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Alwars

intro      biography

Introduction

Alwars (in pure Tamil "AzhwAr") means "One who immerses  himself".  They really,  deeply immersed  themselves in their devotion and bhakti towards the Lord Sriya:  Pathi  Sriman  Narayanan.  The  AzhwArs  are  reported  to  be  incarnations  of  NithasUris of Sri Vaikuntam,  namely, the weapons, the Vanamaali, the GarudA, et  al.  They lived like human beings and burst out bhakti laden great works for the  sake of humanity.  The works of Alwars stood mysteriously a replica of the Vedas  themselves  and therefore came to be known as Dravida Veda.  In fact, there is a  view that even the great  Rishis  are no match to the  greatness  of the  Alwars  because  these  Rishis  got their  'jnAnam'  ( wisdom)  as a result of their own  actions of 'spiritual  merit' ( Punyam) whereas the wisdom of the Alwars was the  direct result of the Lord's divine grace and therefore  called ' Divyam'.  It is  because of this that the works of Alwars is called ' Divya  Prabandham' are 4000  poems (pAsurams). 

These works of AzhwArs are  non-paralleled  in every sense- be it in  sentiment,  style or  syntax.They  take  even a casual  reader  on a  guided  tour  into the  esoteric  exegesis of the Vedas without  offending the  provisions of exclusions  and prohibitions  enjoined in the study of the Vedas in original.  (by Sri Anbil  Ramaswamy, USA) 

AzhwAr's  paasurams (poems) called  naalaayira  dhivyap  prabhandam  composed by  twelve  AzhwArs.The  paasurams were collected and brought out by one of the much  revered Sri vaishnava AchAryAs called Sriman  Naathamuni.  By the time of sriman  Naathamuni  (9th century A.D.)  the AzhwAr  paasurams  were not lost or unknown.  It was by divine grace of Sriman  Narayanan that Sriman  Naathamuni came to know  of the Tamil poems praising Lord Vishnu.  It is believed that Sriman  Naathamuni  heard some devotees visiting his home town of VeeranaaraayaNapuram  (present day  kaattu mannaarkudi near  Mayilaadurthurai or Mayavaram) singing a few (11) Tamil  songs starting with "aaraa amudhE adiyEn udalam" and ending with 

"... kurugoor sadagOpan
kuzhalil maliyach sonna Or
aayiratthuL ippatthum,
mazhalai theera vallaar kaamar
maanEy nOkkiyarkE."

(NammAzhwAr's Thiruvaaymozhi 5.8.1 - 5.8.11) 

Sriman Naathamuni was greatly excited and enchanted with the exquisite beauty of  the poems.  He  approached  the  devotees  and  enquired  about its origin.  The  ending of the 11 poems, "aayiratthuL  ippatthu,"(means this ten of the thousand)  suggested  that  there  are  many  more  such  poems  (may be  thousand?).  This  possibility intrigued Sriman Naathamuni. 

Unfortunately,  the devotees were unaware of any other poems  besides the eleven  they had just finished  reciting.  However, they suggested to Sriman  Naathamuni  that he may try  enquiring  in the town of thiruk  kurugoor,  present day AzhwAr  thiru nagari near  thirunelvEli.  So he set out to travel from  kaattumannarkudi  to thiruk  kurugoor,  a long  journey  indeed  in his  time.  There he found one  paraangusa  daasar.  From him, Sriman Naathamuni learnt 11 more paasurams called  kaNNinuN  sirutthaambu.  These were  composed by  Madhurakavi  AzhwAr and all 11  paasurams are in praise of kurugoor  SadagOpan  (NammAzhwAr).  Sriman Naathamuni  was excited to have doubled his collection.  But this only whetted his desire to  seek out the more than 1,000,  promised in the first set of paasurams he fell in  love with at his home town. 

Paraangusa  daasar  suggested  that he  repeatedly  recite  this great  kaNNinuN  sirutthaambu  (sung in  praise  of Sri  Sadagopan-  NammAzhwAr)  in the  hope of  pleasing the Lord.  Sriman  Naathamuni took his advice  sincerely and recited it  about  12,000  times!  It is said that  NammAzhwAr  was  impressed  with  Sriman  Naathamuni's  persistence and appeared  before him.  NammAzhwAr was so impressed  that he revealed to Sriman  Naathamuni  not just the 1102  paasurams  of his own  "thiruvaay mozhi", but also all the rest of the paasurams  composed by the other  eleven  AzhwArs.  From this, we may deduce  that it is Sriman  Naathamuni,  who  gathered the Tamil treatise (these 4000 peoms) praising Lord Vishnu  composed by  the twelve AzhwArs.  Sriman  naadhamuni  called this  collection of paasurams or  prabhandams naalaayira dhivya prabhandam or draavida vEdham. 

There is much debate about the exact  historical  dates for the twelve  AzhwArs.  It is believed that most of the AzhwArs lived prior to kali yuga, i.e.  at least  3000 years ago.  Others  place the  aazhvaars  in the range of 7th  through  the  early parts of 9th century.  In any case, we can be sure that the AzhwArs  lived  much before Sriman  Naathamuni (826 A.D.)  since during his time AzhwAr pAsurams  had become  virtually  unknown.  (Courtesy:  from Sri Vaishnava Home page of Sri  Mani Varadarajan,USA) 

Due perhaps to  historical  reasons,  much of these  treasures  had been lost to  humanity  for a while.  It was given to the great  Naathamuni  to  retrieve  and  revivify them in their  pristine  glory for the benefit of  posterity.  The long  line of the lineage of  preceptors  who followed him kept the torch  burning and  handed them over to successive generations .  We can justifiably be proud of the  rich heritage .  It is our duty,  therefore, to familiarize  ourselves  with the  lives  and  works of these  preceptors  , the  least we can do as a token of our  gratitude for the invaluable treasures bequeathed to us. 

Given below is the description of the lives of AzhwArs. 

Azhwars Biography


* to read our Azhwar's works (ie) "Naalaayira Divya Prabandham", please click here
* "Naalaayira Divya Prabandham" - English translation
   ( on going )


Twelve Azhwars

No  Azhwar  Birthplace  Month  Star 
1 PoigaiAzhwar Kancheepuram Aippasi  Thiruvonam
2 BoothathAzhwar Mahabalipuram Aippasi Avittam
3 PeyAzhwar Mylapore (Chennai) Aippasi Sadhayam
4 ThirumazhisAzhwar Thirumazhisai Thai Magam
5 NammAzhwar Thirunagari Vaikasi Visakam
6 MadhurakaviAzhwar Thirukkoloor Chithirai Chithirai
7 KulasekharAzhwar Vanchikalam (Kerala) Maasi Punarvasu
8 PeriyAzhwar Srivilliputhur Aani Swathi
9 AndaL Srivilliputhur Aadi Pooram
10 ThondaradipodiAzhwar Thirumandangudi Margazhi Kettai
11 ThiruppanAzhwar Uraiyur Kaarthigai Rohini
12 ThirumangaiAzhwar Thiruvali Thirunagari  Kaarthigai Kaarthigai