When Goda daubed her toes with water mixed with lac, her red feet smiled with shining white toenails, and thought-
"O how innocent she is! Why would she add yet another color to her pink lotus feet that already color the world?"
This is from a set of beautiful verses describing Goda’s adolescent beauty in the keshadipada (head to feet) format by Sri Krishnadevaraya, celebrated poet-king of the Vijayanagara empire in his magnum opus ‘Amuktamalyada’. The translation is by Dr. Srinivas Reddy and from his book "The Giver of the Worn Garland : Krishnadevaraya's Amuktamalyada".
In the Amuktamalyada, Andal emerges as a spirited and feisty young woman. This specific expression describing her lotus feet deeply moved me, evoking a sense of sweetness and innocence.
The sentiment took me towards Andal's popular identification with Bhu Devi. This connection goes back to when Varaha held Bhu (the earth), in his white tusks after having saved her from Hiranyaksha in the Krita Yuga. The event also indicates Bhu Devi's future incarnation as Kodhai in the Kali Yuga.
With this connection, her divine identity and impassioned longing to (re)unite with Sriman Narayana both resonate profoundly at once. What immediately struck me was the remarkable dichotomy between her innocence and boldness. The contrast between them is stark, just as her toenails stand out almost white against the deep red hue of the alta on her feet. The beauty lies in the interplay of these elements, that brings out the uniqueness of her character and mysticism. This is where the genius of Krishnadevaraya shines through!
What a literary gem!
A vision of Goda decorating her feet began to tease my mind. Although my journey of making this piece was sparked by Dr. Srinivas Reddy's wonderful translation of the Amuktamalyada, I felt a compelling curiosity to know what the original verse in Telugu sounded like. As someone navigating linguistic barriers, I'm always looking for ways to deepen my experience of the beauty of poetry. Finding the original verse in Telugu was challenging, but I managed to locate it.
With the generosity of kind-hearted souls, I was able to grasp the purport of this verse. It is this kind of enthusiastic support that truly enriches the journey.
Composed centuries prior, Swami Vedanta Desikan's "Goda Stuti" stands as a testament to his act of sharanagati (total surrender) at her divine lotus feet. The very first verse goes thus:
śrī viṣṇu cittā kula nandana kalpavallīm
śrī raṅgarāja haricandana yogadṛśyām |
sākṣāt kṣamām karuṇayā kamalāmivānyām
godām ananyaśaraṇah śaraṇam prapadyē ||
A divine insight unfolds in the third line of this verse. Swami Desikan reveals how Andal's forbearance mirrors the patient nurturing of Bhumi Devi, while her compassion resonates with the benevolence of Mahalakshmi. In the next line, he proceeds to perform sharanagati at the lotus feet of this manifestation of the Divine Feminine as Goda, seeking the eternal sanctuary of her divine grace.
Krishnadevaraya tenderly highlights the glory of these very same protective and nurturing lotus feet. Everything on this earthly realm only gains color through the touch of Her divine lotus feet! And here she is, endeavoring to adorn them further, to enhance their redness!
This endearing articulation serves as the core inspiration for this piece.
Drawing upon Krishnadevaraya's reference to the earth, also subtly conveyed is the association of Bhumi Devi-Varaha Swamy with the incarnation of Andal. Varaha's pristine white tusks cradle his beloved Bhumi Devi (Mother Earth), who in the form of Goda, illuminating the path to the lord for us, through her own matchless love, devotion and poetry.
Sri Andal tiruvadigale sharanam.
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