The 160-year-old Rangaji temple in Vrindavan has the murtis of Sri Goda Devi, Rangadeva and Garuda on its altar. This unusual combination is a bit of a mystery for most people who have come to Vaishnavism through the northern traditions and have little or no knowledge of the Shri Sampradaya and the Alwars who preceded them.
The Alwars were 12 great Vaishnava saints who lived in the 7th and 8th centuries in Tamil Nadu. Of them, the ninth was Goda or Andal, the daughter of the 8th Alwar Periyalwar or Vishnuchitta, and only woman of the group.
When Andal was 15, her father began making marriage arrangements for her, but she insisted that she would only marry the Lord at Srirangam. Her father first refused, but then had a dream in which Rangadeva appeared to him and told him to bring her to him. At the same time, the Lord ordered the Srirangam priests in a dream to prepare for the wedding. Andal is said to have merged into the deity at that point.
Goda Devi wrote the Tirupavvai, which is a 30 verse hymn that is sung over a one month period, one verse each day. It describes the vrata of the gopis to have Krishna as their husband. The last five days, which precede the Makara Sankranti (on January 14), describe the actual marriage itself.This 5-day marriage, preparations and actual ritual, are reenacted at the Rangaji temple in Vrindavan. In fact, Goda is considered a goddess, since she is the wife of Lord Narayan. But since Goda identified with Radharani, the Shri Sampradaya felt it important to have a temple to her in Vrindavan. This is why this unique form of worship is present here.
Vrindavan Today interviewed the daughter of Goverdhan Rangacharya, Malyada Goverdhan, to tell us a little more about the occasion and to let us know what is going on over the next five days.
We also got a few shots of the ladies singing as Goda rests on the swing before being put on the dias to be bathed and dressed, etc.
The last five verses of Tirupavvai. For word-by-word translation from Tamil, further commentary, etc., see Sripedia. The meanings discovered by the Shri Vaishnava acharyas reveal many hidden things in this song.
26. Oh Lord Vishnu , Oh lord who is like the blue sapphire, if you ask us what we need, in your great grace and great deeds, for our holy bath of Marghashirsha, we ask for conches like the milk-white conch of yours called Panchajanya, very many big drums whose sound can be heard everywhere, several musicians of fame to sing “Pallandu”, several beautiful pretty lamps, several flags and cloths to make tents. Oh, you who sleep on a banyan leaf at time of the deluge, please give us them all, so that we may worship our Goddess Pavai (Parvati).
27. Hey Lord Govinda, known for overcoming your enemies! After singing your glories we will get drums and many gifts and receive praises from all the people. We will wear golden flowers in our hair, golden bracelets, golden ear studs, golden flowers ornaments over our ears and anklets on our feet. We will put on pretty new clothes and eat rice mixed with milk and covered in ghee that drips from our forearms. We will be together and happy, And for this we worship our Goddess Pavai.
28. Belonging to the ignorant family of cowherds, we drive the cattle into the forest where we all eat together. But because you, Govinda, have no shortcomings, we are blessed to have taken birth in the same caste as you. None can ever break the ties that we have with you, Oh Lord. We are but ignorant girls, who do not know the world, and in ignorance and love we have called you by name. So please do not be angry with us, but please give us the drums so that we can worship our Goddess Pavai.
29. Please hear why, in this very early dawn, we have come to worship your golden holy feet. You were born in our family of cowherds, and we are there only to obey your every wish, and have not come only to get the drums from you. Oh Govinda, all we ask is that we be related only to you, and be your slaves for countless births forever. So please remove all our other desires, and help us to worship our Goddess Pavai.
30. He who without error sings these thirty verses in sweet Tamil, recounting how the rich ladies with moon-like faces worshiped Madhava, who is also the Lord Keshava who churned the ocean of milk, and and requested from him a drum to worship Goddess Pavai, as sung by Kodhai (Goda), the dear daughter of Vishnuchitta, the bhattar from the beautiful city of Puduvai, will be happy and forever get the grace of our Lord Vishnu of sweet glances and four mountain-like shoulders.