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Andakola-ahaval is a Tamil poem of 17 lines in ahaval meter in riddle-like language, like in Upanishads. Andakola-ahaval depicts with many illusions the essence of Sri Vaishnava philosophical formulations on the urge, the endeavor, and fruit of spiritual life. Tradition says that Nammalvar (8th century CE), the seer of the Dravida-veda, vanquished the Tamil poets of the Sangam (Academy) at Madurai, challenging them to explain this Tamil poetic composition embodying philosophical wisdom (Ariya-t-Tamil). Satakpar-andadi, a work of over hundred verses on Nammalvar, who was also called Satakopar, refers to this conquest of the Sangam poets of his day.

This poem was printed by Mahavidvan R. Raghava Aiyangar (1870-1946) who found it written on a palm-leaf in a private family collection at Alvar-Tirunagari.

The poem is a masterpiece of allegorical meanings in which the images suggest deeper mystic truths. We are first introduced, in lines 1-2 and 5-6, to the tree of Brahman, transcending time and space and space and containing in its totality the mass of atomic beings – sentient and non-sentient – comprehending the cosmos, as its blossomed flowers. The nuances of the words used here suggest that in the process of creation and evolution of the anu (atomic being) into the pindam (cosmos), Brahman is the nimitta (efficient), upadana (material) and sahakari (ancillary) cause, and that Brahman’s presence is that of the protector and protected subsisting in contact but not merged with the created object.

This tree of Brahman gathers to itself one special type of selves, paramaikantis, to whom Vasudeva is everything. It stands on the expanse of white, pearl-like sands of Sveta-dvipa (the Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, 343) the luminous resort of paramaikantis, absorbed in Vishnu. The tree itself with its green foliage is an image of Aniruddha (the green-hued form of Vishnu) reposing on the sands of the Milky Ocean. It is the source of all incarnations which Vishnu takes. The tree in the form of Aniruddha, identical with Vishnu and Brahma, gives three types of fruits – Aishwarya (wealth and enjoyment), kaivalya (enjoyment of own self) and moksha (liberation from here and now/bliss of supreme presence) according to the pursuits of the seekers. We switch over from the image of the tree to Brahma the creator, born of Aniruddha, the green form of Vishnu in Svetadvipa. He is said to be headless, alluding to the Puranic story of Shiva nipping his heads (Varaha Purana Chapter III). This suggests that the sense of enjoyment has left him. His consort Sarasvati is taken as Vagdevi, the embodiment of Vedic sounds, pure and simple. In the form of Vedic utterances, she is birthless and eternal, being the Svasa (exhalation) of Para Brahman.

Vagdevi, also the embodiment of Vedic wisdom, gave the three and seven letters of the super-mantra om namo Narayana with three letters, a, u, m comprised the Om (known as the three-lettered holy syllable) and seven letters in the remaining two words of the mantra. Letters of the mantras are personified deities and are couched in secret language. Sarasvati is considered the mother of the mantras. The ten brahmanas stated to have been delivered by Sarasvati may be taken as the sages of the ten letters of the Narayana mantra.

We may take it that the Sangam poets of Tamil, considered as endowed with the powers of Sarasvati, are asked to remember that there is no other refuge for them except the great mantra (in ten letters). The pure Tamil diction of the poem is in line with that of Nammalvar’s others works like Tiruvasiriyam and Tiruvaymoli.