CHENNAI: December 16th marked the beginning of the Tamil month Margazhi. The streets of Tamil Nadu is filled with hymns on Lord Thirumal recited early morning before the dawn. Men and children wearing a white dhoti and smeared with sacred ash and vermillion holding Taal and producing high-pitched percussion sounds recite Thiruppavai written by Andal in 7th century.
Andal of Srivilliputhur was the only woman among twelve Alwars, the poet- saints of the Bhakti movement belonging to the Vaishnava sect. She produced two great works Thiruppavai and Natchiyar Thirumozhi which were recited every month of Margazhi for over a thousand years.
These songs were in the praise of Lord Thirumal. Andal who had deep faith in Thirumal refused to get married and was reciting songs in the praise of him. The songs were produced in the deep state of ecstasy with a dream to marry her beloved deity. But spirituality crossing the borders of worldly affairs made Andal’s father Periyalwar in distress.
The birds are awake and from the temple of the Lord
Can you not hear the loud sound of the white conch
Oh young lass, wake up, the Lord who suckled poison into the demon’s breasts
The Lord who vanquished the demons
The Lord who is resting gently on the serpent in the ocean
The One who is meditated by the sages and the yogis
As you wake up gently may the magnificent glory of the Lord
Fill your mind and make you joyful, my girls
According to the traditions, Andal used to garland herself with the flowers made for the Lord Thirumal and check whether it would suit her deity. This became a daily routine and Periyalwar noticed this. He warned Andal of the mischievous activity and warned not to defame the supremacy of Thirumal. But one-day Thirumal appeared in the dream of Periyalwar and insisted not to stop her daughter’s activity which made him merry.
From then she was fondly called ‘Soodi kodutha Sudarkodi’ ( Bright creeper like woman who gave her garlands after wearing them). Paavai nonbu (fasting) is the main purpose of Margazhi month. It traces its roots to the Sangam era where women used to hold fasting to get a good husband.
Thiruppavai and Natchiyar Thirumozhi were literary masterpieces of the Tamil language which were included in Nalayira Dhivya Prabandam – the total compilation of Alwars. Thiruppavai portrays the vivid picture of dawn urging the spinsters of Ayarpadi (Brindavan) to wake up and fast to seek the blessings of Thirumal, elaborating his traits and glory and getting rewards from him. The works were the highlights of the Bhakti movement which holds a significant cultural value across the country.