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Before we talk about Nayanmars and Alwars or Azhvars or Alvars, we need to make a mention here of how these great Saivaites and Vaishnavaites were brought to us from [6-10th C. AD] to this century.
Sri Nambiandar Nambi was a pious personality, who composed "Twelve Thirumurai", meaning 12 volumes of Sacred Hyms of Nayanmars, and Sri Nathamuni compiled "Nalayira Diva Prabhandam" meaning 4000 sacred hyms of Alwars.

Whether it's Advaitham or Vishitadvaitam or Dwaitham, the bakthi towards the ultimate in their respective forms is to be noticed here.

The ultimate aim of each birth or soul is to understand its reason for taking the birth. In other words, who are they and what for have they come to visit this wonderful Earth.

Vaishnava - Who?

A pure and pious devotee of the Lord and he who does respect living and non-living entity.equally[sama dharshan - meaning treating equally] is a pure vaishnava. A vaishnava is one who does not even think of hurting anyone by words, thoughts, and actions. It is to be noted that a vaishnava is not identified by his religious marks on his body but by his attitude and qualities. A non-hindu samadarshan may be a vaishnava.


Narayana, the ultimate and HE pervades in all. The ardent devotees who are immersed in God Narayana are called Azhvars. The period of Azhvars is said to be between 6th and 9th Century. There are 12 Azhvars including 'Sri Andal'. The collection of their hyms is called 'Divya Prabandham' [திவ்ய பிரபந்தம்]. They are 4000 in number.

The reason for Azhvars to appear on this Earth is to spread the bakthi of Sriman Narayana. It is to be noticed that the weapons like disc, sword, conch, etc have incarnated as Azhvars, mainly to sing in praise of the Lord and to serve Him in his abode. They're part and parcel of the Lord, Sriman Narayana. Their hymns are said to be equivalent to Vedas, Upanishads, and Bagavat Gita. As the very ancient language, Sankskrit is difficult to understand and have in depth meanings, Azhvars have sung 'Paasurams' which are easily understandable and have meanings that are said to be as equal to Vedas.

Though Azhvars hail from Tamil Nadu [hence also known as Dravida saints], they belong to the whole human community and this blog on them might be having tamil tint in it. For people who do not know 'tamil', relevant english translation for some of the words can be seen.

Nithiya Sooriyargal or Nithya Soorigal [meaning Nithiya-ever, Sooriyargal-Sun]. They've the effulgence [in knowledge] like a Sun and this is forever. It does not vanish on time. Azhvars are said to be 'Nithya Sooryas'.
Nithya Soorigals [நித்ய ஸூரிகள்] like Adhi Sesha, Vishwaksena, Garuda, etc would be ever in Vaikunta to serve the Lord.

Each Azhvar would be in a form of any one of the Nithya Sooryas.

More on Azhvars...

Periazhvar [meaning Big/Older Alwar]:
The name itself shows obviously that he is so special among alwars for the reason that he is the alwar who adopted 'Sri Andal' who is once again an alwar. Sri Andal got married to the Lord himself and Vishnuchita was then called as Perialwar for being 'Father-in-law' to the Lord himself.

Nammalwar [meaning Our Alwar]:
Among the 12 alwars, the one with high esteem is 'Nammalvar' whose contribution in 4000 is 1297. The collection of Nammalwar's work is called as 'Thiruvaimozhi' which comes under 4th 1000 prabandham. More details below.

Mudhal Azhvars [meaning First Alwars]
Among 12 Alwars, 3 of them are said to be 'Mudhal Alwargal' meaning 'First Alwars'. They're Poigal Alwar, Budat Alwar, and Pei Alwar. The surprising part in it is, they were born on the same month, and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday respectively and were contemporaries.

Poigai Azhvar is the incarnation of the divine conch of the Lord called Panchajanyam. Poigai meaning pond. This Alwar was said to be born from a pond. Hence the name poigai Alwar.
Budat Azhvar is the incarnation of the divine mace of the Lord called Kaumodhaki.
Pei Azhvar is the incarnation of the divine sword of the Lord called Nandaki. It is to be noted here that the same Nandaki has incarnated as 'Annamaiyya' in Andhra Pradesh.
Meeting of Mudhal Alwars

Thirumalisai Azhvar
A divine child which was born without limbs and was blessed by Sriman Narayana [ Lord of all creations ] and Thayar [ Godess/Counter part of Almighty ] to get the full form. The baby survived without milk or any intake of food for so many years. It is said that it is the incarnation of the 'disc', the Sudharshan Chakra of the Lord Narayana. His contribution was 216 pasurams [divine hymns] in 4000 Divya Prabandams.

Madhurakavi Azhvar
All other Alwars who said, Lord Narayana is the Ultimate, Madhurakavi Alwar was different from them. For him, Namalwar is the God. Though Madhurakavi is elder to Namalwar [Sadagopan], he assumed him as his Guru and was all in his service. He felt Namalwar is his God. By this, he stood distinct from other Alwars.

Thirumangai Azhvar
The bow of Lord Vishnu is called Sarangam. The incarnation of the bow is said to be 'Thiru Mangai Alwar'. He was born as a great warrior and was the chief commander of Chola army.
Other names are parakalan, neelan, nalu kavi perumal.

The songs sung by them [called 'paasurams' in tamil] are considered to be equivalent to vedas and are chanted in temples even today.
The temples where Azhvars visited and sang in praise of the Lord are called as 'Divya Desam' singing in praise of holy shrines is called 'Mangalasasanam'. There are 108 Divya Desams including 'Thiru Parkadal [meaning Lord lying on serpant bed in milky ocean] and Paramapadam or Parathuvam [Origin/Source of everything]' which are the abodes of the Lord. Most of the shrines glorified with Mangalasasanam are situated in the place called 'Trichy' in TamilNadu. The very important holy abode in Trichy is 'Sri Rangam'.

Nayagi Bhavam

In Kaliyuga, to attain salvation, the best way is by chanting the holy names of the Lord. Holy names have to been chanted not for sake of salvation but with love. Alwars have proved it. Their songs are so simple to understand [if tamil language is known] and are equivalent to Vedas and Upanishads. Prema and Bakthi together leads to salvation.
Prema means love which is mostly a feminie quality and Bakthi in general a male quality. In other words, praising the qualities of Lord is Bakthi. The first 4 alwars are not said to have had 'Nayagi Bhavam', but all other alwars have expressed Nayaki or Nayagi Bhavam. Bhavam means assuming the form.

4000 Divya Prabandham

These 4000 Divya Prabhandam is sub-divided into 4 prabhandams called (i) Mudhal Ayiram [Mudhal - first, Ayiram - thousand] (ii) Erandam Ayiram [Erandam - 2nd] (iii) Munram Ayiram [Munram - 3rd] (iv) Nangam Ayiram [Nangam - 4th] with 947, 1134, 817, 1102 on respective prabhandams. The 2nd thousand[1134] was fully sung by 'Thiru mangai alwar' and the 4th[1102] was fully sung by 'Nammalwar'.
A detailed view on 4000 divyaprabandams


Sadam - It's a kind of vayu/air that would surround the fetus and keeps the baby ignorant of its past life or memory about previous births.

SADAGOPAN [ Meaning - sada - A kind of vayu/air, Kopam - anger in tamil ]
By nature, before the baby was born, the sadam entered into the womb of mother to cover the fetus, but being a blessed soul, it got angry on it and drove the air/vayu away and hence the name Sada-kopan or Sadagopan. Other name for Sadagoban or Sadagopan is 'Namalwar'. This was said to be name given by Lord himself.

It is said that the parents of 'Namalwar' were not blessed with a child for so many years. They were pious and were devoted to 'Thirukarunkudi Nambi' [Tirunelveli - Tamilnadu - South India]. When they prayed to the Lord to bless them with a son like HIM, HE himself was said to have born to them. As mentioned before, each Alwar would assume a form of a 'Nithya Soorya', and 'Namalwar' assumes the form of 'VishwakSenar' [Vishwa means world, Senar means Chief of Army of Lord]

As soon as the baby was born, it was said that for nearly 16 years, he was in trance living in a hole in a tree. The significance of the tree is, it is none other than 'Adhi Sesha, the snake bed of the Lord. It has taken the form of a tree and waited for Sadagopan to rest on it. The name of the tree is 'thiru puliya [tamarind] maram [tree in tamil language], Uranga puli [uranga means sleepless puli - tamarind tree]. The next 16 years he had sung 4 'divya prabandams'. They're are 'Thiruvirutham[100], Thiruvasiriyam[7], Peria Thiruvandadhi[87], and Thiruvaimozhi[1102]. It is to be mentioned here about 'Madhurakavi Alwar' who wrote all prabandam on palm leaves and delivered it for the benefit of human society.