In This Article Āṇṭāḷ

  • Introduction
  • Primary Sources: Āṇṭāḷ’s Compositions
  • Primary Sources: Translations
  • Hagiographies: Primary Sources
  • Hagiographies: English Translations
  • Āṇṭāḷ’s Hagiography: Critical Studies
  • Commentaries on Āṇṭāḷ’s Poetry
  • Secondary Sources in Tamil
  • Āṇṭāḷ as Part of the Bhakti Movement
  • General Study of Āṇṭāḷ’s Poetry
  • Āṇṭāḷ’s Poetry as Religious Practice
  • Āṇṭāḷ and Śrīvilliputtūr
  • Online Resources

Hinduism Āṇṭāḷ
by
Archana Venkatesan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0006

Introduction

Āṇṭāḷ is the epithet of the 9th-century Tamil female Vaishnava poet named Kōtai. She is the author of two major mystical poems, the Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi, both of which are included in the first book (Mutal Āyiram) of the Nālāyira Divya Prabandham (Divine Collection of Four Thousand). The sect of Śrīvaiṣṇavas consider the Divya Prabandham to be revealed. Within this formulation Āṇṭāḷ’s two compositions are regarded as equivalent to the Upanishads. Āṇṭāḷ whose name means “she who rules,” is counted as one of the twelve Āḻvār poets. However as she is believed to have married Viṣṇu, she is also sometimes left out of the list of Āḻvār poets, and is instead worshipped as a manifestation of Bhū Devī, the goddess Earth. As one of the most important and popular figures in Tamil Vaishnavism, there is a wide range of source material—primary and secondary—produced about Āṇṭāḷ. This includes traditional hagiographies, commentaries to her two poems in Maṇipravāḷa, Tamil, and Sanskrit, in addition to a substantial bibliography in English. This article focuses on the most significant primary and secondary sources about Āṇṭāḷ ––with an emphasis on her crucial role in the formation of Tamil Vaishnavism, both as a participant in the religious milieu of 9th-century devotionalism and as a recipient of devotion and religious practice in the period thereafter.

Primary Sources: Āṇṭāḷ’s Compositions

Āṇṭāḷ’s two compositions, the thirty-verse Tiruppāvai and the 143-verse Nācciyār Tirumoḻi are included in the Nālāyira Divya Prabandham (The Divine Collection of Four Thousand), which is revered by the Śrīvaiṣṇavas sect as a revealed text. The Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi are part of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham’s first book, which is called Mutal Āyiram (First Thousand). The two poems follow the Tiruppallāṇṭu and Periyāḻvār Tirumoḻi, the compositions of Periyāḻvār, whom tradition regards as Āṇṭāḷ’s father and mentor. Depending on whether the Tiruppallāṇṭtu is counted as part of the Periyāḻvār Tirumoḻi or not, Āṇṭāḷ’s two poems are the second and third compositions of the Nālāyira Divya Prabandham. There is no critical edition of the Nālāyira Divya Prabandham, and therefore no critical edition of the Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi. Nonetheless, there is almost no variation in different textual and oral versions of the two poems. There are innumerable published versions of both texts, and they are commonly available.

  • Āṇṭāḷ. “Nācciyār Tirumoḻi.” In Mutal Āyiram of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham. Edited by Krishnaswami Iyengar, 87–106. Tiruchirappalli, India: Srinivasa Press, n.d.

    E-mail Citation »

    Tamil text with no date of publication available. This is a Teṅkalai (Southern branch) version of the Nālāyira Divya Prabandham, published by a reputable Śrīvaiṣṇava publishing house. Unlike most editions, the 143-verse Nācciyār Tirumoḻi is preceded by laudatory verses known as taṉiyaṉ. In addition, the edition also marks pauses in liturgical recitation with an asterisk.

  • Āṇṭāḷ. “Tiruppāvai.” In Mutal Āyiram of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham. Edited by Krishnaswami Iyengar, 80–87. Tiruchirappalli, India: Srinivasa Press, n.d.

    E-mail Citation »

    Tamil text with no date of publication available. This is a Teṅkalai (Southern branch) version of the Nālāyira Divya Prabandham, published by a reputable Śrīvaiṣṇava publishing house. As in most editions, the thirty-verse Tiruppāvai is preceded by all three laudatory verses known as taṉiyaṉ. In addition, the edition also marks pauses in liturgical recitation with an asterisk. The text of the Tiruppāvai is preceded by a hagiographical account of Āṇṭāḷ’s life (Āṇṭāḷ Vaibhavam).

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