'Tiruppavai' composed by Andal is a very beautiful collection of poems which women and unmarried girls read /sing during the Margazhi masam. Andal prays to Lord Krishna in a variety of ways and calls her fellow devotees to worship. Margazhi masam falls on 16th december 2010.
Tiruppavai belongs to the Pavai genre of songs, a uniquely Tamil tradition sung in the context of the Pavai vow observed throughout the month of Maarkazi, originally by unmarried girls praying to the Pavai goddess (related to Parvati) for a blissful married life.
Tirupavai is a composition of 30 songs, said to have been sung by Andal, in Sri Rangam. It is a work which even today is sung by girls of marriageable age, by waking early in the morning and then proceeding to Kaveri river for a early morning bath, whereafter, the girls go to the temple of Narayana, in Sri Rangam, for prayers.
It is similar to Tiruvembavai of Manikkavachagar which was sung in Tiruvannamalai.
Sri Vaishnavas sing these stanzas every day of the year in the temple as well as in their homes. This practice assumes special significance during Margazhi: each day of this month gets its name from one of the thirty verses. There are references to this vow in the late-sangam era Tamil musical anthology Paripadal.
Andal also known as Nachiar and also as Kodhai was the daughter of Vishnu Chitta alias Nammazhwar of Srivilliputtur. She is one of the most important saints of Sri Vaishnavism.
At an early age she well in love with Lord Krishna and because she used to wear the garlands meant for the deity before it is worn by the God, she was also called Chudi Kodutha Chudar Kodi. People believed that she was an avathara (incarnation) of Bhooma Devi. At the end of her life she left her ethereal body and mingled with her Lord.
This Thiruppavai extols the virtues of Lord Krishna and requests him for help and guidance in the worship of Goddess Pavai. The worship of this Goddess was very common in Tamil Nadu since ancient times. The worship was done by unmarried girls. They all used to take bath in the rivers daily early in the dawn, in the month of Margazhi(December-January) and worship the goddess by dance and music and observe very strict penance during the day.This it was believed would get them good husbands and would lead to a very happy married life. On each day one of the hymns are being sung during this month even today.
Her poetic works reveal her Nayaki-Nayaka bhava (Heroine-Hero feeling) and absolute surrender to the God. Surrender being the bed rock principle on which Sri Vaishnavism rested , she was revered very much. Her sentiments expressed in her pasurams(poems to God) found an immediate echo in the common man’s mind. Sri Ramanuja who was possibly the greatest saint –philosopher of Sri Vaishnavism , extolled her Bhakthi and sang all the thirty Thiruppavai pasurams every day. Because of that he was called Thiruppavai Azhwar.Also there is a practice to this day among Sri Vaishnavas that during the Poojas of God in any of their temples the last two stanzas of Thiruppavai are sung .
Andal's thirty songs contain the cardinal principles of Vaishnava dharma during the month of Maarkazi. Tamil Vaishnavas sing these songs to bring peace, prosperity and Divine Grace. Andal assumes the guise of a cowherd in these 30 verses.
Andal appears intent upon performing a particular religious vow to marry the Lord, thereby obtain His everlasting company, and inviting all her girl-friends to join her. Towards the end we learn that she did not actually perform a religious rite; but is simply praying to be granted the service of the Lord for eternity. She yearns for everlasting happiness and service of the Lord
The Bhagavatha is one of the famous religious books of India. The story of Shri Krishna's childhood is narrated in it; and it contains other stories about Him and His devotees. In one of the stories of the Bhagavatha some girls pray to Durga- katyayinidevi 'May we get good husbands and may we live happily after marriage' - this is their prayer.
Andal has made use of this story.
But inTiruppavai the devotee's prayer is different. She prays that God may become her husband. 'May I win Lord Krishna's love!' prays Andal. She prays, 'May Lord Krishna rise from his bed; my heart is His throne; and may He always shine on the throne of my heart! People who worship Shri Krishna believe that He is an incarnation of God. Shri Krishna was Devaki's son. Thinking that Kamsa would kill Krishna,Krishna's father Vasudeva took the baby to Nandagokula and left himthere. Yashoda brought him up in Nanda-gokula. Devaki, who gave birth to Krishna, and Yashoda, who brought him up, were both human beings.Recollecting this Andal prays to Krishna: 'we have come to you. Only you can fulfill our desires. We shall happily sing of the boundless joy you bestowed on us.'
In one of the songs Andal wakes up a friend with these words: 'Birds are flying. Did you not hear the sound of the conch in the temple? All hermits are praising Shri Krishna, who pretending to suck milk killed the Rakshasi (the demon) Pootani. All the sages are praying to Lord Hari (Krishna). So wake up.'
In another poem,Andal says to her friends: 'in the garden behind your house,theflower known as sougandhika has opened its lips. The lotus has closed its lips. The sun has risen. The sanyasis are going to worship God. So wake up. Let us also sing the praise of God.'
Andal prays to God thus: 'it is our desire to worship you in the early morning and offer our services at your feet.You are a protector of cows;accept our lovingservice ; we shall be your servants in every birth.' Tiruppavai attracted all that followed the path of devotion.
Shri Ramanujacharya appreciated it very much. He approved the path of Andal and followed it.He called her the Ideal Woman. Today the Tiruppavai of Andal is an immensely popular collection of songs.
The Story of a Florist
There is a story -that a seller of flowers attained salvation by preparing beautiful garlands and offering them to Shri Krishna.
There is a city called Mathura in NorthIndia. This is some 300 miles to the south of Delhi. The kings of Chandravamsha (the Moon Dynasty) lived there. Mathura was their capital. Ugrasena was the king.Kamsa was his son. He imprisoned his father and himself became king. Many good people were persecuted by Kamsa.
Kamsa hated Shri Krishna. He wanted to kill him somehow. He kept ready elephants and wrestlers for this purpose. ShriKrishna was in a place calledNandagokula. Kamsa invited Shri Krishna to Mathura.
Shri Krishna and his elder-brother Balarama came to Mathura. As they were village boys, they wore simple clothes. But should they not go to the king's court infine clothes?They saw a washerman of Kamsa 's palace. Krishna and Balarama took fine clothes from him. A little later they saw a hunchback; she used to supply sandal paste to the palace.The brothers got sandal paste from her and applied it to their bodies.
Then they reached the house of the man who supplied flowers to the palace. His name was Sudama, meaning a maker of lovely garlands. He earned his livelihood by selling garlands.
When Balarama and Shri Krishna came to his house, Sudama involuntarily got up and touched their feet. He gave water that they might wash their hands and feet and then offered seats.The followers of Shri Krishna who had accompanied him from Nandagokula were also welcomed in the same way.
The florist felt very happy. He said to Shri Krishna, "Lord! My life has now become meaningful. My house has attained holi- ness. By worshipping you one gains the blessings of all other gods."
Then 'he presented beautiful, colorful garlands to both Shri Krishna and Balarama. The complexion of Shri Krishna was Shyamala (blue black). He wore blue back flowers to match his complexion. Balarama was of fair complexion. He wore flowers to match his complexion. Shri Krishna and Balarama were very happy. " 0 h, Sudama, what do you desire? I will give you whatever you wish," Shri Krishna said to him.
The florist replied,"Lord you are everything to me. I am your devotee. Grant that my devotion be firm and unwavering. And may I have the compassion to suffer with those that suffer!"
Shri Krishna wondered that Sudama wanted nothing for himself. He said to him, "I have given you whatever you haveasked for. But you must also listen to what I say. Generation after generation, your family will have all that it desires. May your family continue! May you be wealthy so that you can serve God! Be happy and live in peace!"
So Shri Krishna blessed the florist. Like this maker of garlands Periyalwar, too, asked for nothing. He also garlands and offered them to God with devotion.
As Sudama went on offering garlands to Shri Krishna and Balarama, saying,'This is lovely, this is lovelier,'so Periyalwar also found fulfillment in presenting flowers to God. He would not give even a single flower to any one except God. Did he not grow angry even with Andal, whom he loved so much, because she wore the garland?
Let Your Devotion Find Expression in Hard Work
In this way, both Alwar and Andal set the example of showing devotion to God through hard work. And not only that. They nursed the garden with their unceasing care and hard work. They never forgot that every flower grown in the garden would be offered to God. They looked after every plant and flower as if they were children. And they offered the flowers of these plants to God with devotion.
How many have attained God by hard manual labor? 'God Likes hard labor which is the highway to Vaikunta (God's Place)' - Alwar and Andal exemplified this lesson in their lives.