Andal’s Thiruppavai (Sublime Poetry of Mysticism) - With Transliteration and Translation

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About the Author   The author of this book, Sri V. Rajagopalan hails from a middle class orthodox family with its roots in Kanchipuram, a heritage temple town in Tamilnadu. His father Sri. Vankeepuram Varadachari has published very useful works on philosophy religion and para-psychology.   Sri Rajagopalan is a retired Govt, servent with a successful official career spreading over 36 years of service. He is a pensioner of CSIR u...

About the Author


The author of this book, Sri V. Rajagopalan hails from a middle class orthodox family with its roots in Kanchipuram, a heritage temple town in Tamilnadu. His father Sri. Vankeepuram Varadachari has published very useful works on philosophy religion and para-psychology.


Sri Rajagopalan is a retired Govt, servent with a successful official career spreading over 36 years of service. He is a pensioner of CSIR under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt of India. During the tenure of his service before retirement, he has served as Senior Finance and Accounts Officer, at Central Leather Research Institute Chennai. National Aero Space Laboratories, Bangalore, and National Geophisical Research Insitute, Hyderabad. He was nominated as a member in 1986 to the All India Sub-Group for Computerisation of Finance records in CSIR and also one of the prime co-ordinators for building up of inter-faces of various software packages.


He has published in 1974, “Goda’s Garland of Songs - Thiruppavai” He has also to his credit the Publication of “Andal-God’s Bride” (sixth decad of Nacciyar Thirumozhi; “Periyazhvar’s The call of Murali”-(Sixth decad of Third Canto (group) of Periyazhvar Thirumozhi) “Thiruvembavai - Love Transcendental” - (Seventh Section of 20 verses in Thiruvachagam of Manikka Vachagar) “Andal’s Thiruppavai”, “Goda’s Path Divine”, Prayer through Japa and Dhyana, “Ode to the Concept of Matter” “Philosophia perennis” etc., to mention a few.




When Sri Vankeepuram Rajagopalan’s The Garland of Songs appeared in 1974, I had welcomed it as an effetive transcription of “the mystic vibrancy of Goda”. For thirty years since then, Sri Rajagopalan has remained immerged in Tiruppavai’s mystic waves of devotion and has now come out with a revised edition that is a welcome gift to Vaishnavism in the English language.


The introduction reveals a research document, a golden bridge connecting us to the various facets of the poem that has a parampara of 2000 years. Tiruppavai is a living tradition with an origin that is traced back to the dim past of the ancient Tamil Sangham Age when young girls went to the Vaigai river for an early morning bath, performed rituals and prayed to the river for a perfect life’s companion. Goda Devi transformed the ‘Thai Neeradal’ described in works like Paripadal into a ritual betokenning the individual soul’s intense aspiration to gain servitude to the Lord, Kainkarya. Sri Rajagopalan proves effectively that the actual contents of the thirty verses can be related to history, nature mysticism, the Vedas of the past, modern science, and the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore.


An equally rich treasure-trove awaits us in the detailed notes (modestly termed as “select suggestive short notes”) which will be a boon to the younger generation. There is a new breeze abroad with two generations of Indians educated wholly in English medium and who are eager to get back to the unrivalled heritage of Srivaishnavism. But there is a bar (though not wholly insuperable) in the language of the peom as well as the commentaries. The present volume fulfils such a need in an adequate measure. Apart from explaining important terms like “Parai” and “oozhi mudalvan”, the author gives comparative passages from great philosophers. A welcome feature is to indicte the main thrust of each verse in the course of the notes, making it easier to understand the poem in the original. The 6th verse, for instance:


“The sound of the conch, the bewitching call, comes from the temple of Garuda’s master Vishnu, the Narayana, the Lord of Vedas, chanting the name of ‘Hari’ by saints and yogis (munis) is also heard. The devotee is urged to meditate and gain God experience by himself. The ‘Puthana’ episode indicates the defeat of enlargement of evil thoughts (poison) and the destruction of Cart-demon symbolises the silencing of the mind which is unsteady like a cart-wheel. And protector of all creation, the Primal Cause sleeps (Yoga-Nidra) in the Milky Ocean”.


There are also flashes from modern science that ought to attract the younger generation to bestowing serious thought to the statements of our ancient poets and visionaries. Sri Rajagopalan presents an opening with a reference to the term; “Oozhi Mudalvan” (the primal word’s dark image):


“And the Modern Science discovers that the planets appeared as small dots against a back-ground of black, when the spacecraft ‘Voyager’ took snap-shots of earth and six of its planetary neighbours in Feb 1990 in response to radio commands sent from earth six billion km. away. Earth viewed from six billion km. is a blue dot in an ocean of blackness”


All this is very interesting and certainly forms an invitation to take up our own adventure in consiousness to reach new planes where there could be greater clarity bringing together the human and the divine, science and mysticsm in an integral whole. The works gets almost completed when we lose ourselves in the text in Goda Devi’s poem rendered into English. To cross the hurdle of language and also achive a perfect Cultural translation is impossible. The best in this genre are but shadows. But Sri Rajagopalan has gone to his task armed with sincerity. His English is simple and conveys well Goda Devi’s intentions. The touchstone for the success of a Tiruppavai translation lies in the penultimate verse and here we have a gracious rendering indeed.


“In twillight of morn we come, worship thee and greet

And sing the hymns of thy golden, lotus feet

In Yadu’s race that live rearing cattle, art thou born !

Non-pareil ‘Govinda’ accept our services - an ambrosial afflatus!

Know it well, we come, not for today’s ‘parai’ alone

But bound as we, with thee as one, with thee alone related

As wisdom known - in all births of folds in seven

Ever, ever, unendignly forever, shall serve thee and thee alone,

With devotion pure; as thou raiseth from age to age!

o I Lord, reject all disires that agree not with these!

And dear girl! Knowing Truth, endure Bliss eternally!


This absolute faith and integral surrender that indicates the core of Srivaishnavism makes the poem precious to the devout. Sri Rajagopalan also satisfies the longings of the intellect to “know” while not questioning the deep currents of mysticism that swirl in Tiruppavai making his volume doubly precious. I am deeply grateful to the author for having given me this oppurtunity to associate myself with this publication.




Sri Goda, known as Andal, has composed two ‘immortal hymns viz., Thiruppavai (Beatific damsel) and Nacciyar Tirumozhi (Sacred utterences of Sri Goda) expatiating the bridal mysticism in all its exuberantly splendid forms and hue.


Of the two, THIRUPPAVAI speaks of ceremonial austerity (Pavai Nonbu) emphasising on saranagati (i.e., total and absolute surrender) and blemishless, self-forgetting dedicated service to the Lord (Kainkarya, Servitude). It concerns also with cosmology, cosmogony, ontology, mythology, Vedas, Upanishads, Science and Morals, Nature and Purushartha.


Sri Goda Devi or Andal, who incarnated to resuscitate the path of complete self surrender due to her over-powering frenzy of pure devotion to God (“Saint - Poetess to Goddess”) is a living presence to millions and millions of Tamil speaking community the world over and also to vaishnavite non-tamilians. Very many, among them, as often as possible recite or sing her THIRUPPAVAI or enjoy its discourses that reverberate, day after day, during the sacred month ‘Margazhi’ every year, a hallowed tradition followed for the last ten centuries and more.


Normally any poetry of the kind of Thiruppavai or Thiruvai- mozhi, Vedas and Upanishads are studded with codes and hidden knowledge owing to intricate expression of the experiences of seers and sages, and enriched with mystic thoughts concealed in them- Such poems of one language cannot, be properly and justifiably translated into other languages it being a formidable task.


It is a known fact that a lyric cannot be a lyric without conspicuous economy of words, without sparkle, lilt, rhyme and music. We find them in abundance in Andal’s outpourings. The peculiriaty of Thiruppavai is its “depth of ideas” “fancied poetic imagination” “girlish spontaneity,” “spiritual sublimity” etc. And it is a composition of Thirty verses in chaste and elegent Tamil rich with religious symbolism, depicting nature in all its brilliance packed with philosophical truths, unfolding cosmic consciousness, mystic revelations etc., is capable of interpretation at more than one level. Its appeal is universal.


Though it is a difficult task, I am upheld by the traditional view that if one writes or speaks about Thiruppavai or Ramayana, Bhagavatha or Gita etc., it does not matter how imadequate one’s ability is, but all those who listen to such discourses or read the exegesis are already deemed to have been influenced in extenso by them or willing to be touched again and again and muse over, to lose themselves in Bhagavad anubhava, experiencing bliss that which lead to Saranagati (complete surrender) and kainkarya (Servitude) as in Vaishnava parlance. Hence I hope and believe that my humble effort of rendering Thiruppavai in vers fibre may, perhaps, be found acceptable with all its merits and de-merits, since it is evident that “If one drops a vessel in a large body of water, the vessel can only take up its measure”. And it’s there, where I stay.


It is propitious indeed, to have Sri Goda Devi’s Grace bestowed on me without which it would not have been possible to render Thiruppavai with brief Introduction and Short Notes etc. And to my good fortune. Dr. Prema Nandakumar has found time to go through the script in its entirety and I am deeply indebted and grateful to her for providing an excellent and enthusiastic Foreword.


Further I am doubly fortunate and feel much delighted in as much as His Holiness Srimat Azhgiyasingar, the 45th Jeeyar of Sri Ahobila Mutt and His Holiness Sri mad Andavan (Srimushnam Andavan) of Srirangam Srimadandavan Ashramam, have blessed me with their Srimukha.


And my grateful thanks are due to Sri. U.VE. Velukkudi Krishnan Swami a well-known scholar and Upanyasaka, and chairman, Swami Nammazhvar (India) Foundation for his quite impressive and consise Compliment.


My loving gratitude to my wife Santa who has been a source of encouragement and inspiration in this duanting task also as in other activities of life.


I am also thankful to Sri R. Venkatesan, Sri K. Sundararajan Dr. NV Parthasarthy Sri. T.CA Ramanujam and Sri U.Ve. Vazhuthur V. Rengachari Swami for their valuable suggestions and advice.


My grateful thanks to Sri R. Ramaswamy of: Srivillputtur for providing me the photos of Sri Andal and villputtur Temple-Tower, which timely act, enabled me to include them in the book.


I must also express my deep appreciation of the assistance of Sri K. Partheeban of V. Graphics for the admirable type-setting, display and elegent design of the Book and for the arrangements made with M.S. S.P. Printers & Jothi Enterprises for neat printing and excellent production of the book in shortest possible time.




Goda, otherwise known as Andal is the only woman Alvar of the Vaishanavite mystics of Tamilnadu, South India, who are twelve in number. She is the fondling daughter of Vishnuchitta, known as Periyalvar.


The hymns of Alvars are inspired poetry. These are called Prabhandahm par-excellence. These consist of four thousand verses and hence called “Nalayira Divya Prabhandam” comprising the works of all the twelve Alvars.


Sri Andal’s outpourings viz., “Thiruppavai” (consist of 30 verses) and “Nachiyar Thirumozhi” (consist of 143 verses) are placed in the first thousand hymns. Thiruppavai is called so because of the refrain “ Elorempavay” that appears at the end of each hymn.


During the month of Margazhi (Margasirsa - December - January) year after year, for the last ten centuries and more vaishnavite temples in Tamilnadu, reverberate with Pavai songs (Thiruppavai) of Sri Andal, the saint - poetess who is deified as Goddess, the spouse of Lord Narayana, the Krishna.


“Thiruppavai means a divine, sacred vow observed to attain the Lord and engage in His services (Kaingaryana). The word ‘Pavai” means ‘girl’, ‘nonbu’ (vow-vratham), ‘doll’ ‘pupil of the eye etc., and ‘Thiru’ denotes’ ‘Sri’ ‘Splendour’, Lakshmi, ‘Wealth’, ‘brilliance’, etc. However for our purpose Thiruppavai, signifies splendrous vow as observed by Goda.


Thiruppavai’ consisting of thirty hymns is a rare lyrical beauty sung in the early dawn by young girls in the month of Margazhi (Magasirsa) a month most sacred for such observance since it is called as Brahma muhurta of the year.


Margasirsa or Margasira, the month is named so (Margazhi in Tamil) since the full moon usually appear during this month in the fifth stellar mansion viz., Mrigasirsa. The lunations were named in ancient vedic ealander by the star (nakshatra) in which the fullmoon of the lunations occurred i.e. “Chaitrarn”, “Vishaka”. “JeyshtaAshada, “Sravanam”, “Batrapada”, “Asvayuja”, “Karthigam”Margasirsa” “Pousham” (Pushyam) “Magha” and Phalguna Today, even after a lapse of several hundred centuries since thefirst computation (Saptha Rishi Era commeneed on 27.11.8576 B.C., according to Prof. K.S. Raghavan) of Panchanga (Almanac) though undergone many changes during the periods of Viswamitra Parasara, Varaha-mihira et. al. the full moon occurs only on the days when such of those nakshatras (stars) rule and that gets correlated well.


Lord Krishna declares in his sacred ‘Gita’ that ‘I am Margasirsa among the months (Masanam Margasirsoham) (B.G. 10-35) “According to Manu Smriti, says Prof. K.S. Raghavan “that a month of the human beings constitute a day of the pitrus. The course ofthe moon determine their Day and Night (i.e) the half month commencing from the full moon is their ‘day’ for their actions and the other commencing from new moon is their ‘night’ for slumber “A year of human beings constitute a day for the celestisal beings. The course of the Sun to north and south of the equator determines their day and niqht”.’


Uttarayana which begins from the Tamil month of THAI (Jan- Feb). is the “day” and Dakshinayana that begins from the Ta month Aadi (July - Aug) is the “Night” Accordingly, the month d Margazhi comes at pre-dawn time of the day of the celestials.











H.H. Srimath Azhagiyasingar - The 45th Jeeyar of Sri Ahobila Mutt



H.H. Srimad Andavan - (Sri Mushnam) Srirangam Srimad Andavan Ashramam



A Compliment









Invocation - (Thanian)



Thiruppavai-Original Text in Tamil, Transliteration And Translation



Benediction (Sarru marai)



Select Suggestive Short Notes



Key to Transliteration









Sample Page

Item Code: NAI380 Author: Vankeeouram RajaGopalan Cover: Paperback Edition: 2003 Publisher: Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, Tirupati ISBN: 8190297902 Language: Tamil Text with Transliteration and English Translation Size: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch Pages: 150 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 160 gms
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