Millenia ago, a succession of devotee-poets took birth in the Tamizh country. They celebrated the glories of the Lord through mellifluous poetry. The Vaishnava poets amongst them are called alvaars, literally meaning those who are immersed in God. There were twelve Aalvaars in total, and today we recount the story of Aadaal – the only female mystic finding place in this list.
Vishnuchitta was a pious and sincere devotee of Lord Krishna. He was the chief priest at the Sriviliputtur Ranganathan temple. He was childless for a very long time and yearned to have a daughter. One day the Lord granted his wish. On the way back from the temple, he found a crying baby girl under a wayside tulasi plant. He was very happy and took the baby home. She was named Kodhai (Gift from the Earth).Vishnuchitta, being devoted to Krishna, instilled a lot of the same nature into Kodhai also.
Growing up by listening to romantic stories from Krishna Leela from her father, Kodhai fell in deep love with Lord Krishna. She developed sincere devotion and intense longing towards Krishna. Every morning, she collected flowers and made a garland for the Lord Ranganathan at the temple. Everyday, she would test the garland on herself to make sure that it was comfortable, before sending it to the temple, because her beloved Krishna was going to wear it the whole day. One day, her father found a long piece of hair in the garland and reprimanded Kodhai for being disrespectful. That night, Lord Krishna appeared in his dream and explained that he loved the touch of his devotees. Vishnuchitta got the message, and allowed Kodhai to continue her practice. The people of Sriviliputtur considered her as a saint because she was always singing the glory of her beloved Krishna and was always lost in her love for him. When they came to know about Vishnuchitta’s dream, they revered Kodhai even more and named her Aandaal (One who controls the Lord).
As Kodhai grew up, she began composing beautiful love poems beckoning Krishna to come and accept her as his beloved. Her poetry were collected into two major works called the Tiruppaavai and Naacchiar Thirumozhi. By the age of fifteen she was very staunch in her faith and she refused to get married to anybody except Lord Ranganathan himself. This worried her father very much as there would be no one to take care of Kodhai if he died. Once again, Krishna appeared in his dream, and told him that he would marry Kodhai on the full moon day of the Margazhi month at Srirangam. Kodhai was ecstatic when she heard this, and the marriage procession to Srirangam started from Sriviliputtur. When they reached Srirangam, Kodhai was overjoyed and she could not wait till Krishna showed up to marry her. She ran towards the idol and the people who were standing around, saw her merge with Ranganathan himself. Thus, she is believed to have married him.
To this day the it is tradition to garland Aandal’s idol first, and then use the same garland for Krishna later. Aandaal was the only female saint among the Aalvars. Vishnuchitta, her father, was also an Aalvar – PeriyaAalvar. Aandal’s Thiruppaavai and Thirumozhi verses are appreciated widely across Tamil Nadu. Several classical musicians have put these verses to music in different raagas and render their compositions to the public in the month of Margazhi. Aandaal Thirukalyanam (Aandaal’s marriage) is a celebration on the full moon day of the Margazhi month, at Krishna temples across Tamil Nadu.
The month of Margazhi is a very special month in the Tamizh calendar. It is not only the most beautiful month, in terms of the weather, but it is also the month of harvest for most crops that grow in the Tamizh region. Also, the rays of the rising sun are believed to be very beneficial to the health of women in this month. Therefore we also see many women decorating the entrance of their house with huge designs called kolams during this month. Music and dance performances happen everywhere in Tamil Nadu during Margazhi – it is called the music festival in Chennai and lasts for the whole month. Most importantly, Margazhi (Margasirsha in Sanskrit) is Lord Krishna’s favorite month (Bhagavad Gita Capter 10 verse 35)