Pranams to Lord, Guruji and fellow sat-sanghis,
Most of the times, we remember an event or a day using some food item. Lakshmiji made a very good Alu on the day of Satya Narayana Pooja, Doctor made good appam yesterday in sat sangh. Even our festivals are remembered mostly for the food item that we eat in the name of the Lord, for instance, the prasadam we get during vinayaka chaturthi.
However, in southern parts of India, the month beginning from 16 December to 15 January is remembered not just for hot pongal but for 30 delightful verses sung by Goddess Andal in praise of the Lord, which is named "Thiruppavai". Pavai means an unmarried girl and being verses sung by Andal (as an unmarried girl) for people who want to seek god through utmost devotion, it was perhaps named as "thirupavai".
Around 1100 years back, there were 12 alvars who sang many verses in the name of Lord Narayana to show the path of devotion to people. Vishnusitthar was one of them, called as "periayalvar" by devotees. He was using all his wealth to do service to the Lord in Srivilliputhur Temple. One early morning when he was gardening at his back yard, near a thulasi plant, he found a beautiful box. To his amazement, he opened the box and found a cute, little baby girl who had brightness written all over her. He named her "Kothai", "Ko" refers to earth and "tha" refers to given by.
Kothai had the best childhood (like our kids Santosh, Mahita and all), in the midst of "sat sang", hearing all good stories on how lord helps people who seek out to him with devotion.
Periyalvar used to make a floral garland every day and offer it to lord. Kothai, grown up to a teenage girl by now, was so attracted by the beauty of the garland that she used to wear the garland, look in the mirror and remove it. One day while she was doing this, Periyalvar came into the house. Shocked at his daughter’s action, he cried before the Lord to forgive him and her daughter, made another garland and offered it to Lord. That night the Lord came in dreams of Periyalvar and asked him as to why the garland offered did not have any fragrance ? Lord himself answered by explaining the divinity of Kothai and asked Periyalvar to offer the garland only after she wears it. She was also named "Andal" from that day. The word "andal" means one who ruled, and since Kothai mesmerised the lord himself by her devotion, she was named "Andal".
Andal spent all her time thinking of the Lord and singing in his name. As an unmarried girl with a desire to reach lord, she undertook fasting in the month of Margazhi and sang sang 30 verses in praise of the Lord and these verses were called "Thiruppavai".
On reaching the marriageable age, Andal told her father that she will marry only the Lord. One day, Lord SriRanganthan came in Periyalvar’s dreams and asked for Andal to be married to him.
When Periyalvar and Andal reached SriRangam and had the darshan of Lord SriRanganatha, Andal walked towards the lord, with full devotion and disappeared at the feet of the Lord.
Goddess Andal believed that the way to experience the Divine is straight-forward. No money is required, no power is required. All you require is a pure heart and mind, devoted to Lord, or in other words, "Bhakti".
I will just give the literal meaning of one of the verse, which forms part of early morning prayers throughout the year :
"O Lord, please hear the reason for our early morning surrender at your lotus feet, singing your praise. Please do not refuse our offerings. We have come to you not only for this birth, but for many more future births and in all these births, we will not think of any superior power other than you and with your blessings, we will get the greatest happiness by doing service to you"
By: Venugopal <firstname.lastname@example.org> on December 20, 1997