The lone woman among the Alvars: Who was Andal?

A passionate poet, Andal’s origins bear similarities to that of Sita’s in the Ramayana. Andal has been in the news in recent times but not many seem to know who she was and why she is celebrated. Andal was a Tamil poet and Bhakti saint, like Meera of the north, or Akka Mahadevi of the Kannada region. As a young woman, she fell in love with Lord Vishnu and refused to wed any mortal man. In her songs, she asks for His embrace, demands His caress. She rejects everything and everyone else. A woman with agency around the eighth century ! Andal was devoted, yet audacious. A fascinating woman! One can know her only through her works. Language may be a barrier though, and literal translations fall short. Who were the Alvars? The Alvars were medieval Vaishnavite poets who composed hymns in Tamil, making the essence of the Vedas accessible to more people. Four thousand songs written by the Alvars, compiled as the Nalayira Divya Prabanadham , are considered the equivalent of the Vedas. Even today, the (Tamil) Divya Prabanadham is chanted by those leading temple processions , while the (Sanskrit) Vedas are chanted by those following the deity. […]

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