Andal or Kodai is one of the twelve Alwars or saints in the Vaishnava tradition.She lived in the first half of 8th century CE Some scholars fix the possible date of Andal as far back as 3000 years BCE.
Andal was born at Srivilliputhur near Madurai, in the Tamil month of Adi (July 15th to August 15th) under birth-star Pooram, on a Tuesday, on the fourth day after the New Moon…Shukla Paksha, the bright fortnight.
Baby Andal was found in the Tulasi garden, in the premises of the temple of Sri Vatapatra Sai. Perialwar, her father, found her while tending the garden and brought her up as his own daughter. Andal grew up in the spiritual surroundings of the temple and joined in the worship of the ruling deity, Krishna/Perumal. she listened avidly to the holy discourses, and to the recitals of the Vedas, epics or puranas and to the bhajans and keerthans sung in that agraharam. From childhood she was fascinated by the Leelas (pranks) of Krishna and developed a deep love for the Lord.
Daily, Andal helped her father to weave the flower garlands that were offered to the temple Deity during the pooja. One morning, Perialwar was shocked to find Andal wearing the flower-garland intended for the Deity and admiring in the mirror and enjoying it. This was an act of sacrilege as the flowers were considered to be contaminated and sullied. That day, in deep anguish, he did not offer that garland to the Deity. That night Perumal appeared in his dream and isaid that the garland worn by Andal was special to the Lord and he wanted only those flowers to adorn his figure in the temple.
Then Perialwar understood that his daughter Kodai was not an ordinary girl. From then onwards she was popularly known as ‘Andal’, the one who ruled Bhagwan. she entered the annals of Vaishnava sampradaayam as ‘Choodai Kodutha Nachiar’, patroness who would offer flowers worn by her. It became a routine for Andal to wear the flower garland prior to offering to the Deity.
As Andal grew up, day by day, her love for Krishna also increased and she resolved to marry Him. When Andal attained puberty, Vishnuchittar or Periaalwar was amazed at her total devotion and desire to marry Krishna. Andal was advised to observe the Margazhi Bath rituals, a custom observed by nubile girls to win good husbands.
Andal gathered all the girls of her neighbourhood at Ayarpadi at dawn during the month of Margazhi. She imagined herself as a Gopika on the banks of the river Yamuna and performed rituals and bathed the Deity. She danced with her friends to the poems and songs that she composed in praise of Krishna. These thirty hymns that described awakening her sakhis/thozhis, going to the river banks, singing bhajans and bathing and adorning the Deity form the subject matter of the Thiruppavai.
Apart form Thiruppavai, Andal has also composed and sung 143 Hymns in Nachiar Tirumozhi in which her intense love for Krishna, in varying moods of bridal love expressing tender hope, utter dejection, joyful triumph, woeful sorrow and total surrender, are depicted.
Andal came to the conclusion that Lord Krishna was the Deity of Sri Rangam–Lord Ranganatha– and chose Him as her Consort.
Lord Ranganatha appeared to Perialwar in a dream and asked him to bring Andal to Sri Rangam in bridal attire. A palanquin, beautifully decorated, was sent from the Sri Rangam temple as instructed by the Lord in a dream to the temple chief.
King Vallaba Deva made elaborate arrangements, decorated the procession route, joined the bridal party and greeted Andal with music and other auspicious symbols needed for a Divine wedding. People cheered.
Andal walked into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and as she worshipped the Lotus Feet of Perumal, she became one with the Lord. To the astonishment and wonder of the people assembled, Andal’s physical body merged with the Deity, Lord Ranganatha.
Margazhi–the holy month of prayer, devotional singing and austerity is always associated with Andal and her divine love for Perumal. Her songs are sung, one each day in the prescribed order and she is venerated as a saint!