SRI ANDAL TEMPLE, SRIVILLIPUTHUR
The Kumbabhishekam of the Srivilliputhur Vadabadra Sayanar temple was performed recently.I had the good fortune to visit the temple, that too in the month of Adi, the Tamil month in which Andal was born!
Srivilliputhur is a small town near the Western ghats in Virudhunagar District in Tamilnadu. But everything about it that is small ends here!
- It is the birthplace of two of the greatest Alwars of the Vaishnava tradition- Perialwar and his foster daughter Andal .
- The official emblem of the Government of Tamilnadu is the magnificent temple tower of the Vadabadrasayee Perumal at Srivilliputhur.
I was delighted to see a herd of cattle on the road as we approached Srivilliputhur! Cattle and cows are celebrated by Andal in her Tiruppavai,an immortal collection of hymns on Sri Krishna, the gopis and life in Ayarpadi (Brindavan).
The Andal Temple or Nachiyar koil as it is also called consists of twin temples:
- Sri Vadabadrasayee Temple
- Andal Temple.
In addition to this is the famous Tiruppora Mantapam where Andal was born and Periyalwar temple.
We went first to Andal koil as it is called here. In the sanctum sanctorum we have darshan of Andal, Rangamannar and Garudalwar. Their Panchaloga idols grace the mandapam in front.The Battar explains that this is the Mana Kolam of Andal Nachiyar meaning the idols depicted the wedding of Andal with Rangamannar. Here, Garudan stands with the wedding couple, unlike in other Vishnu temples where you usually find Garudan outside the sanctum sanctorum facing the Lord.The reason was that, Garudan brought Rangamannar from Srirangam to the marriage venue very fast(adhi seekramai), so Andal honoured him by giving him a place on the peetam next to them! Moreover, in this temple, there is no separate sannidi for Andal!
Together, Andal, Rangamannar and Periya thiruvadi Garudalwar are seen as Pranava roopam. It is also known as Pranavakara darsanam. Rangamannar in the middle represents agaram, Andal represents ugaram and Garudan represents makaram.The three together i.e.Aa+Uu+Ma form the holy word Om.In Srirangam, Lord Ranganathar holds a conch and discus in his hands, In Srivilliputhur, he holds a dhandam-royal staff held by kings and is called as Rangamannar.
Prayers are made to Thayar Andal and are believed to be heard and granted.
A green parrot rests on Andal’s shoulder.This parrot is special in that it is freshly made by hand everyday using leaves and herbs.
It is believed that Andal temple is the place where Periyalwar lived and that Periyalwar built the temple on his return from Srirangam after Andal was united with the Lord.It was renovated by the later Pandya kings. The fish emblem of the Pandya dynasty can be seen in the ceiling and mantapams.The Nayakkar kings of Madurai and the Vijayanagara kings made large donations to Sri Andal temple.
TEMPLE OF LORD VADABADRASAYEE
The temple is also called as Vada Perum Koil and Periya Perumal Koil.
This is the Divyadesam temple.
The temple of Lord Vadabadrasayee is a two- storeyed Maadakoil,with a large prakaram full of beautiful paintings and sculptures. A shrine for Lord Lakshmi Narasimha is on the ground floor. The idol is large and brightly painted.
A large flight of wide stone steps lead to the floor above. A mantapam leads to the sannidhi of Lord Vadbadrasayee. Lord Vadabadrasayee reclines on Adisesha beneath a banyan tree-Vadabadram. Sridevi and Bhudevi and sages Narada and Markandeya, Garudan, Surya and Sanathkumaras are present with the Lord. The Lord’s image is a large and very colorful sudhai sirpam –made of brick and mortar, hence daily tirumanjananam (sacred bath ) is not performed.
This was the Lord whom Periyalwar and Andal worshipped with such fervor.This was the Lord who asked to be decked only with the garland of flowers worn by Gothai, who henceforth was called as Soodi Kodutha Sudarkodi and as Andal meaning she who won over the Lord.This was the Lord whom Periyawar adored so much that he devoted his entire life to his service.
Not surprising, for words cannot describe the beauty of Lord Vadabadrasayee. It draws one like a magnet.
Also on the first floor is a large rectangular hall with ornate woodwork on the walls. It is called Gopala Vilasam and it was built 200 years ago using wood panels from the temple car which was damaged. The intricate carvings on the wood panels depict scenes from the Ramayana and other puranas and scenes from the life of Andal. It is here that the Arayar sevai is performed during the Pagal pathu utsavam.
Outside, the path leads to the famous Tiruppora mandapam which is in a garden. It was here that Andal was found as a small child beneath Tulasi plant by Periyalwar. We worship Andal here as a young child. It is believed that Andal played in this garden. It is also believed that this mantapam was built by Periyalwar and the idol installed after his return from Srirangam where he handed over Andal in marriage to Rangamannar.
- It is more than 2000 years old. It is believed to have existed even before Periyalwar’s time which is tentatively thought to be the 6th century or 9th century A.D.
- The two temples contain over 60 inscriptions in “vattezhuthu”, in the Gopuram, Dwajastambam, and walls of the central shrines and mantapams.In the inscriptions, Srivilliputhur is referred to as Malli Valanadu and Andal is referred to as Soodi Kodutha Nachiyar.
HISTORY OF SRIVILLIPUTHUR
The region around Srivilliputhur was once a forest called Shenbagaranyam-forest of Shenbaga trees. Lord Vishnu appeared in a dream to King Villi. As instructed by the Lord he found the idol of Lord Vadabadrsayee under a banyan tree in the forest. He cleared the forest, built the magnificent Vada Perum Koil and built a city around the temple.It was named after him as Villiputhur and the region was called as Malli Vala Naadu after his mother Queen Malli. It was called
Puthur -because there were many ant-hills (putru-in Tamil) here
Villiputhur-because it was built by King Villi
Srivilliputhur because Andal (Sri) was born here.
Periyawar was born as Vishnu chittar, the fifth son of Mukunda Battar and Padmavalli who lived in Srivilliputhur and were engaged in the service of Lord Vadabadrasayee. He had a formal education in the Gurukulam where he mastered the Vedas and became a great scholar.
Vishnu Chittar was a great devotee of Sri Krishna. In the Krishnavatara, Lord Krishna grew up in Brindavan and later came to Mathura with his brother Balarama to slay his evil uncle Kamsa and free his parents who languished in prison. In Mathura, he went to the man who made garlands for Kamsa and asked for a garland of flowers. The Garland maker bowed before Sri Krishna and put a beautiful garland on him saying, “Many yogis and saints wait to have your darshan. Yet you chose to come to the the humble dwelling of this ordinary man. I am blessed.”
Vishnu Chittar was impressed by the above story of Krishna and decided that making garlands for the Lord would be his vocation too. He sold the ancestral properties and bought some land near the Vada Perunkoil. He created a beautiful Nandavanam (garden) in it. Fragrant flowers of all kinds blossomed in it. In the darkness before dawn, before the bees could find the flowers, he gathered the flowers,made them into a beautiful garland and offered it to Lord Vadbadrasayee.
The Pandya king who ruled Madurai during this period was King Vallabadevan. He invited all the learned men of various faiths for a philosophical debate.
On instructions from Lord Vadabadrasayee, Periyalwar travelled with devotees to Madurai, where he was given a warm welcome by king Vallabadevan. He won the debate and proved that the only path to moksha was by service to the Almighty. King Vallabadevan gave him enormous wealth as the prize and honoured him by taking him in a procession around the city of Madurai seated on the royal elephant. It is said that Lord Vishnu with the Thayars came to watch His bhakta being honoured . Periyalwar, on seeing the Lord, sang the Pallandu, the first 12 verses of Naalayira Divya Prabandham. It begins like this, “Long live for many years, long live for many years, for hundreds of thousands of years!” to God. This is an important prayer in SriVaishnava tradition.The Naalayira Divyaprabandham are called Tamil Vedam as they bring to us the essence of the Vedas and can be easily understood by the common man.
On his return to Srivilliputhur, Periyalwar renovated the temple of Lord Vadabadrasayee, and built the Rajagopuram which we see today with the help of King Valabadevan.
The magnificent Rajagopuram is 192 feet high with eleven tiers and is one of the tallest in Tamilnadu. It is the official emblem of the Government of Tamilnadu.
THE STORY OF ANDAL
Andal is said to be the incarnation of Goddess Earth or Bhudevi.She was sent down here to Earth to reveal the delight of divine love. She was born in Srivilliputhur, in Virudhunagar district of Tamilnadu.
Andal was found as a five year old child beneath the Tulsi plants (Holy Basil) by Perialwar in his Nandavanam (Temple garden).He took her to Lord Vadabadrasayee who directed him to name the child as Godhai which means- Godhaa” [ Go means Bhoomi ; dhaa- given ; Given by Bhoomidevi and raise her as his own daughter.
Periyalwar saw Godhai as Lord Vadabadrasayee’s gift to him since he had no children of his own. He took her home and brought her up with love. Periyalwar tutored her in the Vedas and instilled in her devotion for the Almighty. As he made garlands for the Lord, the little girl sat near him and listened to him describe incidents from the life of Lord Krishna in Brindavan. She was a child prodigy and scholar in her own right and her love and devotion for Sri Krishna grew. She decided that she wanted to marry him.
Andal was told that the gopis of Brindavan observed a vow called Paavai Nonbu in order to attain the Lord. So, she gathered her friends together and assuming she and her friends were the gopis and Srivilliputhur was Brindavan, the Vadaperumkoil was the palace of Nandagopar and Lord Vadabadrasayee was Lord Krishna, she too observed the Paavai nonbu. and sang the 30 hymns of the Thiruppavai. Andal was only five years old!
One day,she saw her father make a garland forLord Vadabadrasayee. In his absence she wore the Garland and looked at herself in the mirror and wondered if she looked beautiful wearing the garland and if she was a fitting bride for the Lord! She then replaced the garland in the Kudalai (cane basket used for keeping flowers). Perialwar, unaware of this offered the garland to Lord Vadbadrasayee. This went on for some time. One day, Perialwar found a strand of hair in the garland and threw it away. He made a fresh garland for the Lord. That night in a dream, Lord Vadabadrasayee spoke to him thus, “The garland with the hair was worn by your daughter Gothai. Henceforth, offer the garland to Me only after it is worn by Gothai, I take pleasure in wearing the garlands worn by her.
From then onwards Gothai was called as Andal and as Soodi Kodutha Nachiyar. To this day in Srivilliputhur, the garland worn by Sri Andal in the evening is taken the next morning to be worn by Lord Vadabadrasayee.
At the right age Periyawar started searching for a suitable bridegroom for his daughter. Andal however told him that she would marry only the Lord. She then asked him to describe the Divyadesam Perumals to her. She decided that she would marry Lord Ranganathar of Sri Rangam.
Then Periyalwar had a dream in which Ranganathar directed him to bring Andal to Srirangam decked in bridal attire.The temple officials in Srirangam had a similar dream.
Andal was taken to Srirangam in her fourteenth year in a palanquin sent by the temple officials in Srirangam. Periyalwar and the people of Srivilliputhur accompanied her There she merged with the Lord in the sanctum.
What is unique about these temples
- The temple of Lord Vadabadrasayee is a Divyadesam temple.
- Srivilliputhur is a Varaha Kshetram as Lord Vishnu in his Varaha Avataram rested here briefly when this region was a dense forest called Shenbagaranyam.
- The Alwars Periyalwar and Andal who is the only woman among the Alwars were born in Srivilliputhur.
- Villiputhoorar who wrote the Villibaratham in Tamil based on the Mahabharatam of Sage Vyasa was also born here.
- Periyawar sang the 12 Paasurams of Thiru Pallaandu and 461 Paasurams of Periyalwar Thirumozhi
- Andal sang the 30 paasurams of Thirupaavai and 143 paasurams of Naachiyar Thirumozhi.
- It is interesting to know that a garland worn by Andal is sent to Tirupathi one day before the Bramotsavam begins in Tirumalai and offered to Lord Venkateswara.
- Kallazhagar of Madurai is also presented with a garland worn by Andal on Chithirai Festival day.
Andal in her NachiyarTirumozhi has sung an important Pasuram on Tirumaliruncholi Perumal starting as “ Naaru Narum Pozhil Maaliruncholai Nambikki Naan Nooru Thada Vennai Vaay Nerndhu Paravi yaithen; Nooru Thada Niraindha AkkaraAdisil Sonnen ; Eru Thiru Udayan Indru Vandhu Ivai Kolungalo “. This wish of hers was later fulfilled by Acharyan Ramanujar. Hence , She is said to have invited Ramanujar , when he came to SriRangam temple as “ Kovil Annan Vaareer “ ! And in her Vaazhi Tirunamam we say thus :, “ PerumPoodoor Mamunikki Pin Aanal Vazhiye “ !
Srivilliputhur is 75 km.from Madurai and 70 km. from Tirunelvelli.
Hotel Kathiravan is a good place to eat.
7A.M. to 1P.M.
4 P.M. to 9P.M.