On the occasion of Andal Thirunakstram, we are given the an opportunity to recollect her divine qualities with the 108 names (Goda Ashtottara Shatanamavali) composed by our Acharyas. Each name reflects her personality, characteristics, or spiritual values she practiced or incidents in her life which put her in the foremost position for supporting us through any kind of hardship.

One of those 108 names is Yathiraja sahodari (sister of Ramanujacharya).  However, she was born in year 93 of this current Kali Yuga and Sri Ramanuja was born in year 4119 of Kali Yuga.  With 4026 years apart, how are they considered siblings?

Ramanujacharya was significantly influenced by Andal’s teachings the 30 pasurams (poems) of Thiruppavai and 143 pasurams of Nacchiyar Thiruvaimoji.  In those pasurams, she made a solemn vow to God in the deity form of Sundarabahu Swami of Thirumalirumcholai. If she is allowed to married Lord Ranganattha, she would offer Him 108 bowls of payasam (rice infused with milk, ghee, jaggery and spices) in addition to dedicating her entire life in God’s service.

Generally, most people make a promise of an offering in exchange for a material benediction. Once granted, they go their separate ways until ready for another offering for a material exchange. Andal Devi, however, offered bhoga to the lord in exchange that she become his eternal servant! So Lord feels doubly pleased in this situation, receiving the offer along with the one offering!

A human wishing to marry God in deity form?! What does this mean? This mood is terms as Madhura Bhakthi bhava (the mood of sweet devotion)  in which the seeker (soul) strives to unite with God through an unconditioned loving exchange.

How did she establish such a loving mood with the deity form of God? Her father (a great devotee himself, Vishnuchitthan Alwar) narrated stories of God (especially Sri Krishna) during Andal’s childhood. This inculcated deep love for God in her heart.  Her love was so sweet, so pure that even God’s supremacy was absorbed into it! This is the union, the wedding of the (soul) soul with paramaatma, God! Proving the truth in her love, God accepted her and made her available to all of us in the form of a Deity, so we can also worship her for showing us a beautiful path to eternal bliss through love!

In addition, this establishes the supremacy of deity worship in Vedic culture. Goda Devi recognized Lord in the purest mood with Archa Vigraha form.  This is the form she is most attracted to More than 4000 years later, it was Ramanujacharya who realised that Andal Devi never had the chance to fulfil the vow she made to Sundadrabahu Swami at Thirumalirumcholai. On her behalf, just as an elder brother does for a younger sister, he carried through with her promise. Sri Ramanuja offered the 108 bowls of payasam to Sundarabahu Swami. When reaching Andal Sannidhi in Sri Villiputthur. to convey his prayers and relay the message of her completed vow, she was overwhelmed by his act of devotion. Just as a brother takes up the task of a sister’s unfulfilled promises in absence of her parents, Andal Devi recognized Ramanujacharya as the same.

Andal (in the form of Deity) moved forward from the garbha-griha (the main inner sanctuary) to a table-top in front of the sanctuary and called him Annaaa….(big brother)!

It was a sight that awed the priests, the gathered devotees and the entire temple town. This documented history is remembered with high significance as we refer to Goda Devi as Yathiraja Sahodari, the beloved sister of Ramanujacharya! Accordingly, Ramanujacharya is referred to as Godagraja (agraja means elder brother – Goda’s elder brother)!

Yathiraja sahodari – The Beloved Sister of Ramanujacharya!

Andal (meaning the female, compassionate form of  protector and saviour) wishes that we all receive the grace of God (whose eyes reflect the tender compassion of lotus petals – kamala patra visalaksha).  She wishes that we attain the ultimate goal of life (purushaartha).  Let us inculcate faith in the path she walked for our sake and become the proud recipients of this true wealth, Union with God.

….. i:rirandu ma:lvaraiththo:l
sengan thirumugaththuch chelvaththiruma:la:l
engum thiruvarul peththu imburuvaremba:va:i

From the discourse of Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji
 August 3rd 2019, Andal Thirunakstram, Divya Saketham

Goda Devi has the quality of daya (compassionately giving) as Lakshmi Devi and kshama (compassionately forgiving) as Bhu Devi, with a unique ability to express the essence of the mass ocean of Vedic literature through beautiful poetry. Thereforce, she is worshipped as Dwibhuja Lakshmi in Govindaraja Swami temple at Thirupathi.  The Madhura Bhakthi she propounded became a trend in those days!  The feeling for Love for God took shape beautifully in the hearts of all who heard her past times. God became the most wished for by every woman. Kulashekar Alwar dedicated his daughter, Chera Kulavalli, to lord in the form of Sri Ranganaattha. As for many others, kama (desire, directed towards God) became a beautiful path in attaining purushartha along with dharma, artha and moksha.

From the discourse of Dr. Samudrala Rangaramanujacharya
– JIVA Director, Heads Research of JIVA Publications

The glory of Goda Devi is seen as thousands of devotees poured into the temple, even on a rainy day from far distances. Goda Devi’s majesty lies in her pure devotion to God. She is by her very nature the most revered and worshipped by all spiritual seekers. Her pasurams are sung in all traditional temples such as Sri Rangam, Tirumala, Melkote as well as all the 108 Divya Desams. Let’s open our hearts, sing her glories and seek her grace.

Yathiraja sahodari – The Beloved Sister of Ramanujacharya!

– From the discourse of Sri Krishnamacharya Swami, Nepal
a renowned scholar of Vedas, Aaagama, Divya Prabandhas, Ithihasas, and Puranas

Yathiraja sahodari – The Beloved Sister of Ramanujacharya!
Yathiraja sahodari – The Beloved Sister of Ramanujacharya!
Yathiraja sahodari – The Beloved Sister of Ramanujacharya!

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