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9th century ce)

Āṇṭāḷ is the one woman among the twelve South Indian poet-saints, the Āḻvārs. She is said to have been the adopted daughter of Periyāḻvār, a brahmin priest at the temple of Śrīvilliputtūr in Tamil Nadu, who was himself an Āḷvār. Her poetry turns on the unbearable tension created by the absence of the beloved (Kṛṣṇa/Viṣṇu), an absence that eventually engenders an ecstatic experience. According to legend, after marrying Viṣṇu's statue at Śrīraṅgam at the age of sixteen, she was absorbed into it, and thereafter worshipped as an incarnation of Śrī. Two poems are attributed to her, both in the ‘First Thousand’ of the Nālāyirappirapantam: the Tiruppāvai (‘Sacred Lady’), which has generated its own commentarial tradition in both Sanskrit and maṇipravāḷam, and the Nā(y)acciyārtirumoḻi, containing the Vāraṇamāyiram (‘A Thousand Elephants’) hymn sung at Vaiṣṇava weddings.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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