Volume 67 Number 2, December 2015

In Andal’s Garden: Art, Ornament and Devotion in Srivilliputtur (Reprint 2018)

By: Archana Venkatesan, Crispin Branfoot
Photographs by: Clare Arni
Binding: Hardcover
Specifications: 144 pages, 160 illustrations
ISBN: 978-93-83243-10-5
Dimensions: 305 x 241 mm

Kotai was a 9th-century Tamil Vaishnava poet and mystic, and the author of two poems, the Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli. Today, she is worshipped as the goddess Andal or Goda, all across southern India, and her arresting poetry finds expression in ritual, music, dance and the visual arts. Her most important temple is in Srivilliputtur, a small town in Tamil Nadu, and believed to be the place of her birth.

In Andal’s Garden takes the reader to Srivilliputtur to explore Andal’s temple, her visualization in painting, sculpture, festival ritual and performance, and the history and sacred landscape of southern Tamil Nadu under the Pandyas and later Nayakas of Madurai. In combining the architectural, literary and theological, this book offers up possibilities of new, interdisciplinary ways of seeing the temple as a living, changing and dynamic space. 

Archana Venkatesan is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Religious Studies at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests are in the intersection of text, image and performance in south India.
Crispin Branfoot is Senior Lecturer in South Asian art and archaeology at SOAS, University of London. His research addresses the architecture, sculpture and painting of south India, especially from the 14th to the early 20th century.

Photo Essay

1. Andal Stories

2. Patronage in Pandyanadu

3. Approaching Andal

4. Adornment and Adoration in Srivilliputtur

5. Landscapes of Devotion

6. Andal of a Thousand Names




Andal Stories
Venkatesan, Archana and Branfoot, Crispin
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015; ISBN: 978-93-83243-10-5, pp. 20-39

This chapter introduces the reader to Kotai, the 9th-century Vaishnava poet who became the goddess Andal. Exploring her legend as recorded in laudatory poems, hagiographies and commentaries, it traces the apotheosis of this extraordinary poet between the 12th and 17th centuries. It discusses her place among the Alvars, the poet-saints of Tamil Vaishnavism, and her significance in the religious and literary imagination. An analysis of Kotai’s two poems, the Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli lays the foundation for the chapter’s exposition on the worship of Andal at Srivilliputtur. It stresses on alankara or ornamentation as a key tool in the creation of Andal as Srivilliputtur’s sovereign goddess. Emphasizing networks of political patronage, the chapter examines Andal’s iconography within the particular context of her poetry as well as in the broader context of goddess worship in south India.

Patronage in Pandyanadu
Venkatesan, Archana and Branfoot, Crispin
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015; ISBN: 978-93-83243-10-5, pp. 40-59

Though Andal the poet dates to the 9th century, Andal the goddess dates to several centuries later. This chapter locates the development of the sacred site of Srivilliputtur within the wider history of Tamil temple culture in the far south, especially in relation to the changing fortunes of the Pandya royal dynasty of nearby Madurai and their 16th-17th century successors, the Nayakas. The development of the double-temple to Andal and Vishnu are discussed, with reference to the recorded inscriptions from Srivilliputtur and contemporary architecture in Madurai, Tenkasi and elsewhere in Pandyanadu.

Approaching Andal
Venkatesan, Archana and Branfoot, Crispin
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015; ISBN: 978-93-83243-10-5, pp. 60-83

The discussion here takes the reader into Andal’s temple, moving through the site to outline the visual experience, layout and meanings of the two temples. The many smaller shrines and mandapams, the columned halls and corridors with magnificent architectural sculpture, and the garden of Andal’s birth that connects the two temples are all described and illustrated. This section traces the manner in which the site seeks to map the legend of Andal onto the sacred space.

Adornment and Adoration in Srivilliputtur
Venkatesan, Archana and Branfoot, Crispin
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015; ISBN: 978-93-83243-10-5, pp. 84-107

Andal’s iconography is historicized and compared in bronze and stone sculpture, paintings and prints. A comparison with the Pandyan goddess Minakshi invites further discussion of the historical, mythic and ritual connections between Srivilliputtur and Madurai, the Pandyans and the Nayakas. The chapter’s core discusses the festivals celebrating Andal, with particular importance given to the three major annual festivals: the Pankuni, the Adi and the Margali Festivals. The detailed exploration of festival ritual demonstrates the importance of understanding Tamil literature in performance and the intertwining character of art and devotion expressed in the elaborate alankara of festival images.

Landscapes of Devotion
Venkatesan, Archana and Branfoot, Crispin
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015; ISBN: 978-93-83243-10-5, pp. 108-125

Myth and festival ritual establish spatial connections between Andal’s temple at Srivilliputtur and other deities and temples, like the late 16th-century Krishna temple, the Vaidyanathasvami (Shiva) temple, an earlier Pandyan-period foundation substantially expanded under the patronage of the Madurai Nayakas, and the Katta Alagar and Tiruvannamalai temples, which invite discussion of the replication of Tamil deities and sacred sites in new locations.

Andal of a Thousand Names
Venkatesan, Archana and Branfoot, Crispin
Vol. 67 No. 2, December 2015; ISBN: 978-93-83243-10-5, pp. 126-137

This chapter explores Andal beyond Srivilliputtur. Beginning with the early print history of Andal’s poems, it traces the increasing popularity of Andal in the urban centre of Madras (present day Chennai), as she becomes both an object of devotion as well as an icon of Indian feminism. Film, south Indian classical music and Bharatanatyam become key avenues through which Andal is forged anew to reflect the sensibilities of an urban middle class.