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Early Women Writers

Andal or Godadevi



Andal or Godadevi


Srivilliputhur, near Madurai, Tamil Nadu


c. 500s-800s


Andal, the only woman among the twelve Alvar Saints of South India, was a poet and a mystic saint affiliated to the Sri Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. A native of Srivilliputhur, a town near Madurai in present day Tamil Nadu, she was the foster daughter of Periyalwar, another Vaishnavite Alvar Saint, who is said to have discovered her under a flower plant in his temple garden. Along with her fellow poets from the Sri Vaishnava tradition, Andal composed poetry exclusively in Tamil, foregoing the use of the learned tongue, Sanskrit. Her work capitalizes on the erotic potential of the figure of the bride to express the devotee’s intense longing for the Divine, while scorning human marriage in the process. Andal is believed to be a manifestation of Bhū-Devī, one of the consorts of Lord Vishnu. According to tradition, she was offered in marriage to Lord Ranganatha, the deity at the Srirangam Temple in Trichy, where she is said to have been absorbed into the idol on entering the sanctum sanctorum. Andal’s works—Thiruppavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi—are recited during the winter festival season in the Vishnu temples of South India, where her icons are consecrated and worshipped.


Tiruppāvai (The Path to Krishna) (30 verses), Nācciyār Tirumoḻi (The Sacred Songs of The Lady) (143 verses)




Pasuram (song), Poetry, Devotional, Hagiography

Editions and Translations

Andal: The Autobiography of a Goddess. Translated and edited by Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar. Zubaan, New Delhi, 2015.


Bailey, Greg and Ian Kesarcodi-Watson. Bhakti Studies.Sterling Publishers, 1992;
Chari, S. M. Srinivasa. Philosophy and Theistic Mysticism of the Āl̲vārs. New Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1997;
Chitnis, Krishnaji Nageshrao. “Maharashtra Dharma”. Medieval Indian History. New Delhi, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2003;
Iyengar, Srinivasa Krishnaswamy. Early history of Vaishnavism in South India. Oxford University Press, 1920;
Narayanan, Vasudha. “Tamil Nadu: Weaving Garlands in Tamil: The Poetry of the Alvars.” Krishna: A Sourcebook, edited by Edwin Francis Bryant, Oxford University Press, 2007;
“Performing Arts, Re-forming Rituals: Women and Social Change in South India.” Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition, edited by Tracy Pintchman, Oxford University Press, 2007;
Hawley, John Stratton and Vasudha Narayanan. Introduction. The Life of Hinduism, edited by John Stratton Hawley and Vasudha Narayanan, University of California Press, 2006.

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