Friday, April 22, 2016

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Andal Shrines

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Andal Shrines
It is important to note that as many as three shrines are dedicated to Andal in Srirangam. It is well-known that chitra (originally, mada) veethi constitutes the seventh and last of the dedicated enclosures (tiru-Vidi / prakaram) of Ranganathaswamy Temple. There is an eighth enclosure, known as ‘adaiya-valaindan’ (meaning, ‘all-embracing’).

The temple is also known for the legend of Andal, a female Alvar saint of the Sri Vaishnava sect. She got married symbolically to the Ranganatha icon (Vishnu) as per her deep desire. The marriage took place in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple when Andal (said to be an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi) merged with the image, and became a part of Ranganatha.

Andal shrine is of great importance here. She was a great devotee of Lord Ranganatha and she is believed to have merged with the God here. The Thiruppavai (collection of hymns) composed by her praising the Lord is sung by young and old in the month of Margazhi (December mid – January mid).

Veli Andal Shrine:
At the time when Periyalvar escorted Andal on pilgrimage to Srirangam, the present-day Uttara (trivikraman) and chitra (mada) Veedhi were tenanted by only the temple functionaries; accordingly, the Alvar put up in the south-western part of ‘adaiya-valaindan’, so as to be within easy reach of the streamlet ‘Thirumanjana – Kaveri’. On this site, came up the first Andal Sannidhi in Srirangam. Here Andal is represented in the ‘seated’ posture and is worshipped only in the ‘moola’ form; since the Sannidhi is on the ‘veli Thirumutram’ (outer yard) of the Periyakoil, it is referred to as the ‘Veli Andal Sannidhi’, and it could be almost as ancient as the Srivilliputtur Andal Sannidhi. This Sannidhi is administered by Sri Koyil Kandhadai Annan Tiirumaligai. 

Ul Andal Shrine:
The second Andal shrine (commonly referred to as the ‘Ul Andal’) is approached from the ‘Ranga-Vilasam’; the ‘Utsava murti’, also in the seated posture, was moved here from the Veli Andal Sannidhi. Sri Rama is also worshipped in this Sannidhi, and one can notice a replica of Udaiyavar’s ‘tan-Ana Thirumeni’ in a sub-shrine here. It is on this spot that the enchanting episode of “Vaaranam Aayiram” is recalled, after Namperumal dismisses the Anai-vahanam (elephant mount) and pauses to exchange garlands with Andal. 

Andal Shrine among Azhwars:
A few steps to the east of Chandrapushkarani, and across Sri Kodandaramar Sannidhi, are the Parama-pada-Nathan Sannidhi where all the Alvars are in ‘salokyam’ with Perumal. In this Sannidhi, Andal (in standing posture as in Srivilliputtur) is worshipped in a sub-shrine.

Next to that lies the famous 'Andal Kannadi Sevai' - Andal here is always found with Alankar (beautifully dressed up); there is a mirror found in the shrine where the image of Andal is reflected. Small idols of Rama, Sita, Ramanuja and few Alwars - importantly Srinivasa Perumal with three consorts Sri Devi, Bhoo Devi and Neela Devi are found.