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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Srivilliputhur Andal...... her parrot .... and the maker...

There is divinity everywhere… still some are more closely associated with divinity…

கூட்டிலிருந்து கிளியெப்போதும் கோவிந்தா கோவிந்தாவென்றழைக்கும்*
ஊட்டுக்கொடாது செறுப்பனாகில் உலகளந்தானென்றுயரக் கூவும்*
நாட்டிற்றலைப்பழியெய்தி உங்கள் நன்மையழிந்து தலையிடாதே*
சூட்டுயர் மாடங்கள் சூழ்ந்து தோன்றும் துவராபதிக்கென்னையுய்த்திடுமின்.

~ Andal the quintessential devotee draws reference to the caged parrot which keeps calling the names of Lord as ‘Govindha, Govinda’ ~ when it is not fed and starved as a punishment, it shouts more as ‘Lord who measured the Earth’…… Andal pleads that she be taken to Dwaraka, the city that has  high spired domes as She should be taken to the place of Lord Krishna, lest there will be words of abuse from the World.
Sri Andal at Thiruvallikkeni with the parrot

Elephants are closely associated with God in our philosophy and parrots do occupy a high position.  Parrots, also known as psittacines are birds of the roughly 372 species in 86 genera.  They are found in most tropical and subtropical regions.  From time immemorial parrots are kept as pets, especially macaws, Amazon parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, and cockatoos. These birds have been popular companions throughout history because they are intelligent, charismatic, colorful, and musical. Some birds can imitate many nonavian sounds, including human speech.

The primordial Divyadesam at Thiruvarangam enclosed by the holy river Kaveri is Ramayana-centric as the reclining Lord Ranganathar was worshipped by the Ikshvaku dynasty and was gifted to Vibhishana by Rama.  There is the ‘Kili mandapam’  [hall of parrot] just outside the precincts of Sanctum Sanctorum ~ here is ‘Kannan Kovil’ where Lord Krishna with his family of Vasudeva, Devaki and Rohini are worshipped. 

Thinking of parrots [kili] naturally leads to Sri Andal at Sri Villiputhur.  It is the birth place of Andal and Periyazhwar.  The temple tower of Sri Vadapathra Sayee Perumal is the emblem of the Tamil Nadu State Government.  Here [as also in many other divyadesams] Sri Andal has the parrot in her hand…  In her Nachiyar Thirumozhi, Andal sends cuckoo as her envoy and she promises that in return she would befriend her pet parrot which is being brought up by providing milk and sweet rice. The exquisite parrot that adorns the shoulder of Andal is a treat to watch, especially at Srivilliputhur. 

Here is a report that appeared in The Hindu [reproduced as it is here :]

S. Raman has an unusual profession… everyday, he makes a fresh, eco-friendly parrot that adorns Andal.

In Her ‘Nachiar Tirumozhi’ (5th Decad, 5th verse), Andal refers fondly to Her parrot as ‘Paal amudhootti edutha en kolakkili’- a parrot that’s fed on milk. In Her verse, Andal speaks of three birds - the swan, the cuckoo and the parrot.

Dr. M.A. Venkatakrishnan explains the significance of this verse. In the sloka, ‘Koojantam Rama Rameti,’ Valmiki is referred to as a cuckoo -- Valmiki kokilam. Sukabrahma Rishi narrated the story of Lord Krishna. Suka also means parrot in Sanskrit. So Andal, by singing about the cuckoo and the parrot, may be said to be referring to the narrators of the stories of Rama and Krishna, respectively. The reference to the swan is Andal’s way of referring to the Acharyas, who are invariably compared to swans because of their discerning capacity.

When the Andal utsavar idol is taken on processions in Srivilliputhur, a golden, gem studded parrot adorns Her. But when She returns to the temple, she is seen holding a parrot made of green leaves!  S. Raman, who makes this parrot, says, “It takes me four and a half hours to make the bird.” Everyday, a fresh parrot is made, which adorns Andal for roughly the same time as it takes to make it. “Once R. Venkatraman, the then President of India, asked if he could have the parrot at the end of the day, and the executive officer of the temple sent it to Rashtrapathi Bhavan!” says Raman.

He twists around his fingers a bunch of fibres from the stem of the banana plant, drawn into thin strands, and shapes the threads to resemble a parrot. These fibres are covered with tapioca leaves. A pomegranate flower is cut into two, and is used to make the beak and the mouth. Bamboo sticks are used for the legs. These are covered with the petals of pink oleander and nandiyavattai (Ervatamia coronaria). Palm fronds are cut and used for the tail and wings. A glittering stone called kakkaipon, that is obtained when wells are dug, is broken and shaped to resemble the parrot’s eyes. “These days few people dig wells. So it’s difficult to get these stones. Luckily, I have a good collection,” Raman says, as his fingers work deftly.

The pomegranate flowers come from the temple garden. All the other leaves and flowers come from a nearby village called Malli. “Once in two days, I go to Malli and collect what I need,” Raman says. How does he ensure that the leaves and flowers don’t wilt? “I keep them in the shade and covered. I don’t expose them to heat,” he says. In fact he is reluctant to pose with the parrot, because the parrot isn’t completely ready yet, and he is afraid that holding it where there is sufficient light to enable the photographer to get a good picture, will make the leaves wither.

Raman is the fifth generation lineal descendant of a gentleman who made Andal’s parrots. “But long before that, people in my family made these parrots for the temple,” says Raman. What is his profession? “I am content to make the parrots for Andal. That’s all I know.” Wealthy devotees may gift jewellery and silks to Andal, but one can’t help feeling that She will be partial to Raman’s parrots, for they are a labour of love. Raman’s work is an everyday affirmation of his faith and devotion.

Thanks to The Hindu for the report the photos…

Adiyen Srinivasadhasan.


  1. My pranams to Sri. Raman. He is gifted by Lord and Andal to make Parrot daily . Yeoman service to Andal. My sincere prayer for continuing his work .Wish him A healthy and prosperous life for serving God on this Margazhi day

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