Gudravalli commemorates the mergence of Andal with Sri Ranganatha, an aspect of Narayana. Andal is one of the 12 Alwar, the poet saints of South India, who belonged to Sri Vaishnavism, and were ardent devotees of Lord Narayana.
How did this festival come about?
Andal had promised that she would offer 100 thada of sweet dish Akkaraadisil to Lord Sri Ranganatha, Her beloved divinity, if He unites Her with Himself. Sri Ranganatha is an aspect of Narayana, enshrined at Sri Rangam temple in Tamil Nadu, on the banks of Cauvery River. Sri Ranganatha eventually accepted Sri Andal, as She became absorbed in Her Lord. Andal’s promise however remained unfulfilled.
Sri Rangam Temple, Tamil Nadu
The festival Gudravalli was instituted by Ramanuja, the propounder of Vishitadvaita, on 27th day of Margashirsha month, known as Margazhi in Tamil, to fulfil this promise of Andal. 100 thada of Akkaraadisil are offered to the divinity at Sri Rangam on this day. Gudravalli means to jointly pray to horse. The 27th day of the month was chosen as Andal had merged with her Lord on this day, while singing the 27th verse of the 30 verses that she composed, in praise of Sri Ranganatha. This 30 verse devotional work of Andal is known as Tiruppavai. Andal sang a verse of Thirupavai on each day, in praise of Lord Ranganatha, in this month of Margazhi.
The 27th verse
Koodarai vellum seer Govinda ! Undrannai
Paadi parai kondu yaam perum sammanam
Naadu pugazhum parisinaal nandraga
Soodagame tholvalaiye thode sevippoove
Padagame yendranaiya palkalanum yaam anivom
Aadai yuduppom adhan pinne paar soru
Mooda neiy peydhu muzhankai vazhivara
Koodiyirundhu kulirndhelor empavai
Sri Andal has in the early verses described the rigors of the Nonbu as not decorating themselves and not eating ghee and other delicacies to enable focus on the Lord. Now that She is in front of the Lord, she addresses the Lord as one who wins over those who are not willing to join Him or vanquishes those who are not following the righteous path and sings, we are singing your praise and seek from your hands gifts that the nation will be enamored of. We seek from Your hands lovely garlands and ear rings and many other ornaments ; then lovely garments. We will adorn ourselves when these are given by your hands or you adorn us yourselves. Our beautification is for you to see and enjoy. And after adorning ourselves we will eat paal soru ie rice cooked in milk and ghee as your prasadam and the delicacy will be so full of ghee that the ghee will flow down our elbow as we eat. And being in unison with you, in your company, partaking of the gifts and the food that you give us, we remain together and happy and blissful.
Relish Akkaraadisil, Relish Devotion
On this day, many households belonging to Vaishnavas, prepare Akkaraadisil. The uniqueness of this delicacy is that it is boiled and cooked in milk, instead of water.
In Tamil, “Akkaram” means “Sugarcane”, Adisil means rice. After the rains, it is the time for harvest. Gudravalli falls around harvest season, when the other harvest festivals like Pongal are also celebrated. Thus there is a rich bounty of sugarcane and rice available in this period. This makes Akkaraadisil a very appropriate delicacy for this festival.
This sweet in a way, represents the sweetness of the devotion, bhakti of Andal and the Alwar. On this day, apart from relishing the sweetness of Akkaraadisil, let us also relish the nectarine devotion of Andal.