Q & A: Azhvars and their contributions.
Transcript from discussions with students at -
University of Illinois
Chicago. The questions are by students who have limited exposure to
SriVaishnavam.Learned devotees are requested to add/ comment on this information as applicable.
Question: Who are the Azhvars and why are they important?
Answer: Azhvar in tamil means “One who is immersed”
in GOD and His
qualities. As per tradition, there are 10 Azhvars. Two more saints
Andal and Madhurakavi Azhvar are also considered as Azhvars. They took birth in all walks, communities, castes and strata
of society. They are important to us, because they are the ones through whom Lord Sriman Narayana has given us the divine
message in the form of the divine 4000 songs. They illustrate the irrelevance of caste, status, knowledge or wealth when it
comes to the LOVE of God.
Question: What is their tangible contribution for humanity?
Answer: They have been chosen by the Lord as the instruments for
delivering the pure message of how to fulfill the purpose of life.
The 4000 divine verses (Nalayira divya prabhandham) are laden with bhakti and passion for the Lord. They have the guidelines
for us to lead productive lives. Nalayira divya prabhandham are the Tamil Vedas. The Azhvars exhort us to place complete faith
in the Lord for our salvation, and surrender to his will. They teach us to serve Him and his devotees.
Question: There is already a Veda in Sanskrit, what is the is
Answer: The Sanskrit Veda is a compendium of knowledge. It contains
rituals (yagas) for any material goal like money, prosperity,
going to a higher world after death etc. It also contains the ultimate truth (the relationship between the soul and the Lord,
and how to attain
In the Sanskrit Vedas, the ultimate truth is hard to find. Even
find the message it is hard to understand it as it is present
along with everything else. Moreover there are many restrictions to learn the
sanskrit veda; one has to be a twice born, and undergo rigorous
training for a number of years. It is commonly said that one lifetime is not enough to learn the Vedas by heart and understand
The Tamil Veda on the other hand is a very precise body of knowledge.
It contains only information pertinent to our salvation.
Question: What are
the restrictions and qualifications to learn the
Tamil Veda? And what are the fruits of learning them?
Answer: There are no restrictions. Anyone with an interest in
can learn the Tamil Veda, and understand the meanings through
The fruits of learning are:
of the eternal relationship between the soul and God, and
of a liking for service to God and His devotees.
One has to experience this fruit to understand.
Question: So how can the Tamil Veda be useful to me in today’s
(making money, being popular etc.)
Answer: That depends
on what you want to do today. If you are interested in spiritual progress, then the Tamil Vedas will help you. The Tamil Vedas will help change your heart and bring you back to the path of Love and Surrender to the
One who is immersed in the Tamil Vedas will surrender to the will
GOD and never go against HIS way.
There is nothing wrong in earning money, as long as the purpose
earning money is to serve God and His devotees.
Question: When were the Azhvars born and where did they live?
Answer: Details of the Azhvars birth and their contributions is
by Svami Manavala Mamuni (1270 CE) in his work, Upadesa Rattina
According to philosophical history, they were in this world prior
and during the kali yuga (about 6,000 years ago).
Modern scholars, using western linguisitic based methods, say
Azhvars lived and walked on this earth between the third and eighth
According to traditional history, the azhvars time is listed as
Vedic time cycle.
The Sri Vaishnava Guruparampara lists them in the traditional
Poigai Azhvar, in the year: siddharthi, Dwapara yuga: 8,62,900,
thula, Star: Sravana, Thithi: Ashtami.
This translates to modern western calendar: BCE 4204.
: Dwapara: 8,62,900 same as BCE 4202
: Dwapara: 8,62,900 same as BCE 4202
Nammazhvar : Kali: 001 same as BCE 3102
Madhurakavi : similar time period as Nammazhvar.
: Kali 027 same as BCE 3075
: Kali 046 same as BCE 3056
: Kali 097 same as BCE 3005
288 same as BCE 2814
: Kali 342 same as BCE 2760
: Kali 397 same as BCE 2706
According to the Vedas, time is given in cycles of four yugas:
is in all the 4000? Can you list them in brief?
Answer: The 4000 songs are organized in sets of verses.
1. poigai AzhvAr
2. bhUdhaththu AzhvAr
4. Thirumazhisai AzhvAr
thiru-ch-chanda viruttam, nAnmugan thiruvandAdi
thiru-viruttam,thiruvAsiriyam, thiruvAimozhi, periya thiruvandAdi
6. kulasEkhara AzhvAr
7. periyAzhvAr thiru-p-pallANdu, periyAzhvAr thirumozhi
9. thiru-p-pAN AzhvAr
10. thirumangai AzhvAr
siriya thirumadal, periya thirumadal and periya thirumozhi
thiru-p-pAvai, nAchchiyAr thirumozhi
12. madhurakavi AzhvAr
The divine work on Sri Ramanuja (1017 CE), by thiru-arangattu
amudhanAr, called rAmAnuja nURRandhAdhi, was not a part of the
Tamil Vedas as per Swami Nathamunigal ( 850 CE). As this work was not available during his time. It is now considered to be
a part of the sacred 4000.
Question: How did
we get the Tamil VEDAS, if they were sung by Azhvars
5000 years ago.
During the 9th century the tamil Vedas were almost entirely lost.
were collected and brought out by Swami Nathamuni.