alwars and their contributions
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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 need for

Tamil Veda?


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 if we

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 it completely.


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 learning

can learn the Tamil Veda, and understand the meanings through a learned



The fruits of learning are:

1)    understanding of the eternal relationship between the soul and God, and

2)    development 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 life?

(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 Lord.


One who is immersed in the Tamil Vedas will surrender to the will of

GOD and never go against HIS way.


There is nothing wrong in earning money, as long as the purpose of

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 listed

by Svami Manavala Mamuni (1270 CE) in his work, Upadesa Rattina Malai.

According to philosophical history, they were in this world prior to,

and during the kali yuga (about 6,000 years ago).


Modern scholars, using western linguisitic based methods, say that the

Azhvars lived and walked on this earth between the third and eighth century CE. 


According to traditional history, the azhvars time is listed as per the

Vedic time cycle.


The Sri Vaishnava Guruparampara lists them in the traditional vedic

calendar as:

Poigai Azhvar, in the year: siddharthi, Dwapara yuga: 8,62,900, month:

thula, Star: Sravana, Thithi: Ashtami.

This translates to modern western calendar: BCE 4204.


Mudal Azhvars           : Dwapara: 8,62,900     same as BCE 4202

Thirumazhisai           : Dwapara: 8,62,900     same as BCE 4202

Nammazhvar        :  Kali: 001            same as BCE 3102

Madhurakavi       : similar time period as Nammazhvar.

Kulashekara       : Kali 027 same as BCE 3075

PeriAzhvar        :  Kali 046 same as BCE 3056

Andal             :  Kali 097 same as BCE 3005

Thondaradipodi          :  Kali 288 same as BCE 2814

Thiruppan         :  Kali 342 same as BCE 2760

Thirumangai       :  Kali 397 same as BCE 2706


According to the Vedas, time is given in cycles of four yugas:


Krutha Yuga             17,28,000 years

Thretha Yuga            12,96,000 years

Dwapara Yuga              8,64,000 years

Kali Yuga         4,32,000 years


Question:   What is in all the 4000? Can you list them in brief?


Answer: The 4000 songs are organized in sets of verses.

1. poigai AzhvAr ­                         1st  ThiruvandhAdhi

2. bhUdhaththu AzhvAr ­              2nd ThiruvandhAdhi

3. pEyAzhvAr ­                             3rd ThiruvandAdi

4. Thirumazhisai AzhvAr ­                  thiru-ch-chanda viruttam, nAnmugan thiruvandAdi

5. nammAzhvAr ­          thiru-viruttam,thiruvAsiriyam, thiruvAimozhi, periya thiruvandAdi

6. kulasEkhara AzhvAr ­              perumAL thirumozhi

7. periyAzhvAr ­ thiru-p-pallANdu, periyAzhvAr thirumozhi

8.  thoNdar-adi-p-podi ­ thiru-p-paLLi-yezhuchchi, thirumAlai

9.  thiru-p-pAN AzhvAr ­                   amalanAdipirAn

10. thirumangai AzhvAr ­             thiru-k-kuRundhAndakam,

                  thiru-nedundhANdakam, thiruvezhu-kURRirukkai,

                  siriya thirumadal, periya thirumadal and periya thirumozhi

11. AndAL ­        thiru-p-pAvai, nAchchiyAr thirumozhi

12. madhurakavi AzhvAr ­             kaNNinun ciRuttAmbu


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. They

were collected and brought out by Swami Nathamuni.


athAto "brahma" zignAsA - Then thereafter be inquisitive to enquire about "the Absolute"