for the Lord at the Temple. After admiring her reflection and thinking of herself as His ideal bride, she would put the garland back for her father to take to the Temple and offer to the Lord.
One day, Vishnuchitta noticed a strand of Godai's hair on one of the garlands. Shocked and saddened by this desecration of what was meant only for the Lord, he scolded Godai for her misuse of the garland and discarded it. He carefully prepared a new one and offered it to the Lord, begging His pardon all the while.
That night, the Lord appeared to Vishnuchitta in his dream and asked him why he discarded Godai's garland instead of offering it to Him. He told Vishnuchitta that He missed the scent of Godai's body in the flowers, and that He preferred them that way. Would he please continue to give the garlands once worn by Godai? Overcome with emotion, Vishnuchitta awoke and cried tears of both joy and remorse. It dawned on him that his daughter was someone whose love of God was so intense and pure that even he had not comprehended its extent. Her spiritual greatness was such that the Lord Himself wished to share her presence. From this day on, she became known as "Andal", the girl who "ruled" over the Lord.
Andal blossomed into a beautiful young woman as she came of marriageable age. When asked to marry, however, she stubbornly refused, saying that she would only agree to marry Shri Ranganatha, the Lord at the great Temple town of Shrirangam. Vishnuchitta despaired, wondering what was to become of his daughter. One night, Lord Ranganatha appeared in his dream and asked that Andal be sent to Him in all her wedding finery. Simultaneously, the Lord appeared before the priests at Shrirangam and asked them to prepare for the coming of Andal. Vishnuchitta once again was filled with both joy and sadness; joy that his beloved daughter would attain her goal, but sadness at losing her at the same time. He made all the wedding preparations and arranged for Andal's journey in a palanquin to Shrirangam.
Andal waited with excited anticipation as the wedding party approached Lord Ranganatha's shrine. As they entered the Temple, she jumped out of the palanquin, unable to restrain herself any longer. Running into the Temple sanctum, she embraced Lord Ranganatha and disappeared in a blaze of glory, having joined her Lord. She was only fifteen at the time.
Andal is now one of the best loved poet-saints of the Tamils. Pious tradition reckons her to be the veritable descent of Bhumi Devi (Mother Earth) in bodily form to show humanity the way to His lotus feet. She is present in all Shri Vaishnava Temples, in India and elsewhere, next to her Lord, as she always desired.