Vishnuchittar also known as Periyaazhwar (9th Century) was the first among the twelve prominent Vaishnava Saints of Tamil Nadu born in Srivilliputhur near Madurai. He was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and has contributed to the philosophical and theological ideas of Vaishnavism. His major contributions include Thirupallandu and Periya Azhwar Thirumozhi.
Vishnuchittar was childless and that worried him. He prayed to God to bless him with a child. One day, when he was walking in his garden, he found a baby girl lying near a Tulasi plant. It is said that Mother Earth (Bhoomi Devi) herself had appeared as a child in answer to his prayers. He brought the child home, named her “Kothai” and brought her up as his own daughter. He would teach her songs and tell stories about Lord Vishnu and His glories. Hence, the little girl grew up in a divine atmosphere of Bhakti. As she grew up, her devotion and love for Sri Hari also grew to such an extent that, she decided she would only get married to the Lord. As the days progressed, her resolve to marry the Lord only strengthened.
Vishnuchittar used to make beautiful flower garlands, take them to the temple and offer them to Lord Ranganatha daily. This was his devoted nitya seva to the Lord. Kothai who considered herself the bride-to-be of the Lord used to take the garland, wear it and admire herself in the mirror and then remove it and place it in the basket to be taken to the temple. Vishnuchittar was unaware of this and used to take the same used garland and offer it to the Lord. Hence for days, the garland worn by Kodhai was being offered to the Lord.
One day, Vishnuchittar saw his daughter wearing the garland made for the Lord and was shocked. How could anyone wear what was meant for the Lord? He was extremely upset and scolded her and told her never to repeat this again. That day there was no garland for the Lord. That night, the Lord came in Periyaazhwar’s dream and told him that he liked the garlands worn by Kothai and henceforth He would only accept garlands worn by her. From then onwards, Kodhai came to be known as “Andal” – one who ruled over the Lord.
Andal’s yearning for the Lord increased day by day and her devotional outpourings are called Thiruppavai and Nacchiaar Thirumozhi. When Vishnuchittar was searching for a suitable groom for “Andal”, she expressed her keen desire to get married to the Lord. He told her that there are 108 Divya Kshetras of Lord Vishnu and she asked him to narrate the glory of the Deity of each Kshetra. She was thrilled to hear about the Lord of Mathura, smiled when she heard about the Lord of Tirumala, happy to hear about Lord of Azhagar Temple (Madurai), but was ecstatic when she heard about the Lord of Srirangam! She choose Lord Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam as her husband.
The father was worried as to how he should proceed. The Lord then appeared in his dream and asked him to bring her to the temple. Simultaneously, the Lord appeared in the dream of the temple priest and asked him to bring Vishnuchittar’s daughter as His bride from Srivilliputhur to Srirangam. The Lord also told the Pandyan king, Vallabhadevan to make arrangements for the wedding. Accordingly, Andal in bridal attire was brought in a pearl palanquin. She reached the temple of Srirangam. As every one around was seeing, she walked into the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ranganatha and merged with Him.
Bhoomi Devi who came as Andal is worshiped in Srivilliputhur. Even to this day for Tirupati Brahmotsavam, garlands worn by Andal in Srivilliputhur temple are sent to Lord Venkateshwara Temple at Tirupati. These traditional garlands are made of tulasi, sevanthi and sampangi flowers. These garlands are worn by Lord Venkateshwara during the Garuda seva procession.
When emotion of devotion increases, the devotee's personality and the Infinite nature of the Lord of his heart become one-----and this is the Essence of the Experience-Supreme - Swami Chinmayananda
[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]