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The alvars, also spelt as alwars or azhwars (āḻvārkaḷ [aːɻʋaːr], Tamil : ஆழ்வார்கள் ‘those immersed in god’) were Tamil poet-saints of South India
South India
who espoused bhakti (devotion) to the Hindu
Hindu
Supreme god Vishnu
Vishnu
or his avatar Krishna
Krishna
in their songs of longing, ecstasy and service.[1] They are venerated especially in Vaishnavism, which regards Vishnu
Vishnu
or Krishna as the Supreme Being. Many modern academics place the Alvars
Alvars
date between 5th century to 10th century CE, however traditionally the Alvars
Alvars
are considered to have lived between 4200 BCE - 2700 BCE. Orthodoxy posits the number of alvars as ten, though there are other references that include Andal and Madhurakavi Alvar, making the number twelve.[2] Andal
Andal
is the only female saint-poet in the 12 Alvars. Together with the contemporary sixty three Shaiva
Shaiva
Nayanars, they are among the most important saints from Tamil Nadu. The devotional outpourings of Alvars, composed during the early medieval period of Tamil history, helped revive the bhakti movement, through their hymns of worship to Vishnu
Vishnu
and his avatars. They praised the Divya Desams, 108 "abodes" (temples) of these Vaishnava
Vaishnava
deities. The poetry of the Alvars
Alvars
echoes bhakti to God through love, and in the ecstasy of such devotions they sang hundreds of songs which embodied both depth of feeling and felicity of expressions.[3] The collection of their hymns is known as Divya Prabandha. The Bhakti
Bhakti
literature that sprang from Alvars
Alvars
has contributed to the establishment and sustenance of a culture that broke away from the ritual-oriented Vedic religion and rooted itself in devotion as the only path for salvation. In addition they helped to make the Tamil religious life independent of a knowledge of Sanskrit.[4] As part of the legacy of the Alvars, five Vaishnava
Vaishnava
philosophical traditions (sampradayas) have developed at the later stages.[5]

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Vaishnavism

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Philosophers–acharyas

Nammalvar Yamunacharya Ramanuja Madhva Chaitanya Vallabha Sankardev Madhavdev Nimbarka Pillai Lokacharya Prabhupada Vedanta
Vedanta
Desika

Related traditions

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Contents

1 Etymology 2 Legacy 3 Summary 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 External links

Etymology[edit]

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Texts

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Text classification

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Yoga

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Arts

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Gurus, saints, philosophers

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Agastya Angiras Aruni Ashtavakra Atri Bharadwaja Gotama Jamadagni Jaimini Kanada Kapila Kashyapa Pāṇini Patanjali Raikva Satyakama Jabala Valmiki Vashistha Vishvamitra Vyasa Yajnavalkya

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The word azhwar has traditionally been etymologized as from Tamil. 'Azh' (ஆழ்), 'to immerse oneself' as 'one who dives deep into the ocean of the countless attributes of god'[6] However recently Indologist S.Palaniappan has shown that what was originally Āļvār (ஆள்வார்) meaning 'One who rules', or '(Spiritual) Master' got changed through hypercorrection and folk etymology to Āzhvār (ஆழ்வார்) meaning 'One who is immersed'[7] Palaniappan cites inscriptional evidence and even literary evidence from Vaisnhavaite tradition itself for a gradual sound change from āļvār to āzhvār over a period of two centuries from the 9th to the 11th century involving references to religious leaders in Vaishnavism, Shaivism
Shaivism
and even Jainism
Jainism
and to political personalities. He states: "āzhvār is but a corrupt form of āļvār which has been used interchangeably with nāyanār in secular and religious contexts in the Tamil land" and "... Notwithstanding the Vaishnava
Vaishnava
claim of unbroken teacher-student tradition, the fact that Nathamuni has used the form āļvār but Piļļān [A disciple and younger cousin of Rāmānuja] ended up using the form āzhvār suggests that there has been an error in transmission somewhere along the teacher-student chain between the two teachers. This error was obviously due to the influence of the sound variation that has occurred in the Srirangam area and elsewhere". The original word ஆள்வார் compares with the epithet 'Āṇḍãḷ' ((ஆண்டாள்) for the female canonized Vaishnava
Vaishnava
saint Gōdai ((கோதை) and they share the same verb Tamil. āḷ ((ஆள்), the former being the honorific non-past (or present-future) form and the latter the feminine past form of that same verb. Legacy[edit] Alvars
Alvars
are considered the twelve supreme devotees of Vishnu, who were instrumental in popularising Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
in the Tamil-speaking regions.[8] The alvars were influential in promoting the Bhagavata cult and the two Hindu
Hindu
epics, namely, Ramayana
Ramayana
and Mahabaratha.[9] The religious works of these saints in Tamil, songs of love and devotion, are compiled as Nalayira Divya Prabandham
Nalayira Divya Prabandham
containing 4000 verses and the 108 temples revered in their songs are classified as Divya desam.[10][11] The verses of the various azhwars were compiled by Nathamuni (824 - 924 CE), a 10th-century Vaishnavite theologian, who called it the "Dravida Veda or Tamil Veda".[12][13] The songs of Prabandam are regularly sung in all the Vishnu
Vishnu
temples of South India daily and also during festivals.[11][14] The saints had different origins and belonged to different castes. As per tradition, the first three alvars, Poigai, Bhutha and Pey were born miraculously. Tirumizhisai was the son of a sage; Thondaradi, Mathurakavi, Peria and Andal
Andal
were from brahmin caste; Kulasekhara was a Kshatria, Namm was from a cultivator family, Tirupana from Tamil Panar community and Tirumangai from kazhwar community. Divya Suri Saritra by Garuda- Vahana
Vahana
Pandita (11th century), Guruparamparaprabavam by Pinbaragiya Perumal Jiyar, Periya tiru mudi adaivu by Anbillai Kandadiappan, Yatindra Pranava Prabavam by Pillai Lokacharya, commentaries on Divya Prabandam, Guru Parampara (lineage of Gurus) texts, temple records and inscriptions give a detailed account of the alavars and their works. According to these texts, the saints were considered incarnations of some form of Vishnu. According to traditional account by Manavala Mamunigal, the first three azhwars namely Poigai, Bhoothath and Pey belong to Dwapara Yuga (before 4200 BCE). It is widely accepted by tradition and historians that the trio are the earliest among the twelve azhwars.[10][11][15][16][17] Along with the three Saiva nayanmars, they influenced the ruling Pallava
Pallava
kings, creating a Bhakti
Bhakti
movement that resulted in changing the religious geography from Buddhism
Buddhism
and Jainism
Jainism
to these two sects of Hinduism
Hinduism
in the region. Summary[edit] Some modern scholars suggest that they lived during 5th - 9th century CE, "on the basis of a few historical evidences", although no "clear" evidence exists to fit them between 5th to 9th century CE.[18][19] The Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
says that Alvars
Alvars
lived between 7th-10th century CE.[20] Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, James G. Lochtefeld of Carthage College, notes in his The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, the first three Alvars
Alvars
Poigai, Bhoothath and Pey belonged to the 7th century; while Nammalvar
Nammalvar
and Madhurakavi belonged to the 10th century; while rest of them lived in the 9th century.[21] Traditionally the Alvars
Alvars
are considered to have lived between 4200 BCE - 2700 BCE.[22][23] Traditional dates take them to the age of Shuka from the period of the Bhagavata
Bhagavata
Purana, many are from Dwaparayuga, while Nammalwar belongs to the early part of Kaliyuga.[24] The following table shows the place, century and star of birth of each Alvar. Scholarly dating, except that of Kulasekhara Alvar, is based on summary of views of modern scholars by Dr. N Subba Reddiar, although even these dates lack historical evidence.[18] Much effort has went into dating Kulasekhara Alvar recently. The Alvar is now identified as Sthanu Ravi Kulasekhara (reigned 844—883 CE), the second known ruler of the Cheras of Makotai (Cranganore) (c. 800—1124 CE).[25]

Sl no

Alwar
Alwar
Saint Scholarly dating[18] Traditional date[26][27] and place Composition Month Nakshatra Avatar
Avatar
of

1

Poigai Alvar 713 CE 4203 BCE, Kanchipuram Mudhal Thiruvandhadhi, 100 verses. Aiypassee Thiruvonam (Sravana) Panchajanya (Vishnu's conch)

2

Bhoothathalvar 713 CE 4203 BCE, Thirukadalmallai (Mahabhalipuram) Irandam Thiruvandhadhi, 100 verses. Aiypassee Avittam (Dhanishta) Kaumodaki
Kaumodaki
(Vishnu's Mace)

3

Peyalvar 713 CE 4203 BCE, Mylapore Moondram Thiruvandhadhi, 100 verses. Aiypassee Sadayam (Satabhishak) Nandaka
Nandaka
(Vishnu's sword)

4

Thirumalisai Alvar 720 CE 4203 BCE Thirumazhisai Nanmugan Thiruvandhadhi, 96 verses; ThiruChanda Virutham, 120 verses. Thai Magam (Maghā) Sudarshana Chakra
Sudarshana Chakra
(Vishnu's discus)

5

Nammalvar 798 CE 3102/3059[28] Azhwar Thirunagari (Kurugur) Thiruvaymozhi, 1102 verses; Thiruvasiriyam, 7 verses; Thiruvirutham, 100 verses; Periya Thiruvandhadhi, 87 verses. Vaikasi Vishaakam (Vishākhā) Vishvaksena
Vishvaksena
(Vishnu's commander)

6

Madhurakavi Alvar 800 CE 3102 BC, Thirukollur Kanninun Siruthambu, 11 verses. Chitthirai Chitthirai (Chithra) Garuda
Garuda
(Vishnu's mount)

7

Kulasekhara Alvar (Sthanu Ravi Kulasekhara[29]) 9th century CE (reigned 844-883 CE)[30] 3075 BC, Tiruvancikkulam (Cranganore), Chera Kingdom of Makotai Perumal Thirumozhi, 105 verses. Maasee Punar Poosam (Punarvasu) Kaustubha (Vishnu's jewel embedded in his necklace)

8

Periyalvar 785 CE 3056 BC, Srivilliputhur Thiruppallaandu, 12 verses; Periyazhwar Thirumozhi, 461 verses. Aani Swathi (Swaathee) Garuda
Garuda
(Vishnu's mount)

9

Andal 767 CE 3005 BC, Srivilliputhur Nachiyar Thirumozhi, 143 verses; Thiruppavai, 30 verses. Aadi Pooram ( Pūrva Phalgunī
Pūrva Phalgunī
(Pubbha)) Bhudevi
Bhudevi
(Vishnu's wife and the earth goddess)

10

Thondaradippodi Alvar 726 CE 2814 BCE, Thirumandangudi Thirumaalai, 45 verses; Thirupalliezhuchi, 10 verses. Margazhi Kettai (Jyeshta) Vanamalai (Vishnu's garland)

11

Thiruppaan Alvar 781 CE 2760 BCE, Uraiyur Amalan Adi Piraan, 10 verses. Karthigai Rogini (Rohinee) Srivatsa
Srivatsa
(An auspicious mark on Vishnu's chest)

12

Thirumangai Alvar 776 CE 2706 BCE, Thirukurayalur Periya Thirumozhi, 1084 verses; Thiru Vezhukootru irukkai, 1 verse; Thiru Kurun Thandagam, 20 verses; Thiru Nedun Thandagam, 30 verses; Siriya Thirumadal, 40 verses; Periya Thirumadal, 78 verses; Kaarthigai Krithika (Kṛttikā) Sharanga (Vishnu's bow)

See also[edit]

Bhakti
Bhakti
movements Tamil mythology Nathamuni

Notes[edit]

^ Andrea Nippard. "The Alvars" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-20.  ^ Flood 1996, p. 131 ^ "Indian Literature Through the Ages". Indian literature , Govt of India. Archived from the original on 15 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-20.  ^ "About Alvars". divyadesamonline.com. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-02.  ^ Mittal, S. G. R.; Thursby (2006). Religions of South Asia: An Introduction. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 9780203970027.  ^ "Meaning of Alvar". ramanuja.org. Retrieved 2007-07-02.  ^ Alvar or Nayanar : The Role of Sound Variation, Hypercorrection and Folk Etymology in Interpreting the Nature of Vaisnava Saint-Poets (PDF). South-Indian Horizons, Institut Francais de Pondichéry (French Institute of Pondicherry). 2005.  ^ B.S. 2011, p. 47-48 ^ B.S. 2011, p. 42 ^ a b Rao, P.V.L. Narasimha
Narasimha
(2008). Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram
– Land of Legends, Saints & Temples. New Delhi: Readworthy Publications (P) Ltd. p. 27. ISBN 978-93-5018-104-1.  ^ a b c Dalal 2011, pp. 20-21 ^ Mukherjee (1999). A Dictionary of Indian Literatures: Beginnings-1850 Volume 1 of A Dictionary of Indian Literature, A Dictionary of Indian Literature. Orient Blackswan. p. 15. ISBN 9788125014539.  ^ Garg, Gaṅgā Rām (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu
Hindu
World: Ak-Aq. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 352–354. ISBN 9788170223757.  ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2007). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Scarecrow Press. p. 211. ISBN 9780810864450.  ^ Lochtefeld, James (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 515. ISBN 9780823931804.  ^ Aiyangar, Sakkottai Krishnaswami (1920). Early history of Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
in south India. Oxford University Press. pp. 17–18.  ^ Krishna
Krishna
(2009). Book Of Vishnu. Penguin Books India. p. 136. ISBN 9780143067627.  ^ a b c "Philosophy and Theistic Mysticism of the Āl̲vārs", by S. M. Srinivasa Chari, publisher = Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 9788120813427, p. 11 ^ "Mādhavêndra Purī: A Link between Bengal Vaiṣṇavism and South Indian "Bhakti", by Friedhelm HardyThe Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland No. 1 (1974), pp. 23-41, Published by: Cambridge University Press, URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25203503 ^ "Azhvar". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
Online. Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
Inc., 2014. Web. 30 Dec. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/18115/Azhvar>. ^ James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8.  ^ "Philosophy and Theistic Mysticism of the Āl̲vārs", by S. M. Srinivasa Chari, publisher = Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 9788120813427, p. 10 ^ "Śrībhāṣyam: Catuḥsūtryātmakaḥ", by Rāmānuja, Raghunath Damodar Karmarkar, p.18, original from = The University of Michigan ^ Jean Filliozat. Religion, Philosophy, Yoga: A Selection of Articles. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 23.  ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. "Perumals of Kerala: Brahmin
Brahmin
Oligarchy and Ritual Monarchy—Political and Social Conditions of Kerala Under the Cera Perumals of Makotai (c. AD 800–AD 1124)" Kerala. Calicut University Press. 1996 ^ "Ancient India: Collected Essays on the Literary and Political History of Southern India", by Sakkottai Krishnaswami Aiyangar, p. 403-404, publisher = Asian Educational Services ^ "Music and temples, a ritualistic approach", by L. Annapoorna, p. 23, year = 2000, ISBN 9788175740907 ^ "History of Classical Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Literature", by M. Srinivasachariar, p. 278, ISBN 9788120802841 ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. "Perumals of Kerala: Brahmin
Brahmin
Oligarchy and Ritual Monarchy—Political and Social Conditions of Kerala Under the Cera Perumals of Makotai (c. AD 800–AD 1124)" Kerala. Calicut University Press. 1996 ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. "Perumals of Kerala: Brahmin
Brahmin
Oligarchy and Ritual Monarchy—Political and Social Conditions of Kerala Under the Cera Perumals of Makotai (c. AD 800–AD 1124)" Kerala. Calicut University Press. 1996

References[edit]

Flood, G.D. (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press.  Hymns For The Drowning by A.K. Ramanujan (Penguin),

Nammalvar
Nammalvar
by A.Srinivasa Raghavan (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi),1975, ISBN 81-260-0416 9 Alwargal - ^Or Eliya Arimugam by Sujatha (Visa Publications, Chennai, India)(in Tamil), 2001 External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Azhwars.

The Philosophy of the Āḻvārs, Surendranath Dasgupta, 1940 The Twelve Alvars Alvars
Alvars
and Srivaishnavism The Alvar Saints (ramanuja.org) The Alvar Saints of Tamilnadu by Jyotsna Kamat

v t e

Azhwars

Poigai Azhwar Bhoothath Azhwar Pey Azhwar Thirumalisai Alvar Nammalvar Madhurakavi Alvar Kulasekhara Alvar Periyalvar Andal Thondaradippodi Alvar Thiruppaan Alvar Thirumangai Alvar

Divya Desams Divya Praban

.