Essence Of Devotion Bhakti Twelve Azhwars of Tamil Overview

I have been blessed with friendships with some great personalities in the field Arts, Literature and Philosophy.

In the field of Arts I had the fortune of gaining the friendships of Poet Laureate,Kavignar Kannadasan ,who was a great Film Lyricist and a Classical Tamil poet.

And Ranganathan,called Vaali,Film Lyricist and a Tamil poet of great learning.

If Kannadasan’s lyrics ,poems drew from life,experience ,touched one’s heart,Vaali,touched you with imagery and the handling of Tamil language.

Once I asked Vaali as to how he could write such exquisite Lyrics,using slightly modified Classical Tamil and why he professes the Name of Subrahmanya,Murugan at all times,sports Kumkum on the forehead,despite him being Vaishnava.

To the second question he replied that Tamil was his passion and Murugan being identified with Tamil, he was fond of Murugan.

He also added that his song on Murugan’Karpanai Enraalum Karchilai enraalum Kandahar Unai Maraven,made him popular.

(Be it be said you are a figment of imagination,or be a Stone, Never will I forget you).

As to his mastery over Tamil he said that if one were to read the poems of Azhwars,Naalayira Divya Prabhandham,it is more than enough,though reading all Azhwars may take A Lifetime.


If one were to look for Absolute Surrender to God,get immersed in Bhakti and could express the exquisite experience, it was Azhwars.

Nayanmars,the Devotees of Shiva also belong to this class.

What is this experience like?

Abhirami Bhattar ,in His Abhirami Andhadhi Describes thus,

விரும்பித் தொழும் அடியார்விழி நீர்மல்கி,

மெய்புளகம் அரும்பித் ததும்பிய ஆனந்தமாகி, அறிவிழந்து,

கரும்பிற் களித்து, மொழிதடு மாறி முன் சொன்ன எல்லாம்

தரும் பித்தர் ஆவரென்றால் அபிராமி சமயம் நன்றே.-94

Goosebumps all over,Flowing Tears from the eyes,

Overflowing Bliss makes one lose one’s mind,

Failed words, all these make one lose balance,

If these be the Divinity of Abhirami Experience,may it be the Best’

Azhwars have also explained on similar forceful lines of Divine Experience.

Will be writing on them individually.

Azhwars represent total surrender,Saranagathi,echoing the Karna Mantra in The Bhagavad-Gita,

Sarvakarmmaan parithyasja,maameva Charanam vraja,

Aham thva sarvapaapebyo Mokkshamichaami ,Ma Sucha.

Azhwar surrenders thus,

ஊரிலேன் காணியில்லை உறவு மற்றொருவர் இல்லை

பாரில் நின் பாதமூலம் பற்றிலேன் பரம மூர்த்தி

காரொளி வண்ணனே என் கண்ணனே கதறுகின்றேன்

ஆருளர்க் களைகண் அம்மா அரங்க மாநகருளானே.

No place to Dwell,No Property to Own,

Nor do I have anyone,

Neither have I clung to Your Feet,

Krishna,hear my cries of Anguish,

Relieve me ,The One,who is at Srirangam.

And one Azhwar Even Blesses God Vishnu!

பல்லாண்டு பல்லாண்டு பல்லாயிரத்தாண்டு

பலகோடி நூறாயிரம்

மல்லாண்ட திண்தோள் மணிவண்ணா! உன்

சேவடி செவ்வித்திருக்காப்பு

May You Live for Over Thousands of Years,

Over many more,

One who with strong shoulders hardened over many a battle,

May I proceed by Praying your Feet

This item by Periyazhwar,father of Andal,who is also an Azhwar.

Lord Ranganatha married Andal,the adopted daughter of Periyazhwar.

So Vishnu is Azhwars Son in law.

It is traditional in Hinduism forefather in law to Bless thereon in law.

And Azhwar does that.


As was and is the custom in Hinduism,the Bride and the Bridegroom, went around the town after marriage.

Now it has become the case of Reception before marriage!

The Bride was Andal and the Bridegroom,Lord Vishnu.

Place, Madurai.

So handsome were the couple that Father-in-law,Periyazhwar felt Evil Eye might be cast on Vishnu.

Hence this poem to Bless Vishnu?

Which Religion can relate to God at this Personal level?

Or that of a lover,Andal addressing Vishnu thus,

‘This Poem is recited twice when reciting Thiruppavai (Vagak kadla Kadaintha is also recited twice?

The meaning of the words/sentence in Italics convey more than what has been translated.

I am sure my readers can understand.

Tell me, which religion, or Devotee has the courage and conviction to address as Such?

By the way this is yet another Proof that Lord Krishna married the Pandyan Princess Nappinnai.’

There are twelve Azhwars.

The Term Azhwar means’ One who is immersed in’

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’ .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’.

There is another interpretation.

The term Azhwar can be written and spelled as ஆள்வார்.

This is is written as Alwar in English.

One who rules’ is the meaning.

This could be because the Alwars ruled Tamil Language or to mean ‘those who are immersed in Vishnu would Rule over Mokkshamichaami or Destiny.

Itlaics is my interpretation.

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 and even 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 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 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.’

Dates of Alwars are,as usual in Indian History,are disputed,ranging from 4000 CE to 8 Century AD.

The twelve Azhwars List.

These Alwars were born in various parts of our country but they were all united in a common subject, ie dedicating their lives and praising the Lord.

Poigai Alwar, Bhoodath Alwar and Pei Alwar are collectively called as “Mudhal Alwars” were found in the same period of time.

Thirumazhisai Alwar, who thought the Perumal as his friend and has sung Mangalasasanam on Perumal.

Thirumangai Alwar, who was a great king in his starting of life but later, changed his life to work for the Perumal and for his bhaktaas.

Thondaradippodi Alwar, who is also named as “Vipra Narayanar” led his life as the slave to the Perumal and worked for the Perumal by dedicating him with Garlands.

Thiruppaan Alwar, who belonged to the Paanar family, praised the Perumal through his beautiful songs and Paasurams.

Periyalwar, is considered as the Mother, Father for Sri Andal and Father-in-Law to Perumal has sung Mangalasasanam on Perumal.

Sri Andal, who is also called as “Soodikkodutha Sudar Kodi” is said to be the daughter (brought up) of Periyalwar has created “Thiruppavai” in which she considers Sriman Naryanan as her husband. She is the only lady alwar.

Nammalwar, who sat below the Tamarind tree without having any food and sleep got Gnana and has sung Mangalasasanam on Perumal and he has worked hard to spread Sri Vaishnavam.

Madhurakavi Alwar, who is said to be the Sishyan (Student) of Nammalwar is also one among 12 Alwars.

Kulasekara Alwar, have a great bhakti towards Sri Ramar have also done Mangalasasanam on the Perumal particularly in Malayala Naatu thriuppathigal.

Will be writing more on Azhwars ,their dates,works.

Reference and citation.

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