When SrI ANDAL wrote her tiruppAvai


Srimati Praveena Anand, a learned scholar of SrIvaishNava lore was on Face Book on December 16, which coincided this year as it does most years with the first day of the Tamil mArgazhi month (mArgasIrsha, dhanus). In a video presentation of the first verse of ANDAL’s tiruppAvai, she explained the words, mati niRainda nannALAl in the first line of the verse to mean a number of things, but a simple meaning would be that it was a full moon day that day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzksk2xijWM First Paasuram

To write the rest of this article, I too will have to assume that when ANDAL (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andal) wrote the first pASuram  (verse) of her exceptional devotional poem on SrIkrshNa, it was indeed a full moon day. Based on the pArAyaNakrama that obtains in vishNu temples and in SrIvaishNavite households throughout South India and wherever Tamil SrIvaishNavites reside, this pASuram was meant to be recited on the first day of mArgazhi. The pAvai nOnbu vrata takes an important place in the poem, and the nOnbu is held for the 29 days of mArgazhi and concludes on the day immediately following them, namely makara sankrAnti day, lovingly celebrated in Tamil Nadu as the pongal festival day. It stands to reason that the young adopted child of vishNuchitta bhattar (periya AzhvAr) composed the entire poem of thirty verses on  the first day of that mArgazhi, or sang one verse a day, starting from the first of mArgazhi, addressing it to her playmates in SrIvilliputtUr with whom she practised the vrata, even as gOpikA girls would have done in vrndAvan for the divine object of their devotion and love.

Will it be possible to determine when the composing of the first verse (or the entire poem at a stretch) was done by SrI ANDAL, the much beloved poet saint of Tamil SrIvaishNavites, based on that first day of mArgazhi being full moon day? Yes indeed, upto a point.

The Wiki account that I have already referred to gives the period of SrI ANDAL’s short sojourn on earth as some time in the 7th or 8th centuries AD. An authoritative text of nAlAyira divya prabandham (the works of all 12 AzhvArs including Sri AndAL) compiled by Srivatsan (LIFCO publishers Pvt Ltd, First Edition, reprinted 2003) having  biographic notes on both periya AzhvAr and ANDAL, would rather have their period to have occurred in the ninth century. In both cases, the guess has been based on the pAndya king vallabhadeva to have been a contemporary of periya AzhvAr and there being a slight uncertainty in arriving at the period of his reign as well. We will not here consider another school of thought, which believes SrI ANDAL’s advent to have occurred at the very beginning of kali yuga, which could indeed be true, since we do not know whether there was the reign of another vallabhadeva pAndya in that remote period.

We know that almost without exception, mArgazhi begins on December 16th and makara sankarAnti occurs on January 14th. People have also noticed that a full moon occurs on mArgazhi first, once every nineteen years. In the twentieth century we have had this phenomenon in 1910 and  once every nineteen years thereafter up to 1986, one more happening for good measure in this century in 2005. (All these numbers answer to the simple expression 19n+10, where n is a simple integer.)

periya AzhvAr’s year of birth is known to be krOdhana, and SrI ANDAL’s appearance as an infant in his garden to be naLa, and these two samvatsaras are 9 years apart in every sixty year cycle. In the primary order, naLa is the 50th and krOdhana the 59th. So since the AzhvAr is the older person, his finding the child should have happened in his 51st year (in the cycle following the one in which he was born).

The four krOdhanas between the 7th and 9th centuries would have been 665 AD, 725 AD, 785 AD and 845 AD. The corresponding advents of SrI ANDAL would have been in 716, 776, 836 and 896. The years immediately following these advent years following the 19n+10 relationship and allowing our poet-saint  to be a child or a teenager and definitely not older than 20, would be 732, 789, 846 and 903. Of course she would have written her other, more passionate nAcchiyAr tirumozhi after she had specifically decided that she was in love with the ranganAtha form of vishNu in the SrIrangam temple and was tormented by viraha till her marriage with that deity could take place, when she is believed to have merged with her Lord. People of western India would recall the similarly empowering story of Meerabai. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meera

SrI ANDAL’s age during her composing the first verse of tiruppAvai would therefore have been, according to these calculations,  16, 13, 10 or 7. As she is believed to have been a divine incarnation, even the smallest of these numbers would be a possibility, but I opt for 13 or 16. The date for the beginning of the composition of tiruppAvai,, in my humble opinion, was either December 16, 789 or December 16, 732.

SrI ANDAL tiruvadigaLe SaraNam.

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3 Replies to “When SrI ANDAL wrote her tiruppAvai”

  1. Here is a list of Pandya kings who ruled in South India in the eighth and ninth centuries AD. Thanks to their success in saving their land from unfriendly attacks, quite a few of them got the title Vallabhadeva. But only one of them was called Sirmaravallabhan, a name containing the word vallabha, independent of the title Vallabhadeva.
    Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran (675 – 730)
    Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman Rajasingan (730 – 765)
    Parantaka Nedunjadaiyan (765 – 790)
    Rasasingan II (790 – 800)
    Varagunan I (800 – 830)
    Sirmara Srivallabhan (830 – 862)
    Varagunan II (862 – 880)
    Parantaka Viranarayanan (862 – 905)
    From biographical notings about the lives of Periya Azhvaar and Andal, however , we see that the king Vallabhadevan was on the throne both when as a young poet and scholar, the Azhvaar got an award from him for his clear exposition on Muktimarga and later as an old man who was the guardian of a child found by him in his advanced age of 51. With his long reign from 675 to 730 AD, Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran must indeed have been the Vallabhadevan of choice for divine grace and we are able to choose 732 as the unique birth year of Tiruppavai. Andal must have been 16 then.

  2. Smt Praveenas video has been referred simply for her reference to the phrase mati nirainda nannaalaal. It literally means, the good day filled with moonlight. Several interpreters and upanyaasakas have given this literal meaning as well as other philosophical meanings, but I used this scholar’s name as of the person from whom I have listened to this phrase being explained the most recently. I have hurried to make this comment for the sake of persons unfamiliar with Tamilian upanyaasa paddhatis, independent of the language in which the upanyaasa is rendered. This gives me another opportunity to thank my learned niece.

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