Aadi Pooram. Today is the day when Ma Parvati is pampered by her children as a newlywed and a mother-to-be. It is also the Jayanti of Andal, the only female Saint poet among the 12 Vaishnavite poets known as Azhwars.
Both are celebrated based on the day the nakshatra Pooram or Purva Phalguni falls in the Tamil month of Aadi. Andal is believed to have been discovered as an infant by Periyazhwar in his garden. Periyazhwar, another one of the 12 saints, did kainkaryam in the Vadapatrasayi temple in Srivilliputhur in southern Tamil Nadu. He was an ardent bhakta of Vishnu and would make garlands every day for Rangamannar, the presiding deity of the temple, using the flowers from his garden.
One day he found a baby girl under the tulsi plant in his garden; Pooram or Purva Phalguni fell on that day which is why it is celebrated as Andal Jayanti. She was named Kothai and brought up by the azhwar. Periyazhwar regaled the tales of Sri Krishna to Kothai from her childhood. Bhakti turned into prema and Kothai started thinking of Maha Vishnu as her consort as she grew up.
She would wear the garland made by Periyazhwar to check how it looks on her without the latter knowing. This way, everyday the deity wore the garland worn by Kothai and she later attained the name ‘Soodi Kodutha Sudarkodi’ meaning a young girl who wore(garland). Her father came to know about it one day when he saw a strand of her hair in the garland. He was upset that Kodhai had tainted the garlands made for Bhagwan and rebuked her.
But Bhagwan Vishnu appeared in his dreams and told him that he wanted only the garlands worn by Kodhai. She continued to send garlands first worn by her and finally united with Sri Ranganatha Swamy on Panguni Uthiram. She has sung hymns on the presiding deities of many Vaishnavite temples, known as Nachiyar Thirumozhi.
She undertook a vrat, Pavai Nonbu, in the Tamil month of Margazhi to marry Sri Ranganatha Swamy and unite with him. The 30 Tamil hymns sung by her on the 30 days of the month are called Thirupaavai and unmarried girls undertake the same vrat to get a good husband. A 10 day grand festival is held in the Aadi month in Andal’s native Srivilliputhur, which ends with a glorious chariot festival on the day of Aadi Pooram.
While Tamil Vaishnavites celebrate Aadi Pooram as the birthday of Aandal, other Tamils conduct the Valaikappu/ Seemantham ceremony of Ma Parvati on the same day. It is also believed to be the day when Ma Parvati was born. Hindu women buy glass bangles, turmeric, Kumkum and other auspicious things for Ma Parvati. The deities are adorned with colorful bangles from women of all walks of life in all Amman temples across the state.
Bangles are removed after a few days and distributed as prasad to women. It is believed that married women wearing those bangles will protect the lives of their husbands. For unmarried young girls, it will bring a husband of their dreams and for those without children, Ma Parvati will bless them with offspring. Women who participate in the ceremony have the pride of conducting the Seemantham of Jaganmatha and do it with as much joy as they would have while conducting the ceremony for their relatives.