Sri Vaisnavism does not, however, base its authority solely on the Sanskrit Vedas, Agamas and smrti texts, but also on the Tamil writings of the Alwars. The twelve Alwar saints were born in different parts of South India and appear to span the dates 200 A.D. to 800 A.D. Orthodox tradition, however, places the earliest Alwar saints at 4203 A.D. and the latest at 2706 B.C. They were. The Alwar were Poigai Alwar, Bhuta Alwar, Pey Alwar, Tirpan Alwar, Thirumangia Alwar, Tirumalazi Alwar, Thondaradipodi Alwar, Nammalwar, Kulaseakara Alwar, Periya Alwar, Andal and Madurakavi Alwar.
Poigai Alwar, Budat Alwar and Pey Alwar
are the first three Alwars ( Mudal Alwars)
They were contemporaries who were born in the same Siddharti year and in the same Aippasi month of Aippasi in the same Suklapaksha on successive Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, in the constellations of Tiruvonam, Avittam and Sadhayam, on the Ashtami, Navami respectively.
Poigai Alwar , an incarnation of Panchajanyam, the divine conch of Lord
Vishnu appeared on the lotus bud in a pond in Tiruvekka near Kanchipuram.
Budat Alwar , an incarnation of Kaumodhaki, the divine mace of Lord Vishnu appeared in a Kurukkatti flower in Mahabalipuram, also near Kanchipuram where the Lord instead of reclining on his divine couch of Adisesha, reclines onthe floor and hence is called ' Stala Sayana Perumal'.. Pey Alwar, an incarnation of Nandaki, the divine sword of Lord Vishnu appeared in a red lily in the well of the temple of Adhikesava Perumal at Mylapore, Madras.
Nammalwar calls them ' In Kavi Paadum Parama Kavigal'- the greatest poets who sang the sweetest songs'. Tirumangai Alwar hails them as ' Senthamizh Paaduvaar'- ' Those who sang in chaste Tamizh'. Periyavaachan Pillai known as the 'Vyaakhyaana Chakravarti'- Emperor among commentators says Poigai Alwar established the ' Paratvam' of Lord Narayana and thus has declared the 'Tattva Gnana ' and represented ' Para Gnana' '; Budat Alwar explains how this ' Gnana' blosssoms into 'Para Bhakti' and Pey Alwar demonstrated how these lead to the ultimate ' Parama Bhakti' or ' Saakshaat kaaram'- the very realization of the Supreme Lord. Thus they represented the three stages of spiritual unfoldment. Therefore, the works of all the three Alwars are considered together as a single ' Prabandha' known as 'Iyar Paa'.
All the three were so much devoted to the Lord that they had no other
thoughts and lived as recluses in the forests. They were constantly
meditating and moving from place to place like mendicants offering obeisance at various temples consecrated to Lord Narayana but they had not known each other nor had ever met with each other and hence were ' perfect strangers'.
Once, they chanced to meet at 'Tirukkoyilur' accidentally. Feeling sleepy at nightfall, Poigai Alwar found a small pial at the entrance of a house just enough for a single person to lie down and sleep. After a while, there came Budat Alwar who requested permission to stay with him. Poigai Alwar permitted him saying that the pial was sufficient for two people to just sit down and spend the night. No sooner had they seated themselves, than came there Pey Alwar also seeking a place to rest. It had by then started to rain.
The two earlier occupants accommodated the newcomer saying that the
threesome could stand for the space was just enough for that and spend the night. And, indeed 'three was company'
As they started to share their experiences in their itineraries, they found that an invisible fourth person was trying to turn the company into a crowd by pressing them hard together in an obvious attempt to accommodate himself in the already cramped space. The three Alwars found out in their divine vision that the fourth person was none other than Lord Vishnu, who had brought them together.
Period 7th C. AD
Other Names Saro-yogi, Kaasaara-yogi, Poigai-piraan, Padma-muni, Kavinyarporeyeru
Star (Natshatram) Thiruvonam (Sravana)
Hamsam Panchajanya (Conch)
Thondai Naadu, which is said to be the land full of brightness and nature's beauty, has a number of cities in it. Likewise, Kanchipuram is one of the cities, which is said to be gifted by Nature in its wealth and beauty. Thiru Atthiyoor (Chinna Kanchipuram) is one of the small part of Kanchipuram, which is surrounded by numerous Vishnu temples and this Kanchi is called "Vishnu Kanchi". Big Kanchipuram is full of Shiva perumal temple and it is named as "Shiva Kanchi".
Thiru vekka, also called as "Yadhothakaari Sannadhi" which is found in Vishnu Kanchi, has its own speciality and Sriman Narayanan's Anugraha (Blessings). Nearer to the Yadhothakaari temple, is found a Poigai (small pond), which is full of beautiful, fresh lotus flowers are found. Sonna Vannam Seitha perumal, is found close to this pond and giving his seva to the entire world.
The Pond, which is found in the Great Ksthetram, inspite of having the nourishing smell and beauty, it has another speciality to be said. In Siddhartha year, Iyppasi Month, Suklashtami Tuesday in Tiruvona Natshatram, as an Hamsam of one of the Panjayudham (5 Weapons) of Sriman Narayanan - Thiru Sangu, Poigai Alwar was born in this world. Since, he was born in this poigai (Pond), he is called as "Poigai Alwar".
From the Childhood, his thinking was always on the almighty, Sriman Narayanan and made up his mind that he should follow him and want to spread his fame to the world. He learnt all the Vaishhava's speech and acted according to it and led his life as how a Vaishnava should be.
Knowing the greatness of Thirumaals devotion and thought him fame has to be spread to all the humans in the whole world, he left all of his general human characters like Love, Angry and having the mind to earn wealth.
Poigai Alwar composed the first 100 verses starting with the words ' Vaiyam Tagaliya, Varkadale Neyyaaga' ( the universe being the lamp and the oceans being the lubricant).
Vaiyam Thagaliyaa Vaar Kadale Neyyaaga / Veyyak Kadirone Vilakkaaaga / Sudar Aazhiyaan Adikke Soottinen Son Malai / Idar Aaazhi Neengukave Enru /
" Lord Narayana is the cause of this wonderful universe and the seas; He holds the divine discus; As a means to cross the miserable ocean of
'Samsara', I am dedicating this garland of verses. I had His vision in the light of the lamp of earth, the lubricant ghee being the waters of the ocean.
The bright Sun is the one that sheds light on this."
Vaiyam : Universe, VaarKadal : The sea surrounding it, Thagazhi : Lamp,
Veyyak Kadirone : The hot Sun, Seyya : Beautiful, Sudar Aazhi : Lustrous discus, SonMalai : Garland of words (verses), Idar Aazhi : ocean of misery (Samsara)
Thanian on Poigai Alwar is as follows:
Kaidai Ser Poompozhil Soozh Kachi Nagar Vanduditha / Poigai Piraan Kavignar Per eru- / Vaiyathu Adiyaarkal Vaazha Arum Tamizh Nootrantaadhi / Paadi Vilanga seidhan Parindu/
"The foremost among poets- Poigai Alwar was born in the Garden city of
Kanchipuram. With utmost compassion to redeem the devotees on the earth and take them to the feet of the Lord, he composed the rare composition of 100 psalms in the Antaaadhi style" Por Eru : Like a great bull, Padi Vilanga : To redeem the earth(ly beings), Parindu : Being compassionate
The Divya Desams consecrated by tPoigai Alwar : ( 7) Tiruvarangam, Tiruvinnagar, Tirukkovilur, Tiruvekka, Tiuvenkadam, Tirupparkadal and Paramapadam
Period 7th C. AD
Other Names ----
Star (Natshatram) Avittam (Dhanishta)
Hamsam Kaumodakee (Mace)
In Mahabalipuram, then called as "Kadal Mallai" Boodat Alwar was born. In Siddhartha year, Iyppasi month, Navami, Avitta Natshatram, Bhoodhathalwar was born, who is considered to be the Hamsam of one amongst the Panja Aayudham (five weapons) of Thirumaal, the Koumothagi, the Gadha, in a small Madhavi flower.
From the child hood, his heart and all of his thinking are towards Sriman Narayanan and spent his life by praising the fame of him.
Budat Alwar sang the second 100 verses sarting with the words " Anbe Tagaliya, Aarvame Neyyaaga' ( with love as lamp and devotion as the lubricant).
Anbe Thagliyaa Aarvame Neyyaaga / Inburugu Chintai Idu Thiriyaa / Nanpurugi Gnaana Chudar Vilakku Etrinen / Naaranarku Gnaana Thamizh Purindha Naan "I who wrote this song that bestows wisdom, with love as the lamp, endearing involvement as the lubricant ghee, and knowledge as the wick of the burning torch, dedicated myself to the service of the Lord" Aarvam : Parabhakti-to feel the love of God intimately, Inbu : endearing
Thanian on Budat Alwar composed by Tiruk Kurugai Piran
En Piravi Theera Irainjinen Innamudhaa / Anbe Thagali Alithaanai- Nun Pugazh Ser / Seedathaar Muthukkal Serum Kadan Mallai / Budathaar Ponnan Kazhal /
" I prostrate at the beautiful feet of Budat Alwar to secure redemption from Samsara. It is he who gave us the insatiable nectar " Anbe Thagaliya" pasuram; the one who is known for his ' Paragnaanan' - the supreme wisdom. He was born on the shores of Mahabalipuram ( Kadan mallai) wher the cool streams of the sea contain precious pearls"
The Divya Desams consecrated by
Budat Alwar : ( 13 ) Tiruvarangam, Tanjai, Tirukkudanthai, Tirumaliruncholai,
Tirukkoshtiyur, Tiruthankaal, Tirukkovilur, Tirukkachi, Tiruppaadakam,
Tiruneermalai, Tirukkadanmallai, Tiruvenkadam, and Tiruppaarkadal
Pey Alwar (14) Tiruvarangam, Tirukkudantai, Tiruvinnagar,
Tirumaliruncholai,Tirukkoshtiyur, Ashtabuyakaram,Tiruvelukkai, Tiruppaadakam, Tiruvekka, Tiruvallikkeni, Tirukkadikai, Tiruvenkadam, Tiruppaarkadal and Paramapadam
Period 7th C. AD
Other Names Kairava muni, Maha-daahva-yaar
Star (Natshatram) Sadhayam (Satabhishak)
Hamsam Nandhgam (Sword)
Pey Alwar concluded by singing the third 100 verses starting with the words ' Tiruk Kanden, Pon Meni Kanden' ( I found the glorious, golden form of the Lord').
Tiruk Kanden Pon Meni Kanden- Thigazhum / Arukkan Ani Niramum Kanden-Seruk Kilarum / Pon Aazhi Kanden Puri Sangam Kai Kanden / En Aazhi Vannan Paal Inru On witnessing the glorious vision in which the entire universe was the very body of Lord Narayana, the Alwar proceeds to describe all that he had seen. "
I have seen the glory of SRI, the consort of the Lord; I have seen hos
bewitching body that is azure in color as the sea; I have seen his brilliance like that of the Sun; on his one hand, he holds his divine discus that reverberates in the battlefield and on the other he holds the divine conch.
Seru : Battle, Aazhi Vannan : One whose color is like that of the blue seas.
The verses were so constructed that the ending word of each verse became the commencing word of the next verse - a special kind of prosody characteristic of Tamil literature called 'Anta Adhi' 'Anta' means 'end' and 'Adhi' means 'beginning'. The three works were thus called First Antadhi, Second Antadhi and Third Antadhi respectively and set in motion the mellifluous flow of Bhakti literature to follow.
Thanian on Pey Alwar Seeraru Mada Tirukkovilur Athanul / Karaar Karu Mukhilaik Kaanap Pukku /Oraat Thiruk Kanden Enru Uraitha Seeraan Kazhale Uraik Kandaai Nenje! Ugandhu/
" O! My mind! On the corridors of the ramparts of the lovely Tirukkovilur where reclines the Lord with the color of the rain bearing clouds. Experiencing an intimate bonding with him, the great Pey Alwar has bequeathed to us his psalm "Tiruk Kanden" in Antaadhi style. You can derive divine ecstasy by concentrating on his holy feet"
The Divya Desams consecrated by Pey Alwar (14) Tiruvarangam, Tirukkudantai, Tiruvinnagar,
Tirumaliruncholai,Tirukkoshtiyur, Ashtabuyakaram,Tiruvelukkai, Tiruppaadakam, Tiruvekka, Tiruvallikkeni, Tirukkadikai, Tiruvenkadam, Tiruppaarkadal and Paramapadam
Mudhal AzhwArs: [first three among the 12 AzhwArs]
These three AzhwArs namely Poigai AzhwAr, bhoothatthAzhwAr and
PaeyAzhwAr are the earliest among the 12 AzhwArs and are called
mudhal AzhwAr. According to the traditions, they were born in the
same year of SiddArti, same month of Aippasi and on three
consecutive days respectively. The stars were: ThiruvONam, avittam
and Sadhaym. They were not born like us; they appeared and hence
they were ayOnijas. Their period was estimated as 7th century A.D.
(Though we are not attaching any significant importance to it, it is
better to have a datum)
Poigai AzhwAr, an incarnation of MahAvishNu's paanchjanyam (Divine
conch, sanghu in Tamil) is also called Adhi kavi. poigaiAr appeared
on the ThAmarai mottu (lotus bud) in a pond in tiruve:ka near
kancheepuram in the proximity of Yathothkaari temple. He is so named
because of his birth in Poigai [tank]. He is also knows as Saroyogi,
indicating his birth in a saras. [Remember bhootham saras cha
mahadhaahvya bhatta nAtha? sloka].
BhoothatthAzhwAr the second AzhwAr was born at Kadanmallai
[Mahabhalipuram] near Chennai. He was found near the Kurukkatthi
flower and hence also called as poo thatthAzhwAr. Another view is:
He is named so because of the possession of divine jnAnam out of
God's grace [Sri SMS Chari writes in his book on AzhwArs: bhootha ?
Sanskrit equivalent of Pootha means- etymologically one who has
gained sattaa or sustenance by spiritual knowledge [bhoo sattaayaam
vaachi]. He is also known as bhootha muni, hence. He is an
incarnation of Divine mace (called kaumOdaki) of our Lord
The Third AzhwAr- paey AzhwAr was born at Mylapore in Chennai. The
term paey means one who is possessed. And this AzhwAr was possessed
and intoxicated with the intense love and bhakti for the Lord Sriman
Narayanan and hence he was called paey AzhwAr. He is also called
Mahadhaahyvar, signifying his greatness as one who had experienced
God. He is an incarnation of the sword of mahAvishNu (called
nandaki), appeared in sevvalli (Red alli-lily) flower in a well of
AdhikEsava perumAL koil at mylapore (in madras).
NammazhwAr, (our azhwAr), the greatest azwAr about whom we will see
later, has addressed these three azhwArs as "innkavi pAdum parama
kavigaL" meaning the greatest poets who sang the loveliest songs or
the sweetest songs; All three azhwArs were blessed with tamizh jnAnam
(knowledge) and bhakti uLLam; All of them, though were not known to
each other, were singing the glories of sriman nArAyaNan, and were
going from place to place visiting the PerumAL temples to get
blessed with Lord's Darshan. They had no other thoughts but for
nArAyanan and lived like sanyAsis (recluses); The Lord perhaps
wanted them to get together and liked to listen to their discussion
about Him and His kalyANa guNAs.
So, they had come to Thirukkovilur and each of them had a separate
Darshan of Trivikraman (the Lord who appeared as vAmanan, a small
brahmachari boy, took the huge tall form as Trivikraman and measured
the entire universe in one step in vAmanAvatAram)
called "UlagaLandha perumAL.
Let us enjoy this wonderful scene from sri Sdagopan Iyengar Swami's
It was a dark and stormy night at Tirukkovalur, with
rain coming down in torrents, the threatening roar of thunder
shaking all souls and with flashes of lightning serving as the only
illumination. It was a night when none would venture out and
everyone had shut himself up tight in his home. Yet, it was a night
on which three Yogis, who had the Lord entrenched in their hearts,
chose to be out and about. When they reached Tirukkovalur separately
by different routes, they found all houses shut, all choultries
locked up, with the inmates unlikely to open up. The first to reach
was Poigayazhwar, who found a narrow passage in the front portion of
an ashramam belonging to Mrigandu Maharshi and lay down, prepared to
spend the night among the inhospitable and confined environs.
Sometime later, Bhootattaazhwar too discovered the same place and
finding someone already occupying the space, enquired whether there
would be room for one more person. The first occupant welcomed the
stranger, saying that if there was space enough for one person to
lie down, two could sit there. An hour or so passed and there came
knocking another worthy, wet and drenched to the skin and seeking
shelter in the passage. He too was welcomed by the other two, who
thought that three could at least stand comfortably in the small
space, which could seat two and provide a bed for one. The three
Azhwars were thus standing in the pitch dark, sharing with one
another their experiences of the Lord and His auspicious attributes.
All of a sudden, they felt rather tight pressed. Where they were
standing comfortably earlier, they now felt that the available space
had diminished, as if a fourth person, unknown to the other three,
had entered the narrow passage and was crowding them. Apparently,
someone had sneaked into the already constricted space without
announcement and was standing as one with them.
As it was pitch dark and they had no way of producing light,
Poygaiazhwar hit upon the idea of lighting a novel lamp. Using the
elements of nature as ingredients, considering the whole earth as a
lamp, the waters of the salty seas as oil and with the shining Sun
as the wick, he lit a glorious lamp that would shine forever and
show up with clarity even the tiniest speck of dust. For his part,
Bhootattaazhwar lit another lamp, using entirely home-made
ingredients, all available within oneself and yet the hardest to
find in any human being: he fashioned a lamp out of his unfathomable
love for Emperuman. Oil for the lamp was his uncontrollable urge to
see the Lord and the wick was his intellect, made sweet and melting
by constant contemplation of the Lord's auspicious attributes.
Such was the extraordinary illumination provided by the two lamps
lit by these two Yogis, that the third, Sri Peyazhwar, was able to
see clearly the fourth person who had been squeezing them tight.
First and foremost, Azhwar's eyes alighted on the glorious form of
Sri Mahalakshmi adorning the broad chest of the intruder-"Thiru
kanden" sang out Sri Peyazhwar, exulting in the wonderful spectacle
that greeted his eye. Having realized, from the presence of the
Divine Consort, that it was none other than the Paramatma Sriman
Narayana who had entered the passage and was squeezing the trio,
Azhwar's sight fell next on the glorious golden tirumeni of the
Paramapurusha-"Ponmeni kanden". The brilliant and blazing complexion
of the stranger imprinted itself upon Azhwar's eyes, prompting him
to comment ecstatically on the same-"Tigazhum arukkan ani niramum
kanden". The Lord's Divine Discus and the Cosmic Conch adorning His
upper hands presented a spectacular sight to the thirsty eyes of
Azhwar-"Serukkilarum Ponnaazhi kanden, puri Shankham kai kanden".
The three Azhwars, inspired by the grand spectacle of Emperuman's
glorious form in their midst, poured out their devotion in a hundred
beautiful verses each, brimming over with Bhakti.
These are the paasurams which served as forerunners of the four
thousand nectarine verses that were to be composed by the other
Azhwars. Though there is no direct internal evidence in the Divya
Prabandas of one Azhwar eulogizing another (except in the case of
Sri Madhurakavi and Sri Andal), Sri Nammazhwar refers to these
three "pioneer" Azhwars as "Paaley Tamizhar, Isaikaarar, patthar",
paying generous tribute to their devotion and the beauty of their
Each of these 100 verses (pasurams) flowing from their mouths as if
they are clear stream of water; in andhadhi style. These three works
which constitute the earliest poetical compositions contributed by
the Vaishnava saints of South India contain philosophical and
theological ideas of Srivaishnavam. Sriya: Pathi listened to them
to the utmost pleasure and satisfaction all their pasurams and after
blessing them, disappeared.
From then on, they always went together to other temples, and On
their way, the three azhwArs also were blessed with
1. a darshan of sitapiratti, lakshmana, bharatha, sathrukna,
hanumathsametha Sri Ramachandra at Ayodhdhi,
2. a darshan of Lord ThiruvEnkadamudaiyAn down the hill (not at
tirumala, but at tirupathi), when they hesitated to step on the Hill
and turned back; such a place is called "AzhwAr theertham" even
3. Offering a charkAyudhA to Vishnuvarthanan, a king at kanchipuram
for winning a battle. and
4. later, joining with another azhwAr, by name Thirumazhisai azhwAr
(on their way)
A Glance at their marvelous compositions:
1. poigaiAzhwAr composed the first 100 pAsurams "mudhal
thiruvandhAdhi" (andhAdhi means the first word of one verse will be
last word of the previous verse )starting with the first one: vaiyam
thagaliyA, vArkadlE neyyAga/ veyyakkadirOn viLakkAga/ sudarAzhiyAn
adikkE soottinEn son mAlai/ Idar neenghugavE enRu/
Meaning:Lord nArAyaNa, who holds the Divine chakrAyudha, is the
cause of this wonderful universe and the seas. I am singing these
mAlai(Garland) of verses(pAsurams) and dedicating to Him, whose
vision I had is the light of the lamp of the earth, and oil being
the seas, the sun being the source of the light;
2. BhoodaththAzhwAr composed the second 100 pAsurams "irandAm
thiruvandhAdhi" starting with the first one: anbE thagaliyA, ArvamE
neyyAga/ inburugu sindhai idu thiriyA/ naNpurugi GnAna chudar
viLakku EtrinEn/Gnana thamizh purindha nAn/
meaning: Here, it is the love as the lamp and involvement as the oil
and azhwAr says" I dedicate myself to the service of the lord, by
singing this song that blesses wisdom(GnAna), with love as the lamp,
endearing involvement as the oil(Ghee), and knowledge as the wick of
3. PEyAzhwAr composed the third 100s called "moonRAm
thiruvandhAdhi", with the first one as follows: thirukkaNdEn,
ponmEni kaNdEn- thigazhum/arukkan Ani niRamum kaNdEn-seruk kiLaRum/
ponAzhi kaNdEn puri sangham kai kaNdEn/ en Azhi vaNNan pAl inRu/
What a song! AzhwAr just says:" I now beheld the Goddess by the side
of my Lord who has the luster of blue ocean; I saw the lustrous
divine body of golden colour [of Mahalakshmi]; I perceived the
radiant sun-like form; I saw the most beautiful chakra that glows
fiery in the battle field and the lovely conch shell [sankhu] in the
most beautiful hands of the Lord.
Article by Sri U.Ve. Madhavakannan Swamy - Post 8030 Srirangasri