“I am a Vaishnavite,” – so declared Dad a few years before he passed away. We were stunned. Appa, a lifelong Advaitin, who had read Sankara from cover to cover, was now declaring that he was a Visishtadvaitin. By then he was weakening, and he probably knew that he did not have long to live, and to him that meant less time to study. “No, I am saying this without any rejection Sankara,” he continued. “After some many years I am still unable to comprehend Adviata and realise that it is meant for far more elevated souls than myself. I am at this stage on the other hand finding myself understanding Saranagati and the philosophy of Sri Ramanuja better.” Thereafter, Appa spent his time reading Vedanta Desika, the works of Sri Ramanuja, and the Nalayira Divya Prabandham. In the last-named he read the Tiruppavai and Nachiyar Tirumozhi several times over. And then the great reaper came and took him away. I am sure Appa must be somewhere, working on Advaita now.
A Few Works on Andal
I became greatly enamoured of Andal at around the same time as Appa’s passing. I too have read her works several times but probaby without a fraction of Appa’s understanding of them. I found Archana Venkatesan and Crispin Branfoot’s In Andal’s Garden to be an excellent primer on the worship of this great poet and saint. Later I read King Krishnadeva’s Amuktamalyada and of late I am reading Goda Stuti. Time and again I go back to Nachiyar Tirumozhi and in particular its sixth decad which begins with Vaaranam Aayiram.
The 6th Decad of the Nachiyar Tirumozhi
That is where Andal imagines her wedding to the Lord. In its ten verses it is an unparalleled description of a traditional wedding. And perhaps because of this, it has lent itself to countless dance interpretations, ranging from school plays to presentations by eminent artistes. In my view, the 6th decad, which begins with Varanam Ayiram, is an excellent introduction for children to the wonders of Andal. And I am delighted that a book that is meant just for this has recently come out.
A Booklet on Vaaranam Aayiram, the 6th Decad of the Nachiyar Tirumozhi
My colleague-in-business and my-brother-in-many matters, R Sridhar, when he is not designing top class test rigs at the cutting edge of technology, is busy with Vaishnavism. And he has brought out a slim book dedicated to the 6th decad. It is titled An Album of Vaaranamaayiram and is profusely illustrated. Each page is dedicated to one verse which is provided in Tamil and English script, followed by the meanings in both languages. Each page has a large format illustration that is a delight to see. If you are the kind that (still) believes in books for children and one of those who love to read no matter what their age, this is a book for you.
How to Order
The details of where to get it are all given below.
Today being Aadi Pooram, I thought it is particularly apt to feature this book. Do order and support a good cause and the proceeds go towards charity.
My talk on Andal, delivered as part of Sarmaya Arts Foundation’s Series is on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-1GD3KdkfY