Vaishnavite Saints who had totally surrendered unto the Holy feet of Sriman Narayana.
The below mentioned song is the benedictory verse of Manavala Mamunigal in his work Upadesa rathina malai..
AzhwArgal vAzhi aruLichcheyal vAzhi
thAzhvAdhumil kuravar thAm vAzhi – yEzhpArum
uyya avargaL uraiththavaigaL thAm vAzhi
seyyamaRai thannudanE sErndhu
May the divine azhwars live long!
May their works, the divya prabandhams, live long!
May the spotless poorvacharyas live long!
May their accurate commentaries, which were generously offered so that people of the seven worlds can benefit from them; live long along with the sanskrit vedas!
Azhwars are divine poets absorbed in Bhakti towards Sriman Narayana. Since they are always immersed (Azhndhu, tamil word for "in depth") in kalyana gunas (the most auspicious attributes) of Sriman Narayana, they are called Azhwars.
Azhwars are known as Nityasuris or Divyasuris; those who reside permanently with the
Lord in His Heavenly abode. They had incarnated as Vasihnavite Saints to propagate Bhakthi Marga - devotion towards Lord Vishnu in the 4th-9th centuries A.D.
There are 12 Azhwars, who are the main authors of Naalayira Divya Prabandham - 4000 poetic hymns sung in praise of Sriman Narayana, at various sacred shrines known as "Divya Desams" (108 in total).
Divya Prabandham, in its present form was compiled by Nathamunigal during the 9th – 10th centuries. They are an incredible synthesis of poetic beauty, rhythmic magnificence, literary brilliance, spiritual loveliness and philosophical wisdom appealing to the head and heart of the masses.
The Twelve Azhwars are :
AZHWARs - 1/12 - Poigai Azhwar
Poigai Azhwar is one of the three principal azhwars, with the other two being Bhoothathazhwar and Peyazhwar, collectively called Muthalamazhwargal.
As per the legend, Poigai Azhwar was found in a small pond near the Yadhothakaari temple at Tiruvekkaa, Kanchipuram. In Tamil, small pond is called poigai, and since he was found in a pond, he was named Poigai.
Poigai Azhwar composed hundred verses on Sriman Narayana, that are classified as Muthal Tiruvandadhi and his composition is set in the Andhadhi style in which the ending syllable is the starting one for the next verse.
Message from his Prabandham : Atman is subservient to Paramatma. We should serve Him and His devotees with utmost devotion till our last breath.
Boothath Azhwar is one of the three principal azhwars, with the other two being Poigaiazhwar and Peyazhwar, collectively called Muthalamazhwargal.
Bhoothath Azhwar composed hundred verses that are classified as Irandam Tiruvandadhi and his composition is set in the Andhadhi style in which the ending syllable is the starting one for the next verse.
As per legend, Bhoothath Azhwar appeared in a flower called kurukkathi in a garden at Tirukadalmallai (Mahabalipuram). In Tamil, Bhootham refers to one who is possessed and since the saint was madly attracted to Sriman Narayana, he got the name.
Message from his prabandham:
Sriman Narayana’s compassion is the only means for reaching Sri Vaikuntam.
Sri Velukkudi Krishnan Swami explains this very well :
We build water tanks for storing water when it rains. But, it is not going to rain, since we have built the tanks. We have to wait for the clouds to shower the rain. But, if we don’t have a tank, we won’t be able to store the water when it rains. Likewise, after we do Saranagathi/surrender, we have to make Bhagawan reside in our mind all the time and wait for Bhagawan to shower His blessings.
Birth Place: Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)
Birth Year/Month: Sidharthi / Aippasi
Birth Star: Avittam
Amsam: Kaumodakee (Mace)
AZHWARs - 3/12 - Pey Azhwar
Pey Azhwar is one of the three principal azhwars, with the other two being Poigaiazhwar and Bhoothathazhwar, collectively called Muthalamazhwargal.
Pey Azhwar composed hundred verses that are classified as Moondram Tiruvandadhi and his composition is set in the Andhadhi style in which the ending syllable is the starting one for the next verse.
As per legend, he appeared in sevvalli flower (lily) in a well in Adikesava Perumal koil at Mylapore (historically called Manikaivaram), in Chennai. In Tamil, Pey refers to one who is possessed and since the saint was madly attracted to Sriman Narayana, he got the name.
Message from his prabandham:
Considering the essential nature of the atman and paramatman, Saranagathi (surrender) is natural and simple. Abstain from strenuous austerities. If we have understood that Paramatma, Sriman Narayana is ever willing to protect us and have accepted that we are totally dependent on Him, it is quite natural that He needs to protect us. For example, it is natural for our parents to protect us, give us food, good education and a good life. Likewise, Sriman Narayana is the Supreme Father for all the jeevatmas. So, He will protect us naturally.
Other Names: Kairava Muni, Mahadahvaya and Mylapuradadipadhi
Birth Year/Month: Sidharthi /Aippasi
Birth Star: Sadayam
Amsam: Nandhagam (Sword)
AZHWARs - 4/12 - Thirumazhisai Azhwar
The name of the Azhwar comes from his birthplace, Thirumazhisai, a suburb in Chennai. He was born to Bhargava maharishi and Kanakangi, the foetus came out as just a lifeless lump of flesh with no arms and legs. The couple were depressed and left it under a bamboo bush and proceeded with their spiritual journey. Lord Vishnu blessed the "flesh" and it turned into a lively human being.
He was later picked up by a tribal couple Thiruvalan and Pankajavalli, who took good care of this god's gift. The boy grew up to become Thirumazhisai azhwar. He also had an eye on his right leg.
He sang 216 verses - Tiruchanda virutham and Nanmugan Tiruvandhadhi.
He had taken up Vaishnavism as per Pey Azhwar's advise, Thirumazhisai Alwar says in his own words..
We had learned SAkkiyam (Buddhism) SamaNam (Jainism) and the Agamic Scriptures made by Lord Shankara (Shiva); Due to sheer grace, we landed at the feet of Tiruvengadathaan.
In one of the incidence in Pallava king's court, the king asks Thirumazhisai Azhwar's disciple to leave the kingdom. Azhwar also decides to leave and asks the Lord Yatotkari of Kanchipuram to leave the temple and come along with him. The Lord obeyed his devotee hence his name is "Sonna vannam seidha Perumal"..
KanikaNNan Poginraan Kaamaru poong Kachi
ManivaNNaa! Nee Kidakka Vendaa
Sennaap Pulavanum Poginren Neeyum Unran
Pai Naagappaayai Suruttik KoLL
KanikaNNan is going out of kAnchi Oh! Manivanna!, You don't have to lie here anymore. Since, as the fluent poet that I am also leaving with him, you also roll your serpent bed and follow me"And, accordingly all of them left KAnchipuram..
When they left, Kanchi became desolate. The king realized his folly and requested Thirumazhisai Azhwar and his disciple to forgive and return. Azhwar prayed to the Lord that in view of the King's repentance, they might return. He sang again-
Kanikannan has changed his mind and rescinded his decision to leave Since, as I, the fluent poet am also returning with him, You may also return and lie down on your serpent bed as before "All of them returned accordingly and Kanchipuram regained its lost glory.
Message from his prabandham:
Bhagawan is so intimate and dear that He resides in us forever waiting for an opportunity to help us.
He is inside every jeevatma whether it is a non-living thing or an animal or a human being. His favourite abode is our mind. We should reciprocate this by showing our love to Him and surrender unto Him.
Other Names : Bhakthi-saarar, Bhaargavar, Magisaaraapuriswarar, Mazhisai-piraan
Year/ Month: Sidharthi / Thai
Birth Star: Maham
Amsam: Sudarsanam (Discus)
AZHWARs - 5/12 - Namma Azhwar
Nammazhwar was born to Kaari and Udayanangai in Azhwar Thirunagari (ThiruKurugoor). The child was extraordinary, for several days he lived with eyes closed without speaking, in perfect health, without food (neither breast fed milk nor any other). Distressed at this, the parents placed the child at the shrine of Lord Aadinathar, the deity of ThiruKurugoor temple, surrendering unto Him the entire burden of upbringing the child.
The child crawled into a hole in a tamarind tree, sat in padmasan and began to meditate. It is believed that he was in this state for as long as sixteen years when a Tamil poet and scholar who had gone on a pilgrimage to North India, Madhurakavi Azhwar saw a bright light shining to the south, and followed it until he reached the tree where the boy was sitting.
With great difficulty, Madhurakavi succeeded in drawing out Nammazhwar from his deep samadhi. He learnt from Nammazhwar the secrets of all the shastras by becoming his disciple.
The works of Nammazhwar were compiled by Madhurakavi as four different works, the Tiruvayumoli (1102 verses), Thiruviruttam (100 verses), Thiruvaasiriam (or Thiru Aasiriyam - 7 verses) and Periya Thiruvanthadi (87 verses). The works of Nammazhwar contributed to the philosophical and theological ideas of Vaishnavism.
Though Nammazhwar did not visit any of the 108 divyadesam temples of Vaishnavites, it appears from his works he must have had the vision of all the deities in the temples which he had glorified in his hymns.
In South Indian Vaishnava temples, Nammazhwar is given a status equal to that of Lord Vishnu. The *Garudasevai * festival in Nava Tirupathi, the nine Vishnu temples in Thoothukudi region and the Araiyar Sevai during the *Vaikunta Ekadesi * festival in Srirangam temple are dedicated to him. The verses of Nammazhwar and other azhwars are recited as a part of daily prayers and during festive occasions in most Vishnu temples in South India.
It is believed that in kali yuga, the doors of Vaikundam (the supreme abode) was opened first time for Nammazhwar by Sriman Narayanan himself and it is believed that the followers of Sri Nammazhwar have the most easy access to the supreme abode.
Message from his prabandham:
Bhagawan treats everyone equally. Lord Varaha, who saved Bhoomi Devi submerged in the ocean, is the only savior to all the atmans in this world.
Saranagathi can be performed by anyone. Example, in Yuddha Kanda, Vibeeshana performed saranagathi to Rama and Rama accepted him immediately even though he was a demon by birth and was Ravana’s brother. Rama gave moksham to Jatayu (a bird), Sabhari (a hunter woman) when they did Saranagathi. He never discriminates between people based on birth, education or wealth.
Other Names: Satakopan, Vakulaa Bharana. Vakula Bhooshana, Parankusa, Kaari Sooran, Maran, Kurugaiyar Kone and Prapanna Janakootastha.
Birth Year/Month: Pramaadhi/Vaikasi
Birth Star: Visakham
Amsam: Viswaksenar (Commander of Army)
AZHWARs - 6/12 - Madhurakavi Azhwar
Madhurakavi azhwar was born before Nammazhwar, in a Brahmin family, in Thirukkolur near Azhwar Thirunagari.
Madhurakavi azhwar is believed to have learnt the Vedas and considered well-versed in both Tamil and Sanskrit. He used to compose poems in praise of Lord Vishnu. At one stage in his life, he decided to abandon all the worldly things and strive towards moksha. In this pursuit he undertook a pilgrimage to the divya desam located in Northern India like Ayodhya and Mathura.
While in the pilgrimage, Madhurakavi azhwar saw a bright light shining to the south, and followed it until he reached the tree where Nammazhwar was sitting in deep penance.
With great difficulty, Madhurakavi azhwar succeeded in drawing out Nammazhwar from his samadhi. He learnt from Nammazhwar the secrets of all the shastras by becoming his disciple.
The works of Nammazhwar were compiled by Madhurakavi azhwar as four different works, the Tiruvayumoli (1102 verses), Thiruviruttam (100 verses), Thiruvaasiriam (or Thiru Aasiriyam - 7 verses) and Periya Thiruvanthadi (87 verses).
Madhurakavi azhwar sang Kanninun SiruthAmbu - 11 pasurams on his Guru Nammazhwar, as Guru is equivalent to Sriman Narayana for him.
Message from his prabandham:
Preceptors who introduce Bhagawan to us are our Acharyas. So, we should show ultimate respect to our Acharyas. Nammazhwar was God to Madura kavi Azhwar. He spent his life singing Nammazhwar’s Tiruvaimozhi.
Other Names: Inkaviyaar, Azhwaarukku Adiyaan
Birth Year/Month: Eeswara / Chittirai
Birth Star: Chittirai
Amsam: Vainatheya (Garuda)
AZHWARs - 7/12 - Kulasekhara Azhwar
Kulasekhara Azhwar was born in Periyar, Kerala, to Chera King Dhidavrathan and his queen Nandhanayaki.
As per legend, Kulashekhara Azhwar learnt Sastras, Arts, Tamil, Sanskrit and Martial Arts. He became the king and won several wars. He ruled Kolli (modern-day Uraiyur), Koodal (modern day Madurai) and Kongu, to the satisfaction of his subjects for quite a few years.
One day, he had a dream in which Lord Venkateshwara appeared and from then on he diverted his attention towards devotion and religion. Once in his court, a religious scholar was giving discourse on Ramayana and the predicament that Sri Rama faced in fighting Ravana. Kulasekhara Azhwar got perturbed and started gathering his army to help Sri Rama. He had to be consoled later by the scholar that all was well with Sri Rama and that he prevailed in the war.
Eventually Kulasekhara Azhwar renounced his kingdom, anointed his son on the throne and went on pilgrimage visiting temples. Being a scholar in Tamil, he wrote 105 pasurams called "Perumal Thirumozhi" in praise of the deities at Srirangam, Thirumalai (Thirupathi), Thiruviththuvakkodu, Thirukannapuram, Thiruccitrakudam, Ayodhya and also on Sri Rama and Sri Krishna.
His longing to serve Lord Venkateshwara made him sing in his pasurams what he should to be born as :
=-A bird in the pond on the Thiruvenkata hill
=-A fish in the pond since the bird may fly away
-Some one who will hold the golden utensil which is used in Lord's service, since the fish may swim away
=-A flower on A tree, since holding the golden utensil may create ego in my mind and that will drive me away
=-A river on Thiruvenkata hill, since the useless tree will be removed Some day once the flower is used up
=-the stairs leading up to the sannidhi, since the river may dry up Some day
=-the stepping stone in front of the sannidhi, since by being the stairs, route may be changed Some day.
To this day the stepping stone that leads to sanctum sanctorum of Vaishnava temples is known as *Kulashekharan Thiruppadi ( Kulashekara's sacred step) * in recognition of his intense desire to be born as the step, serving the Lord at all times.
He had also sung, on the experiences of Devaki matha missing the childhood pranks of Sri Krishna, a lullaby for Sri Rama thinking himself to be Yasodha matha. As he was well versed in Sanskrit, he sang 53 shlokas in praise of Sri Krishna titled "Mukunda Mala" (Garland for Krishna).
Message from his prabandham:
Do not blame Bhagawan for our sufferings. Work for permanent relief from this world.
A patient pays a huge sum of money to a surgeon who does his surgery and is ever thankful to him for saving his life, even though the surgeon has cut open his parts of the body to perform the surgery. Similarly, when Bhagawan gives us some obstacles in life, we should not blame Him; we have to accept the challenge as they will become stepping stone to attain permanent happiness.