A contemporary composer, she had no formal education but was able to compose in Tamil, Telugu, and Sanskrit. It is said that her talents were suddenly given to her by the Lord. Her compositions include padams, compositions and writings on Madurai. It is understood that she had composed many keerthanas in praise of Sharadha Devi of Shringeri and also in praise of Meenakshi devi and Sri Raja rajeswari.
Andavan Picchai was born in Mylapore, Madras, on September 6th 1899. Her birth name was Maragathavalli, and she was the second child of T. Sankaranarayana Sastri and Sitalakshmi. About three years later her mother, Sitalakshmi died and her husband remarried shortly afterwards. However, it seems that he did not have much time either for his new wife or his children since he was perpetually engrossed in his studies and his spiritual practices. The children spent a lot of time with his brother, Venkatasubbiar, who developed a great love for his niece Maragathavalli (Maragathamma, as she was called). Maragathamma hardly ever opened her mouth. A private tutor was engaged to teach her since in those days girls did not go to school, but she frequently managed to escape from her tuition. Her father gave her the nickname ‘Nirakshara Kukshi’ – ‘one who does not know a single syllable’.
When Maragathamma was a small child, Guruswamy, a relative on her mother’s side, gave a promise to her grandfather that he would marry her to his own son Narasimhan. Although Narasimhan was not happy about the proposed marriage, he agreed to it in order to honour his father’s promise. The marriage took place in April 1908 when the girl was barely nine years old. Narasimhan was about twenty at the time. Although child brides sometimes lived in their parents’ house until puberty, in this case Maragathamma was immediately dispatched to the husband’s house with jewellery and a dowry of two bungalows.
It is said that her vision of Lord Muruga was the impetus behind her compositions. One of the well known songs for all us “Ullam Urugudhayaa” was composed by you but got lot popular after TMS sang that song. She is also an ambal upasaki. She has composed a Tamil version of Soundarya Lahari. It is believed that she composed a poem on ambal while she was delivering her child!
It seems that this great soul has been born with a special devotion and a blessing from divinity from childhood. Once when Mahaperiyava was visiting her place, everyone in her street were standing outside with poorna kumbam etc. Her parents were also one among them. When Periyava approached and told her father, “Go and call the girl who is washing the dishes inside”…”She is not an ordinary girl…She is Aandavan Pichai”. After she came out Periyava accepted the poorna kumbam and blessed her. This incident was narrated by one of the people who were there at that time…
Maragathamma (by the time she was known as Amdavan Picchai) went to Rishikesh and stayed there for many years. At the age of eighty-nine, when she became seriously ill, she returned to Madras and passed away there in her family home in November 1990. She was ninety years old at the time of her death.
Coming to Andavan Picchai’s krithis, she has composed sixteen krithis on Goddess Kamakshi, one on Vighneswara, one on Jagadguru Sankaracharya and a mangalam. Also, five krithis on Devi Meenakshi, commonly known as Meenakshi Pancharatnam. Sri Gurusthuthi Sharada keerthanas contain one krithi on Satguru and ten krithis on Goddess Sharada. Sri Subrahmanya dwadasha mala contains twelve krithis on Lord Murugan; all the said compositions are in Sanskrit. Again, there are five krithis on Lord Nataraja, collectively known as Nataraja Panchratna mala (this set is composed in Tamil language). All these begin with a virutham in the respective language in which it is written.
Regarding her Navavarana krithis, I could find seven krithis on six avaranams; compositions on the other three avaranams could not be traced out. Even among those given below, there are only mentions about the respective chakrams; no description, as all of these were composed without much knowledge about the same or the ragas in which they are composed.
1st Avaranam – Thrailokya mohana chakram
Composition : Sri Kanchipura nagara nivasini – ragam Thodi
2nd Avaranam – Sarvasa paripooraka chakram
Composition : Devi Meenakshi deenajana – ragam Sankarabharanam
3rd Avaranam – Sarva samkshobhana chakram (no composition found)
4th Avaranam – Sarva soubhagyadayaka chakram (no composition found)
5th Avaranam – Sarvardhasadhaka chakram
Composition : Paramapavani pahimam – ragam Kedaram
6th Avaranam – Sarva rakshakara chakram
Composition : Santatam thava pada chinthanam – ragam Surutti
7th Avaranam – Sarvarogahara chakram
Composition : Shyamalambike sarva jeevatmike – ragam Kapi
8th Avaranam – Sarva Siddhiprada chakram (no composition found)
9th Avaranam – Sarvanandamaya chakram
Compositions : 1. Shringagiri vasini shritajana – ragam Kamavardhani
2. Kanchipura nayike amba – ragam Bhairavi
(Unfortunately any upload of the above songs are not found available, except one ot two in different ragas).