ANdAL is an avathAram of bhUdhEvi nAchiyAr, the divine consort of srIman nAryAyaNan. bhUdhEvai nAchiyAr appears in this world as ANdAL (also known as gOdhA dhEvi) to explain the glories of emperumAn in very simple thamizh and help the jIvAthmAs to relieve their sufferings in this samsAram and accomplish the true goal of every jIvAthamA - blemishless kainkaryam to emperumAn. She compiled two dhivya prabhandhams when she was very young. First, she sung thiruppAvai, requesting emperumAn to engage her in his kainkaryam, purely for his own pleasure. Subsequently, since emperumAn did not fulfill her request, with great sorrow out of the separation from emperumAn, she sung nAchiyAr thirumozhi and finally periya perumAL invites her to srIrangam and accepts her and she returns back to paramapadham leaving us behind these two precious gems (thiruppAvai and nAchiyAr thirumozhi).
Many pUrvAchAryas like emperumAnAr, bhattar, periyavAchAN piLLai, piLLai lOkAchAryar, azhagiya manavALa perumAL nAyanAr,vEdhAnthAchAryar, maNavALa mAmunigaL, ponnadikkAl jIyar, etc have glorified ANdAL and her thiruppAvai through their pAsurams, sthOthrams, aidhihyams and/or vyAkyAnams. thiruppAvai is glorified by our pUrvAchAryas as follows: pAthaganGgaL thIrkkum paramanadi kAttum vEdham anaiththukkum viththAgum kOthai thamizh aiyaiNthum aiNthum aRiyAtha mAnidarai vaiyam chumappathum vambu பாதகங்கள் தீர்க்கும் பரமனடி காட்டும் வேதம் அனைத்துக்கும் வித்தாகும் கோதை தமிழ் ஐயைந்தும் ஐந்தும் அறியாத மானிடரை வையம் சுமப்பதும் வம்பு thiruppAvai removes our hurdles in accomplishing the ultimate goal - kainkarya prApthi for his pleasure and leads us to emperumAn's thiruvadi. It is the essence of all the vEdham. One who does not know thiruppAvai is just a burden for this earth. It is seen that, every mArgazhi month, thiruppAvai is recited, lectured, spoke about and written about every where. Right from a 3 year old child to a 90 year old elder can be seen engaged in thiruppAvai anusandhAnam. Such is its power and attraction. And all of that is because, ANdAL presented all the essence of the sAsthram in these 30 pAsurams. So, what is the essence of sAsthram? It is explained by nammAzhwAr in the simplest terms in thiruvAimozhi 4.6.8 - "vEdham vallArgaLaik konNdu vinNnNOr perumAn thiruppAdham panNi" (வேதம் வல்லார்களைக் கொண்டு விண்ணோர் பெருமான் திருப்பாதம் பணி) meaning one should take the help of the experts of sAsthram (pUrvAchAryas) and approach emperumAn through nithyasUris (periya pirAtti, etc) and serve the divine lotus feet of emperumAn. NammAzhwAr who was blessed with divine blemishless knowledge explains the essence of sAsthram in such simplest terms. If only every jIvAthmA understands this and puts it into practise, they will definitely accomplish the ultimate goal of blemishless eternal service to emperumAn. azhagiya manavALA perumAL nAyanAr who is the younger brother of piLLai lOkAchAryar, has done a wonderful elaborate vyAkyAnam for thiruppAvai. His expertise in aruLicheyal is unparallel to any one. For example, he has explained all of the rahasya thrayam (thirumanthram, dhvayam and charama slOkam) fully using the words from aruLicheyal in a beautiful prabhandham called aruLicheyal rahasyam.
ANdAL's greatness is because of the specific fact that she included everyone in bhagavath anubhavam. It is said in sAsthram that "Eka svAth na bhunjItha", one should not enjoy anything alone without sharing the same with others. This is most applicable in bhagavath vishayam. While vishayAntharam (pleasures of this material world) is privately enjoyed because of its defective nature, bhagavath vishayam on the other hand is common to all and is to be shared and enjoyed together. ANdAL showed this by her own anushtAnam to us. Following in the foot steps of his father who invited aishvaryArthis (one who is looking for wealth), kaivalyArthis (one who is looking for AthmAnubhavam) and bhagavath kainkaryArthis (one who is looking for bhagavath kainkaryam) to do mangaLAsAsanam to emperumAn in his thiruppallANdu, ANdAL also invites every one to engage in bhagavath kainkaryam. In his 6000 padi vyAkyAnam, in the avathArikai of the vangak kadal (last) pAsuram, nAyanAr beautifully summarizes the meaning of each of the first 29 pAsurams in thiruppAvai. nAyanAr's expertise in explaining the essence of the whole pAsuram in a single line will be greatly appreciated by true scholars. Let us now see the essence of thiruppAvai through those divine words.
In the 1st pAsuram, ANdAL is celebrating the kAlam (time - mArgazhi month, beautiful day), gOpis and gOpas who are fully dependent on kaNNan emperumAn and who help her engage in krishNAnubhavam and emperumAn himself who is shown by ANdAL as both upAyam (means) and upEyam (goal). While her primary goal is to engage in krishNAnubhavam, she performs the sankalpam (vow) to observe the nOnbu (as a secondary reason) to engage herself and all her gOpikA friends in bhagavath anubhavam.
In the 2nd pAsuram, she identifies what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected while wanting to engage in bhagavath anubhavam. She clearly establishes that "mElaiyAr cheyvanagaL" (மேலையார் செய்வனகள்) meaning that which is observed by our elders (pUrvAchAryas) is the most important pramANam for us (prapannas).
In the 3rd pAsuram, she desires for the well being of all the people of vrindhAvan as a consequential (secondary) benefit because they are the ones who allowed her and her friends to engage in krishNAnubhavam. The primary goal is ofcourse krishNAnubhavam for every one.
In the 4th pAsuram, she orders the parjanya dhEvan (rain god) to bring in sufficient rain (3 times a month - once every 10 days - once for the brAhmANas, once for the king and once for the chaste women), so the people of vrindhAvan can be prosperous and the krishNAnubhavam can happen uninterruptedly.
In the 5th pAsuram, she identifies that by constantly engaging in nAma sankIrthanam, the karmA (virtues and vices) of the past and future will be destroyed. As shown in the upanishadhs when some one surrenders to emperumAn, their previous karmA are removed like cotton being destroyed by fire and their future karmA will be removed like water does not stick to a lotus flower. It is also to be clearly understood that all the past karmA will be removed unconditionally by emperumAn. But for the future, only karmA which gets accrued out of any action that is done unintentionally are removed and any karmA which gets accumulated intentionally will have to be exhausted by reaping the fruits of the same.
From the 6th pAsuram to 15th pAsuram, ANdAL goes to 10 different gOpis' (who are totally attached to kaNNan emperumAn) houses to wake them up. While going there, she brings along several other gOpis who are very eager finally go to kaNNan emperumAn's thirumALigai.
In the 6th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who is very new to krishNAnubhavam. This means, this gOpi is satisfied with just enjoying kaNNan emperumAn on her own - that is the initial stage - prathama parva nishtai. Once, when the underlying principle of bhAgavatha samslEsham (association) is understood, that will lead to charama parva nishtai.
In the 7th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who is expert in krishNAnubhavam, but still purposefully waiting inside to hear the beautiful voices of ANdAL and her friends.
In the 8th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who is very excited (and unable to sleep) because of her being much liked by kaNNan emperumAn.
In the 9th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who is very determined in emperumAn being the upAyam. She is like sIthA pirAtti who said to hanumAn "let srI rAman come and rescue me".
In the 10th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi, who is very dear to kaNNan emperumAn. She is explained as a sidha sAdhana nishtar, one who has surrendered fully to emperumAn and so emperumAn likes her the most.
In the 11th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who is the most favourite girl of vrindhAvan (just like kaNNan himself is the most favourite boy of vrindhAvan). In this pAsuram the importance of performing one's varNAsrama duties perfectly is emphasised.
In the 12th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who is the sister of kaNNan emperumAn's most dear friend who does not perform any varNAsrama duties. When engaged in constant loving service to emperumAn, one may not have the time and necessity to perform their external duties. But the moment one is relieved from the devotional service to emperumAn, the other duties immediately resume and assumes importance.
In the 13th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who is enjoying the beauty of her eyes herself privately. eyes generally mean jnAnam - here since she has full knowledge about emperumAn, she thinks that kaNNan emperumAn will come to her automatically. Since kaNNan emperumAn is aravindha lOchanan (lotus eyed) this gOpi who has beautiful eyes is explained asa good match for him.
In the 14th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who commits herself to come and awake everyone else but forgets about her commitment and is still staying in.
In the 15th pAsuram, she wakes up a gOpi who is waiting to behold the beautiful sight of ANdAL and all her friends arrive at her thirumALigai.
In the 16th and 17th pAsurams, she wakes up the local representatives for nithya sUris viz kshEthra pAlakas (security guard for the main entrance), dhvAra pAlakas (gate keepers), Adhi sEshan, etc.
In the 16th pAsuram, she goes to wake up the security guards at the main entrance and the gate keepers outside the room of nandhagOpan.
In the 17th pAsuram, she wakes up nandhagOpan, yashOdA and balarAman.
In the 18th, 19th and 20th pAsurams, since she could not awake kaNNan emperumAn, she realised that she is missing the purushakAram of nappinnai pirAtti. In these 3 pAsurams, ANdAL glorifies nappinnai pirAtti's greatness, intimate dealings with kaNNan emperumAn, unlimited pleasure potency, delicate nature, beautiful form, being the lovable darling of kaNNan emperumAn and finally her purushakArathvam (recommendation capability) towards emperumAn. It is explained that desiring for emperumAn ignoring pirAtti is like sUrppaNakai (who just wanted srI rAman) and desiring for pirAtti ignoring emperumAn is like rAvaNan (who just wanted sIthA pirAtti).
In the 21st pAsuram, she glorifies kaNNan emperumAn's great qualities such as being born as the dear son of nandhagOpan, his parathvam (supremacy), his dhruda prAmAnyathvam (established by sAsthram that he is the supreme), etc.
In the 22nd pAsuram, she informs to emperumAn that she along with her gOpi friends have no other refuge and they have come to emperumAn like vibhIshaNan who had come to take shelter of srI rAman. She also informs to emperumAn that she has given up all other attachments and only want his divine blessings.
In the 23rd pAsuram, when kaNNan emperumAn feels that he made ANdAL wait for so long and asks her what she needs, she requests emperumAn to arise from his bed, walk a few steps and seat himself in his simhAsanam and then listen to her in the assembly like a lion king.
In the 24th pAsuram, having seen him seated, ANdAL happily performs mangaLAsAsanam to him. Naturally, being the daughter of periyAzhwAr, her ultimate goal is to perform mangaLAsAsanam to emperumAn. Just like sIthA pirAtti, rishis of dhandakAraNyam, periyAzhwAr, etc., ANdAL and her friends also perform mangaLAsAsanam to emperumAn as soon as they see him walk and realised they made him walk with such tender lotus feet.
In the 25th pAsuram, emperumAn asks them if they really require anything for the nOnbu and they say since they have glorified emperumAn's divine qualities all their sorrows are removed and they really only want kainkaryam to him.
In the 26th pAsuram, she reveals that she needs some instruments for her nOnbu. When ANdAL previously says she does not require anything other than emperumAn, now she asks for some instruments such as his pAnchajanyam, some kainkaryaparars to do mangaLAsAsanam for him, a lamp to see his face clearly, a flag showing his presence from distanceand a protective cloth which acts like an umbrella. It is explained by our AchAryas that ANdAL requires these so that krishNAnubhavam can be done fully and perfectly using these instruments. In this pAsuram, it is shown by ANdAL herself emperumAn's love towards ANdAL her friends is far greater than their love towards him.
In the 27th and 28th pAsuram, prApyam (goal) and prApagam (path) are clearly established as "emperumAn only" by ANdAL.
In the 27th pAsuram, emperumAn's special quality which brings both anukUlars (bhakthas who are favourable) and prathikUlars (enemies or the ones who dont accept emperumAn towards him is explained by ANdAL. She also establishes the nature of the ultimate result/goal (kainkaryam) which is sAyujya mOksham which means eternally serving emperumAn for his pleasure without interruption.
In the 28th pAsuram, she explains emperumAn's nirupAdhika sambandham (eternal relationship) with all jIvAthmAs, her own incapability to do any sAdhana anushtAnam (performing anything that can be the means to attain emperumAn) and emperumAn's greatness and ability to uplift anyone on his own (without expecting anything from the jIvAthmA other than having adhvEsham like the cows of vrindhAvan). This pAsuram is one of the most important pAsurams for us - nAyanAr identifies the following 6 requirements for a sharaNAgathan:
One who is sidhOpAya nishtan (accepting emperumAn as the only path), has nothing in him to offer to emperumAn to achieve him
Because there is no qualification, they should consider ourselves very meek and lowly
Always thinking about the divine qualities of emperumAn who is the mUla sukruth (root cause of all auspiciousness)
Realizing the eternal relationship between us and emperumAn
Begging for pardon from emperumAn for our anAdhi (time immemorial) mistakes
Requesting kainkaryam from emperumAn
In the 29th pAsuram, she reveals the most important principle, that kainkaryam is for the pleasure of emperumAn (not herself). She also says that, all along she took up the nOnbu as a vyAjam (a reason), out of her extreme desire to engage in krishNAnubhava.
In the 30th pAsuram, since emperumAn agrees to fulfill her desire, she sings now as ANdAL herself (all the first 29 pAsurams are sung in gOpi bhAvam). She declares that any one who learns and sings these 30 pAsurams, even though they may not have the same pure bhAvam like herself, will get the same kainkarya prApthi like her. This means that by the merciful heart ofANdAL, the result will be the same for gOpis who had immense love for kaNNan emperumAn when he was present in vrindhAvan, ANdAL who manifested the same bhAvam in srIvilliputhUr and any one who subsequently learns and recites the same. bhattar identifies that "Just like a cow which lost its calf will still give milk seeing a fake calf (made of straw covered with the skin of the calf), even when some one recites these pAsurams (that were sung by the ones who are dear to emperumAn), we will also get the same result as them". ANdAL ends thiruppAvai with the charithram of churning the kshIrAbdhi (milk ocean) since the gOpis wanted to have kaNNan emperumAn and to get emperumAn we need pirAtti's purushakAram and emperumAn churned the milk ocean mainly for him to bring her out of the ocean and marry her. Since she is AchArya abhimAna nishtai, she finishes the prabhandham saying she is pattarpirAn kOthai.
Thus, nAyanAr beautifully summarizes the whole of thiruppAvai in one big paragraph in the avathArikai - such is his scholarship. We are not qualified to talk about his scholarship but we cant help but be amazed by his intellect and when such intellect is blended with immense bhakthi towards emperumAn, the result is great bhagavath anubhavam for us. thiruppAvai is glorified so much by our pUrvAchAryas and has a very unique place in our sampradhAyam and nithya anusandhAnam. Let us pray at the lotus feet of ANdAL, so we can also develop atleast a small fraction of her love towards emperumAn and bhAgavathas.