Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Srivilliputhur Andal Temple – Legends

Srivilliputhur Andal Temple – Legends
Birthplace of Periyalwar & Andal:
Periyalwar was born as Vishnu Chittar, the fifth son of Mukunda Bhattar and Padmavalli who lived in Srivilliputhur and were engaged in the service of Lord Vadabadrasayee. He had a formal education in the Gurukulam where he mastered the Vedas and became a great scholar. Vishnu Chittar was a great devotee of Krishna. In the Krishnavatara, Lord Krishna grew up in Brindavan and later came to Mathura with his brother Balarama to slay his evil uncle Kamsa and free his parents who languished in prison. In Mathura, he went to the man who made garlands for Kamsa and asked for a garland of flowers.
The Garland maker bowed before Sri Krishna and put a beautiful garland on him saying, “Many yogis and saints wait to have your darshan. Yet you chose to come to the humble dwelling of this ordinary man. I am blessed.” Vishnu Chittar was impressed by the above story  of Krishna and decided that making garlands for the Lord would be his duty. He sold the ancestral properties and bought some land near the Vada Perunkoil. He created a beautiful Nandavanam (garden) in it. Fragrant flowers of all kinds blossomed in it.
In the darkness before dawn, before the bees could find the flowers, he gathered the flowers, made them into a beautiful garland and offered it to Lord Vadabadrasayee. King Vallabhadeva of Pandya Dynasty was ruling over Pandyan Kingdom with Madurai as its headquarters. He invited all the learned men of various faiths for a philosophical debate. On instructions from Lord Vadabadrasayee, Periyalwar travelled with devotees to Madurai, where he was given a warm welcome by king Vallabhadeva. He won the debate and proved that the only  path to moksha was by service to the Lord Vishnu.
King Vallabhadeva gave him enormous wealth as the prize and honoured him by taking him in a procession around the city of Madurai seated on the royal elephant. It is said that Lord Vishnu with the Thayars came to watch his devotee being honoured. Periyalwar, on seeing the Lord, sang the Pallandu, the first 12 verses of Nalayira Divya Prabandham. It begins like this, “Long live for many years, long live for many years, for hundreds of thousands of years!” to God. This is an important prayer in Sri Vaishnava tradition. The Nalayira Divyapprabhandhams are called Tamil Vedam as they bring to us the essence of the Vedas and can be easily understood by the common man.
On his return to Srivilliputhur, Periyalwar renovated the temple of Lord Vadabadrasayee, and built the famous Rajagopuram. Andal is said to be the incarnation of Goddess Earth or Bhoodevi. Andal was found as a five years old  child  beneath the Tulsi plants (Holy Basil) by Periyalwar in his Nandavanam (Temple garden). The child was named Godhai (a beautiful garland) in Tamil. The name Godhai is often Sanskritised as Godha (Go means Bhoomi; Dhaa- given; Given by Bhoomidevi). She is considered to be an incarnation of Bhooma Devi.
Periyalwar  saw Godhai as Lord Vadabadrasayee gift to him since he had no children of his own. He took her home and brought her up with love. Periyalwar tutored her in the Vedas and instilled in her devotion for the Lord Vishnu. Godhai grew up in an atmosphere of love and devotion. Vishnuchitta doted on her in every respect, singing songs to her about Lord Vishnu; teaching her all the stories and philosophy he knew; and sharing with her his love for Tamil poetry. As he made garlands for the Lord every day, the little girl sat near him and listened to him describe incidents from the life of Lord Krishna in Brindavan. She was a child prodigy and scholar in her own right.
As Godhai grew into a beautiful maiden, her love and devotion for the Lord grew to the extent that she decided to marry none but the Lord himself only. As days progressed, her resolve strengthened, and she started to live in a dream world with her beloved Lord and was constantly fantasizing about marrying him. Andal was told that the Gopis of Brindavan observed a vow called Paavai Nonbu in order to attain the Lord. So, she gathered her friends together and assuming she and her friends were the Gopis and Srivilliputhur was Brindavan, the Vadaperumkoil was the palace of Nandagopar and Lord Vadabadrasayee was Lord Krishna, she too observed the Paavai Nonbu and sang the 30 hymns of the Thiruppavai. Andal was only five years old.
One day, when he saw his father make a garland for Lord  Vadabadrasayee. In his absence she wore the Garland and looked at herself in the mirror and wondered if she looked beautiful wearing the garland and if she was a fitting bride for the Lord. She then replaced the garland in the Kudalai (cane basket used for keeping flowers). Periyalwar, unaware of this offered the garland to Lord Vadabadrasayee. This went on for some time. One day, she was caught red-handed by her father in this strange act, and as an orthodox devotee he was extremely upset. He rebuked her and told her not to repeat the sacrilegious act in the future.
Frightened and apologetic, Godhai made a new garland for the offering that day. Legend says that that very night the Lord appeared to Vishnuchitta in his dream and asked him why he had discarded Godhai’s garland instead of offering it to him. The Lord is believed to have told Vishnuchitta that he had whole-heartedly accepted Godhai’s offering all this time. This moved Vishnuchitta so much even as he started to realize the Divine Love that existed between the Lord and his daughter. From this day on, Godhai is believed to have been respected by the devotees and came to be known as Andal, the girl who ruled over the Lord.
She is also known by a phrase Soodi Kodutha Sudarkodi which means “the bright creeper-like woman who gave her garlands after wearing them”. To this day, this unique tradition is followed in this temple, not seen in any other Divya Desam. Lord Vatapatrasaayee adorns every morning the garland worn the previous evening by Andal (the Goddess). The practise is followed during modern times when the garland of Andal is sent to Azhagar Kovil on Chitra Pournami day where the presiding deity Lord Kallazhagar entering into River Vaigai with the garland worn by Goddess Andal and Tirumala Venkateswara Temple during (Garudostavam during the Tamil month of Puratasi (September - October). 
As Andal blossomed into a fifteen-year-old beautiful young woman of marriageable age (girls were married at a much younger age in those days), her father prepared to get her married to a suitable groom. Andal, however, was stubborn and insisted that she would marry only the Lord Vishnu. She then asked him to describe the Divyadesam Perumals to her. She decided that she would marry Lord Ranganathar of Sri Rangam.
This perplexed and worried her father. However, the Lord appeared in Vishnuchitta dream and informed him that he would marry Andal at Srirangam. Lord Vishnu also directed him to bring Andal to Srirangam decked in bridal attire. Lord Vishnu simultaneously commanded the priests at Srirangam, in their dreams, to prepare for the wedding. Andal was taken to Srirangam in her fourteenth year in a palanquin sent by the temple officials in Srirangam.
Periyalwar and the people of Srivilliputhur accompanied her. Andal who was anxious to reach Srirangam was unable to control herself in her urgency to meet her beloved Lord. She ran into the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord Ranganatha and is believed to have merged with him completely at that point. Since Andal married Ranganatha, who came as a king (called Raja), the presiding deity is called Ranga Mannar.
In many places in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Andal is treated more than a saint and as a form of god herself and a shrine for Andal is dedicated in most Vishnu temples. Andal is credited with the Tamil works of Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi that are still recited by devotees during the winter festival season of Margazhi, the month considered special for the observance of Paavai Nonbu. Andal is known for her unwavering devotion to god Vishnu, the God of the Srivaishnavas.
As per mythological legend, the place was referred as Varaha Kshetra. It was a dense forest named Champaka where the sages Bhrigu and Markandeya were doing penance and had their hermitages in the place. A demon named Kalanerai was troubling the sages and they prayed to Vishnu to relieve them from the demon. Vishnu was pleased by their devotion and appeared in the place to slay the demon. He is believed to have taken the abode in the forest reclining on Adisesha, his serpent bed, on the leaf of a banyan tree. The place thus came to be known as Vadaveshwarapuram.
Sri Villi Puthur:
In ancient times, the place was called as Puthur, because of the presence of many ant-hills (Putru – in Tamil) here. The land was under the rule of Queen Malli. The queen had two sons called Villi and Kandan. While the two were hunting in a forest, a tiger killed Kandan. Unaware of this fact, Villi searched for his brother, got tired and fell asleep. Lord Vishnu appeared in a dream to King Villi narrated the incident to him about his brother death and also about his idol in the forest. 
As instructed by the Lord, he found the idol of Lord Vatapatrasaayee under a banyan tree in the forest. He cleared the forest, built the magnificent Vada Perum Koil and built a city around the temple. It was named after him as Villi Puthur and the region was called as Malli Vala Naadu after his mother Queen Malli. Andal was born here later. Hence the place came to be called as Sri Villi Puthur.
Garuda present alongside the Main Deities:
One finds Lord Garuda, the charioteer of Lord Vishnu, alongside the main deities. In all other temples, one finds Garuda standing opposite the main deity. It is believed that Garuda, brought Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam to Srivilliputhur faster than expected and hence he was accorded the special status here.
Legend has it that this town was built by two hunters Villi and Puttan and hence the name Villiputhur.
The region around Srivilliputhur was once a forest called Shenbagaranyam (forest of Shenbaga trees).
Reference in Puranas:
Srivilliputhur (Shenbagaranya Kshetram) finds mention in the Brahma Kaivatsa Puranam and the Varaha Puranam. The Varaha Puranam foretells the existence of Srivilliputhur and the consequent visit of Lord Vishnu during the Varaha Avataram. The Brahma Kaivatsa Puranam mentions the location of Vatapatrasaayee Temple in Srivilliputhur.
Lord Vishnu Darshan:
Vatapatrasaayee is believed to have appeared to Andal, Periyalwar, Markandeya and Bhrigu.
Other Names:
Srivilliputhur is known by other names such as Varaha Kshetram, Thenpuduvai, Vadeswarapuram, Vadamahadamapuram, Shenbagaranya Kshetram, Vikrama Chola Chaturvedi Mangalam and Sridhanvipuri.