History of Aandal Rangnayaki

Aandal Rangnayaki was born in the eight century of Vikram Samvat. She was the Meera of South India and a devout lover of Lord Krishna. She was the one who established that love was indeed the God-personified in His most beautiful and charming form and that love is Satya (Truth) and Shivam (most auspicious). Her Premabhakti (love for the divine) was an expression of the bhakti of Vaishnav-Alawar saints of South India. Alawars were devotees of Lord Narayan and believed that He was full of Love. Aandal saw manifestation of love in all, Narayan as well as in the whole world. She had surrendered her entire being at the feet of Lord Ranganath. She was like a true Gopi as described in the Srimadbhagwat. She believed in the supremacy of the Gopibhava.

In the tradition of Alawars Vishnuchitt is considered to be the first, he is called Peri-Alawar. He lived in a village at the banks of river Kaveri and spent his time in bhakti. One day when he was giving water to Tulsi plants (the sacred basil plant), he saw a newly born baby girl lying over there. He picked up the baby in his arms and with great devotion took her at the feet of the Lord saying that she belonged to the Lord and prayed Him to accept her. The idol of Narayan (Lord Rangnath) appeared to ask Vishnuchitt very clearly that he should look after the girl child as his daughter and name her “Kodai” which means ‘attractive as a garland of flowers’. In due course she was well known as ‘Aandal’. As she grew up, her heart filled with the love for Lord Vishnu. She spent all her time in the remembrance of the Lord and devoted herself entirely to Lord Vishnu spending most of her time in bhakti and in picking up flowers and visiting the Lord. On growing a little older she started singing to please the Lord. Her songs used to be full of devotional love.

When her father had gone to the temple in the morning, she used to make a garland of flowers. She used to be so engrossed in the love for the Lord that she would first put on her own self the garland made with lot of effort and then send them to temple for the Lord. She used to stand before a mirror wearing the garland and used to ask herself whether her beauty is worth offering to her beloved-Lord Vishnu. She worshiped the Lord as her husband. A few times the Pujari (priest) had doubt whether the garland was worn by some one and then offered to Lord. He mentioned this to Peri-Alawar. He fully trusted his daughter and could never imagine that she could send used garland for the Lord. He, however, was not able to find an answer as to why the garland for the Lord did not look fresh. One day the priest returned the garland saying that it has a human hair entangled to it. Vishnuchitt felt very upset and he offered another garland made from freshly picked up flowers. Next day again the priest returned the garland saying that it was not fresh, it had already been worn by some one. Vishnuchitt thought that there must be some secret behind it, which must be related to his house and, therefore, he started to look for it. Suddenly he spotted Aandal standing behind a curtain in front of the mirror with the garland in her neck and talking to Srirang (Lord Vishnu) in her own thoughts. Vishnuchitt rushed to her and asked her about what she was doing. He said that she had rendered the garland unfit for the use for the Lord, as she had already worn it. Vishnuchitt then made a fresh garland for the Lord and gave it to the priest.In the night Vishnuchitt had a dream. He saw the Lord in the dream saying him that He should be offered the same garland, which was worn by Aandal. The offering to the beloved is fruitful only when the beloved accepts it. In the case of Aandal she was a devout lover of the Lord and the Lord had accepted her as His. Vishnuchitt now had realized the true love of Aandal for the Lord and Lord’s acceptance for her. Thereafter Aandal started devoting all her time in the remembrance of Lord and the garlands worn by her were offered to the Lord.

Aandal remained grossly engaged in the remembrance of her beloved all the time. Once she asked her father about the scared and pilgrim places. Vishnuchitt described various places and told her that ‘in the South Lord Sri Rangnath resides at the bank of river Kaveri’. She was thrilled and tears started rolling out of her eyes. On further query Vishnuchitt told her that when after conquering Lanka Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya, Vibhishan was also with him. When Vibhishan was returning to Lanka, he said that he could not live without him and requested Lord Ram to give him some souvenir that may console him. Lord Ram then gave him the idol of Sri Rangnathji and asked him not to keep it on down before reaching Lanka. When Vibhishan reached the banks of river Kaveri, he started performing some Yagya and kept down the idol of Lord Rangnath. Lord Rangnath thereafter refused to accompany Vibhishan to Lanka. Vibhishan, therefore, erected a temple of Lord Rangnath over there and used to visit the temple daily from Lanka.

Aandal was getting more and more pulled towards Lord Rangnath and now she could not bear her separation from Him even for a moment. She used to cry and ask her beloved to accept her at His feet. She had risen above the physical existence. For her both inside and outside, everywhere in each particle, it was her Lord, who alone existed for her. Though physically she lived in the house of Vishnuchitt but mentally she used to be present in Vrindavan playing with Gopis and Lord Krishna. She would make earthen hutment, Lord Krishna would come and dismantle it. She would be bathing in the river Yamuna along with other Gopis and Lord Krishna would take away their clothes. She used to get message of her beloved in the singing of cuckoo.

Once she got so frenzied in the anguish of separation that Lord Rangnath appeared in the dream of the priests and asked them to bring His beloved Aandal for her marriage with Him immediately. Simultaneously He appeared in the dream of Vishnuchitt Peri-Alawar and asked him to adorn Aandal as a bride and to bring her to the temple. Aandal at the same time saw in her dream that she was being married to the Lord with great ostentation. Next day very early in the morning devotees and priests reached the house of Vishnuchitt with a palanquin to take Lord’s bride to the temple. Conches were being blown loudly with uproar of musical instruments and ecstasy all around. Aandal, devotion personified, was welcomed in the temple amidst the enchanting of Veda-mantras and feeling of divinity all around. A divine light engulfed the temple. Aandal immediately rode over the Sheshshaiyya (couch of Sesa-the divine serpent) of Lord Rangnath. The lover and beloved united. A divine light embraced Aandal, Lord Sri Rangnath and Aandal became one. In a moment and in the presence of all Aandal left behind her physical body and forever slept in the lap of her beloved. Her soul had wedded Lord Rangnath and became one with Him. Aandal was the culmination of the love of Gopis for Lord Sri Krishna.

Aandal is considered as an incarnation of Bhoodevi (goddess earth). Every year the anniversary of her wedding with Lord Rangnath is celebrated with great ostentation in the temples of South India. Her songs in the remembrance of Lord Rangnath are a great contribution of her in promoting Krishna-bhakti in the South. The great King of Vijaynagar Maharaj Krishnadevrai wrote a play “Aamuktmalyadam” based on Aandal.