First, the bracelets that would grace the hands He would hold.
Kodhai looked at her lean, dusky forearms, watching the pearl bracelet slip over it with ease, reminding her of His teeth as he unleashed His smile.
Second, the bangles for her biceps – the ones that would flex as she held her ground.
The thol-valai, the bangle for the shoulder, fit in with perfection, as if it was made for her arms. Kodhai would not believe if she had not known for herself that this was not exactly hers.
Then, the ear-rings. To adorn the ears that would hear His nama, His voice.
Fastening the screw of her golden thodu, Kodhai felt as if her ears had gotten more beautiful by association. Decorated, fit enough to now hold His voice.
Wrapping the dressing shawl tighter around herself, Kodhai finally took the flower, parting her hair behind the right ear, and gently placing it there. It sat on her curly hair, adding a splash of colour to the waves of black.
As she looked closer, she saw her face flushed with excitement, eyes shining and lips parted in a perpetual smile. She knew that her viratham was nearing completion. She would surely, finally, be one with Him.
There was no other goal, no other need nor desire!
She twirled around, admiring the way the yellow of the ripe mangoes contrasted with the indigo of the darkest dusk in her dresses. Even better than that was the intoxicating smell of the sempangi flowers – the ones she preferred, on her; and on Him.
Having taken up the practice of making the garlands daily, that Vishnu Cittar would take to the temple then, Kodhai had let herself revel in a little secret; something she knew would be frowned upon, but something she also knew she wanted.
After all, hadn’t her Sriman Narayanan accepted her made-and-worn garlands so far? Why should it be any different now, right when she was meant to be one with Him? She felt like she had long since maintained and enjoyed the ritual of exchanging garlands with him like tradition decreed her to.
Until she could actually be with Him, she would have to make do with this inanimate exchange.
As she stood there, admiring herself, trying to gauge if she looked good enough for Him, her eyes in the mirror went from dreamy to startled. And then her brain picked up the shock.
She twirled around, too stunned to even remove the incriminating evidence.
“HOW DARE YOU DO THIS?”
Vishnu Cittar looked scandalised. Worse, he was completely enraged. She had never seen him this angry, and the palpable difference made her sweat in real fear. She trembled as he advanced towards her, beyond words.
Kodhai suddenly wondered if speech had deserted him. It certainly looked so.
But with some time, the storm had blown over. She had apologised, tried to convince him to take that garland to the Lord, telling him that she had been doing that long enough and He had not minded. But that only angered her father worse, and he finally pushed her aside, knitting the garland himself, completely incapable of chastising her further.
Some tensed beats of silence followed – until a stunned Vishnu Cittar had returned, too shocked to coherently explain that the Lord Himself, had apparently wanted only the garland she had chosen.
“Kodhai, my child… What did He tell me, but that you shall leave me! That my darling girl is to be the divine consort! Kodhai, as your father, how will I take you all the way to Thiruvarangam? To where He resides in the middle of the mighty Kaveri? What am I to do? Oh Narayana!”
She had consoled the distraught, overwhelmed Vishnu Cittar, and taken him along to the temple. She walked ahead, with the absolute surety and dexterity of the young fawn, while he followed, meek and wary.
The temple gates opened of their own accord, and as her tall form entered, the light seemed to emanate from the mirrors around her. Kodhai paused, admiring His reflection from the main sanctum until she realised that the light in the mirrors was also from her. From Her.
Garland in hand, Kodhai walked inside, handing it over to the priest who immediately took it inside, presenting it to the Ranganathar.
It seemed more beautiful, befitting His wide chest, nesting amidst the ornaments He had worn, too – in celebration of the occasion, she thought.
Vishnu Cittar watched with fascination, devotion, and reverence. Tears fell freely down his cheeks as Kodhai smiled, watching the Lord present his acceptance almost naturally.
“Soodik Kodutha Sudarkodi!” Vishnu Cittar breathed, his lips barely moving.
The one who presented to the Lord a garland she had worn.
Kodhai turned around, searching his eyes for the acceptance; the blessing.
The yearnings of her human life included needing her father’s agreeing to her decisions. Vishnu Cittar, though, seemed to watch her with eyes afresh, as if he were only just realising who she was.
“Swami?!” She prompted. A question, hesitance creeping in.
“Kodhai!” He turned to her, looking beside himself with bliss and clawing doubts. The emotions warred on his face which flitted from ecstasy to an aching melancholy, back and forth.
She just waited, wanting him to say something else; something that she needed to hear.
“Aandal, aren’t you? The one who won the Hand of Sriman Narayanan Himself!”
She smiled. There it was, Her confirmation that he knew who She was!
And as Aandal turned, She saw the smile glint on the face inside the sanctum.
கூடாரை வெல்லும்சீர்க் கோவிந்தா உன்றன்னைப்
பாடிப் பறைகொண்டு யாம்பெறு சம்மானம்
நாடு புகழும் பரிசினால் நன்றாகச்
சூடகமே தோள்வளையே தோடே செவிப்பூவே
பாடகமே என்றனைய பல்கலனும் யாமணிவோம்
ஆடை உடுப்போ மதன்பின்னே பாற்சோறு
மூடநெய் பெய்து முழங்கை வழிவாரக்
கூடி யிருந்து குளிர்ந்தேலோ ரெம்பாவாய்.
kuudaarai vellumsiirk goovindaa unRannaip
paadip paRaikoNdu yaampeRu sammaanam
naatu pukazum parisinaal nanRaakach
chuutakamee thooLvaLaiyee htootee sevippuuvee
paatakamee enRanaiya palkalanum yaamaNivoom
aatai yutuppoom mathanpinnee paaRchooRu
muutanei peithu muzhangkai vazhivaarak
kuuti irundhu kuLirndheelo rembaavay.
I dedicate this post to my paternal grandmother, the woman who taught me the beauty of Tiruppavai and the magic of Maargazhi.
Sri Krishna says, in the Gita, that of the 12 months, He is the month of Maargazhi. It is considered the best month for devotion, and for a variety of reasons. Most of which are imbibed in our tradition, and some of which we follow and know by heart.
But for me personally, it is my grandmother who brought the magic into this and wove tales of divinity and spirituality as things to look forward to, instead of sounding regressive and outdated.
This verse in particular, that speaks of the completion of a penance, and the reward for that, were when she got the most excited. Starting with making the perfect Chakkara Pongal, with full of ghee that would flow down to one’s elbows (the excess denoting the wealth of knowledge, riches, and rewards of austerity) to observing that perseverance for the right cause always gives results, she taught me to observe my tradition in a way that made me want to learn more from it, immerse myself in the limitless beauty it would offer.
I dedicate the entire series to my grandparents and family elders who have taught me, in their bits, the stories that helped me visualise the scenes and eventually write this series.
Blessed are those who get to revel in the glory of love and divinity.
Blessed are those who do not have to seek the wholesomeness elsewhere.
Blessed are those who have grandparents to strengthen the value system.
Blessed are those whose blessings from the Lord and his Divine Consort are unbound and limitless.
ஆண்டாள் எம்பெருமானார் திருவடிகளே சரணம்!