from the earliest times with divine knowledge and religious
aspiration the Indian mind has turned all forms of human
life and emotion and all the phenomena of the universe
into symbols and means by which the embodied soul may
strive after and grasp the supreme. Indian devotion
has especially seized upon the most intimate human relations
and made them stepping stones to the supra-human relations
and made them stepping stones to the supra – human.
God the Guru, God the Master, God the Friend , God the
Mother, God the Child, God the Self, each of these experiences-for
to us there are more than merely ideas, - it has carried
to its extreme possibilities. But none of them has it
pursued, embraced, sung with a more exultant passion
of intimate realization than the yearning for God the
Lover, God the Beloved. It would seem as if this passionate
human symbol were the natural culminating-point for
the mounting flame of the soul’s devotion; for it is
found wherever that devotion has entered into the most
secret shrine of the inner temple. We meet it in Islamic
poetry; certain experiences of the Christian mystics
repeat the forms and images with which we are familiar
in the East, but usually with a certain timorouess foreign
to the Eastern temperament. For the devotee who has
once had this intense experience it is that which admits
to the most profound and hidden mystery of the universe;
for him the heart has the key of the last secret.
The work of a great Bengali poet has recently re-introduced
this idea to the European mind, which has so much lost
the memory of its old religious-traditions as to welcome
and wonder at it as a novel form of mystic self-expression.
On the contrary it is ancient enough, like all things
natural and eternal in the human soul. In Bengal a whole
period of national poetry has been dominated by this
single train and it has inspired a religion and a philosophy.
And in the Vaishnavism of the far south, in the songs
of the Tamil alwars, we find it again in another form,
giving a powerful and original trun to the images of
the our old classic poetry; for there it has been sung
out by the rapt heart of a woman to the Heart of the
The tamil ward, Alwar, means one who has drowned, lost
himself in the sea of the divine being. Among these
canonized saints of Southern Vaishnavism ranks Vishnuchitta,
yogin and powt of Villipattan in the land of the Pandyas.
He is termed Perialwar, the great Alwar. A tradition,
which we need not believe, places him in the ninety-eighth
year of the Laliyuga. But these divine singers aare
ancient enough, since they precede the great saint and
philosopher Raamanuja whose personality and teahing
were the last flower of the long-growing Vaishnava tradition.
Since his time Southern Vaishnavism has been a fixed
cred and a system rather than a creator of new spiritual
The poetess Andal was the foster daughter of Vishnchitta,
found bly him, it is said, a new born child under the
sacred tulsi plant. We know little of Andal except what
we can gather from a few legends. Some of them richly
beautiful and symbolic. Most of Vishnuchitta’s poems
have the infancy and boyhood of Krishna for their subject.
Andal brought up in that atmosphere, cast into the mould
of her life what her foster-father had sung in inspired
hymns. Her own poetry-we may suppose that she passed
early into the light towards which tshe yearned, for
it is small in bulk, -is entirely occupied with her
passion for the divine Being. It is said that she went
through a symbolic marriage with Sri Ranganatha, Vishnu
in his temple at Srirangam, and disappeared into the
image of her Lord. This tradition probably conceals
some actual fact, for Anda’s marriage with the Lord,
is still celebrated annually with considerable pomp
We give below a translation of three of Andal’s poems:
O Cuckoo that peckest at the blossomed flower of honey-dripping
champaka and inebriate, pipest forth the melodious notes,
be seated in they ease and with thy babblings, which
are yet not babbling, call out for the coming of my
Lord of the Venkata hill. For He, the pure one, bearing
in his left hand the white summoning conch shows me
not his form. But He has invaded my hear; and while
I pine and sigh for his love, He looks on indifferent
as if it were all a play.
I feel as if my bones had melted away and my long javlin
eyes have not closed their lids for these many days.
I am tossed on the waves of the sea of pain without
finding the boat that is named the Lord of the highest
realm. Even thou must know, O Cuckoo, the pain we feel
when we are parted from those whom we love. He whose
pennon bears the emblem of the golden eagle, call out
for his coming, O bird.
I am a slave of Him whose stride has measured the worlds.
And now because He is harsh to me, how strange that
this south-wind and these moonbeams should tear my flesh,
enfeebling me. But thou, O cuckoo, that ever divest
in this garden of mine, it is not meet that thou shouldst
pain me also. Indeed I shall drive thee out if He who
reposes on the waters of life come not to me by they
dreamed a dream
dreamed a dream, O friend
The wedding was fixed for the morrow. And He, the Lion,
Madhava, the young Bull whom they call the master of
radiances, He came into the hall of wedding decorated
with luxurian palms.
dreamed a dream, O friend
And the throng of the Gods was there with Indara, the
Mind Divine, at their head. And in the shrine they declared
me bride and clad me in a new robe of affirmation. And
Inner Force is the name of the goddess who adorned me
with the garland of the wedding.
dreamed a dream, O friend
There were beatings of the drum and blowings of the
conch; and under the canopy hung heavily with strings
of pearls He came, my lover and my lord, the vanquisher
of the demon Madhu and grasped me by the hand.
dreamed a dream, O friend
Those whose voices are blest, they sang the Vedic songs.
The holy grass was laid. The sun was established. And
He who was puissant like a war – elephant in its rage,
He seized my had and we paced round the Flame.
Ye others cannot conceive of the love that I bear to
Krishna. And your warnings to me are vain like the pleadings
of the deaf and mute. The boy who left his mother’s
home and was reared by a different mother, - Oh. Take
me forth to hi city of mathura where He won the field
without fighting the battle and leave me there.
Of no further avail is modesty. For all the neighbouts
have known of this fully. Would ye really heal me of
this ailing and restore me to my pristine state? Then
know ye this illness will go if I see Him, the maker
of illusions, the youthful one who measured the world.
Should you really wish to save me, then take me forth
to his home in the hamlet of the Cowhereds and leave
The rumour is already spread over the land that I fled
with Him and went the lonely way leaving all of you
behind-my parents, relatins and friends. The tongue
of scandal ye can hardly silence now. And He the deceiver
is haunting me with his forms. Oh, take me forth at
midnight to the door of the Cowherd named Bliss who
owns this son, the maker of havoc, this mocker, this
pitiless player; and leave me there.
Oh grieve not ye, my mother. Others know little of this
strange malady of mine. He whose hue is that of the
blue sea, a certain youth called Krishna – the gentle
caress of his hand can heal me, for his yoga is sure
On the bank of the waters he ascended the Kadamba tree
and he leaped to his dance on the hood of the snake,
the dance that killed the snaked. Oh take me forth to
the bank of that lake and leave me there.
There is parrot here in this cage of mine that ever
calls out his name saying “Govinda, Govinda”. In anger
I chide it and refuse to feed it. ‘O Thou’ it then creies
in its highest pitch, “O Thou who hast measured the
worlds’. I tell you, my people, if ye really would avoid
the top of scandal in all this wide country, if still
uye would guard, your weal and your good fame, then
take me forth to his city of Dwaraka of high mansions
and decorated turrets; and leave me there.