courtesy:smt.Devika Varadarajan
Kodai - A little girl in love with Ranga

This is a beautiful story of a small girl who decided that she would marry only Lord Krishna and no one else.

In a small town called Srivilliputur, near the city ofMadurai, in Tamil Nadu, lived a very pious devotee of Lord Sri Krishna. His name was Vishnuchitta. He loved Lord Krishna deeply as a mother would love her child. He would spend the whole day working, yet thinking of Krishna and his pranks; of how Yashoda would have managed and taken care of Him. Thinking of Krishna, or chanting and singing The Lord's names, Vishnuchitta would spend a good part of the day, tending to a beautiful garden of flowering plants watering them, cutting their branches, keeping the garden clean etc. Then he would gather the flowers and tulasi for the day and make a beautiful garland for the Lord Ranganatha and give it at the temple at Srirangam. All the while, his mind would be filled withKrishna and stories of his life.

Vishnuchitta was not a very learned man he had studied some shastras but was not a great scholar. However, his devotion to Krishna filled all his time, space and mind. So, while his hands worked at the plants, flowers & the garden, his mind constantly thought of the baby Krishna and all his tales. He would constantly be chanting his name. He thought of himself as Yashoda, Krishna's mother and cherished Krishna as his own child. In such a devout manner, the days passed happily for Vishnuchitta.

One day while plucking the flowers and tulasi for the garland, Vishnuchitta heard the cry of a small baby. He moved towards the sound and found a beautiful baby girl, kicking and smiling, under the tulasi plant. The baby had a divine quality about her and was beautiful. Vishnuchitta had no child of his own so he took the baby into his hut. Though he was pleased to have this child for his own, he wondered how he would bring up a small baby. However, the worry vanished in an instant when he realized that Krishna would take care of all his problems!! He thought to himself, "Krishna has sent this child to me - he will take care". Vishnuchitta named the baby "Goda meaning "from the earth". In Tamil, he lovingly called her Kodai.

Every day, Vishnuchitta usually ate only the offerings or prasadam given at the Ranganatha temple at Srirangam. And this is what Kodai too grew up on. Throughout the day, while he worked, Vishnuchitta kept telling Kodai, stories and pranks of little Krishna. Over a period of time, the pious atmosphere of the home, the constant service of making garlands for the lord, listening to his stories, singing his names - all became deeply embedded in Kodai's mind. And time flew by.

As a young girl of now about 6, Kodai, was deeply attracted toKrishna. Like her father, she too wove garlands for him and thought of him all the time. Her love for Krishna became such a force that filled all her being. She desired to marry only Lord Rangantha. This thought soon became a firm resolve and she could think of nothing else.

In those days, girls were married away at a very young age. Hence, as she grew a little older, Vishnuchitta now began thinking of finding a suitable husband for his daughter. He called Kodai and gently patting her head, asked her, "Its time that I do my duty as your father and find you a suitable husband. What kind of person would you like to marry, my child?". Kodai, very clearly said, "Ill marry only Lord Rangatha and no mortal man shall touch me". Vishnuchitta was unsure if his child understood the meaning of what she was saying. He worried for a moment how was he to get the Lord to marry this little child of his? "She is just a child and maybe this is just a childish fancy. She will grow out of it. Can this really happen?' The next moment he decided, "Anyhow, it is the Lord himself who has put this desire in Kodai's heart. So he himself will show the way".

Thus happy to let the Lord take care of his problems, Vishnuchitta spent his days happily in service to the Lord and in delightfully watching his daughter grow.

One day, she saw the garland made by her father lying in the basket. She thought, "If I wear this garland and put it back in the basket, then the priest in the temple will put this garland for the Lord. It will be as if Lord Ranganatha and I have exchanged garlands. Isn't that one of the most important rituals in the wedding ceremony?" She quietly took the garland and wore it. As she looked into the well and saw her beautiful reflection in the water, she admired the garland. It seemed to her that it would indeed look even more beautiful on the Lord Rangantha. She quietly put it back into the basket to be taken to the temple. Vishnuchitta took the basket to the temple and offered the garland to the Lord, unaware that his daughter had already worn the garland.

While Vishnuchiita went to the temple, Kodai waiting excitedly for the news that the Lord had accepted her. She began to imagine herself garlanding Lord Rangantha and marrying him.

At the temple, in the meanwhile, Vishnuchitta offered the garland to the priest. As the priest was about to offer it to the Lord, he found a long strand of Kodai's hair in it and immediately understood that some girl had worn it. He became deeply disturbed and gave the garland back to Vishnuchitta saying, " How could you have brought a used garland for the Lord? You have delayed the Pooja now and the Lord will have to wait for a new garland." Concerned that the daily pooja for the Lord was delayed because of him, and that his beloved Kodai had committed such a sin, Vishnuchitta ran back home in tears. Hearing from her father about his sorrow, Andal's heart filled with grief "If my garland is not fit enough to be accepted, then surely, Lord Ranganatha will not accept me as his wife!" He quickly wove another garland, ran back to the temple. Only this time, when Vishnuchitta entered the temple with the new garland in his hands, the lord would not accept it. Instead He spoke to him and said, "Why have you not brought me the garland worn by my Kodai. It has the fragrance of her love that makes it special. Bring that garland and offer it to me! I don't want any other garland!" Stunned by this reply from the Lord but thrilled to hear that the Lord had accepted his daughter's devotion, Vishnuchitta rushed back. He hugged his child and shed tears of joy. He gave her a new name "Andal- one who rule the heart of The Lord". When Kodai heard that The Lord had asked for her garland, her joy knew no bounds. It was an indication to her, that he had accepted her love for him. More importantly, she realized that he too loved her in return - her happiness knew no bounds.

That night Vishnuchitta had a dream - The Lord Rangantha Himself came in his dream and asked Vishnuchitta to prepare his daughter to be His bride. He would marry her the next day. He told Vishnuchitta, "I shall send a palanquin for my Kodai along with all the finery fit for a divine bride. All the necessary arrangements shall be made. I shall personally come to marry her." Vishnuchitta startled, woke up from his dream excited and worried all at the same time. He was thrilled that the lord himself had accepted his child and her desire to marry him. But as a father, he was equally concerned how was he to get all the finery required to dress his precious child fit to be the bride of Lord Ranganatha himself?

He need not have worried at all! The lord had made all the arrangements! The same night Lord Ranganatha also came in the dream of the head priest of the temple at Srirangam . The Lord gave him Instructions, "I wish to marry Kodai, the daughter of my devotee, Vishnuchitta. So, go to Srivilliputtur tomorrow, with a palanquin and all finery fit for my bride. Go to the house of Vishnuchitta and give him all the gifts on my behalf. where I shall marry her."

The priest and scores of attendants woke up the next morning and made haste to Srivilliputtur with all the wedding finery and a bedecked palanquin fit for a queen. When they reached the house of Vishnuchitta, a poor Brahmin, his joy knew no bounds.

Meanwhile, Kodai too had dreamt the previous night of her marriage with the Lord and she became excited and shy at the same time.

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With all the finery sent by Lord Ranganatha to Vishnuchitta, Kodai was dressed to be Lord Ranganatha's bride. As in the dream, Lord Ranganatha himself arrived at their doorstep. No one except Vishnuchitta and Kodai knew who he was. All people of Srivilliputtur were wonderstruck "How had this poor Brahmin managed to strike such a princely alliance for his child? How did this mad child who kept blabbering all the time about Ranganatha coming in to marry her, find such a stroke of good luck and get such a handsome and rich husband?" The Gods attended the wedding as ordinary mortals. Goddess Parvati, Lord Ranganatha's sister, herself came with the bridal saree and helped Kodai wear it. She brought her to the marriage pandal and seated her beside her Lord. The shy Kodai was breathless as she saw each and every part of her dream coming alive including the decorations at the wedding function, the sweets being served, the music being played!!! Everything! Everything was exactly as she had dreamt! What a wonder!

Soon the wedding over, Kodai climbed into the palanquin ready to leave for Srirangam. The Lord walked alongside it in long strides and poor Vishnuvitta made haste to catch up with them. However, he was soon left a little behind the eye-catching procession. The whole of Srivilliputtur came out to watch this grand spectacle of a young girl whose dream to marry the lord Ranganatha was about to come true! They all walked behind the palanquin. It was a fine procession that soon reached Srirangam.

As the procession reached the temple sanctum sanctorum at Srirangam, Lord Rangatha as the bridegroom, walked in and merged with the idol. Kodai was dumbstruck! What should she do? In a flash it occurred to her that now she was his wife and had every right to be with him! She gave a quick smile and climbed onto the idol of Ranganatha to sit beside him. In a blinding flash of light, she disappeared. A few minutes later a panting Vishnuchitta arrived at the inner precincts of the temple only to find that neither his beloved daughter nor his new Son-in-law were anywhere to be seen. In fact if all this talk around him were true he may never see them again!! His eyes welled up with tears. He was not sure whether the tears flowing down his cheeks were those of joy or sorrow The joy of becoming the father-in-law of the Lord or the sorrow of losing his daughter forever. As his thoughts raced from one emotion to another and he stood with tear stained cheeks and folded hands, he heard the voice of the lord. "Vishnuchitta, don't feel sad. Your daughter is with me and shall always be by my side. And you too shall always be close to me as the father of my Kodai and also as my special devotee. Go back to Srivilliputtur and build a temple for both of us and lay down the ceremonies to be performed as they were today. Spend the rest of your days in making my flower garlands and singing my name. You too shall soon reach me."

Vishnuchitta returned home to Srivilliputtur with joy in his heart. He built the temple of Lord Ranganatha at Srivilliputtur and spent the rest of his days singing the glories of the Lord.
In her short life of 6 years, Kodai or Andal, sang 2 great works -

1. Tiruppavai a garland of 30 songs, where she identifies herself with the Gopis of Vrindavan and for 30 days keeps the Katyayani vratam to reach Krishna

2. Nachiyaar Thirumozhi a set of 143 verses in which an eager & restless Andal tries various methods by which she can attain union with Krishna. Vaaranam Aiyaram, a part of this, is a set of verses where Andal vividly describes her marriage with the Lord.