THE TWELVE AZHWARS ( MYSTICAL SRIVAISHNAVA SAINTS) OF SOUTH INDIA.
PART 1/ 5
Part 1- Introduction to the divine azhwars, the first four azhwars.
Part 2 – Five to eight Azhwars i.e works of four more azhwars
Part 3- works of the remaining four azhwars summing to 12
Part 4 – Life and works of Sri Ramanujar acharyan
Part 5- Concluding – Life and works of Sri Vedanta desikan acharyan.
Hare Krishna Matajis and Prabhujis,
Countless saints have manifested , in Bharatham our most reverential , very ancient, Dharma bhoomi, over the four yugas ( Satya, Tretha, Dwapara and now Kaliyuga). Their contribution to the entire humanity is beyond any expression or boundary. Their love, bhakthi and total prappatti ( unconditional most devotion filled surrender) towards the one and one Parmatman Sri Krishna/ Sri Vithobha mauli is unparalleled. If we consider each of our saints as an invaluable jewel like a ruby, sapphire, emerald, Kohinoor diamond, pearl, etc and in a most beautiful multihued silken thread, form a single lovely garland and offer it to adorn Lord Sriman Narayana and our most beloved mother Sri Lakshmi amma it would be most apt and apposite and would please the divine consort immensely.
In this series of five parts would like to , highlight the highest contribution of the twelve azhwars ( mystic saints of south India), their one pointed love in superlative degree towards Sriman Narayana and their monumental works that are beyond any humanly endeavour and above all their kindness, compassion to redeem mankind from the immense misery of this materialistic world is worth reading, analyzing and surrendering unto their lotus feet. The colossal epic work of the twelve azhwars , mystic saints of south India, of course needs infinite PHD’s and thesis for the quantum and their quality of writings are beyond the scope of any intervention at a human plane but know we must, about them and hence in a very summarized manner capturing only certain core essence of their lives and their works and another two towering saints Sri Ramanujacharya and Sri Vedanta Desikan acharyan summing to 14 saints of South India, nay the whole universe. This is done in the capacity of an invisible speckle of dust at the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krishna and Lakshmi Amma.
Please do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org , in case , any clarity is required or for any constructive feedback and corrections. Would love to hear and also improve on my failings, great in number.
(Have sourced these series from various scriptures, texts, sites, Wikipedia, Vishithadvaita books and have taken every effort and precaution to maintain originality).
Our lord Sriman Narayana manifests himself in five forms namely para ( vasudeva swarupa), vyuha,( Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha) ,vibhava( as avataraas/ incarnation such as Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Sri Narsimha etc to punish the evil and protect the righteous), antaryami (as a fraction of the divine parmatman residing in each one of the jivatmas as a witness , guide and friend, also known as an individual conscience/soul) and archa ( in various parts of the world as an image/idol worship, such as Lord Balaji of Tirupati, Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam , Sri Vithobha mauli of Pandarpur, etc to enable us to use all our indriyas (senses) in his loving service.). Undoubtedly, all the forms of our most beloved Lord Sri Krishna is most important, and are all inclusive, pervasive and complement each other.
WHO ARE NITYA SURIS?
Sriman Narayan (Lord Vishnu) had sent his Sankh (conch), Chakram (Sudarshana discus), sword, Gathai ( his mace), Kausthupam ( his precious stone), Vaijeyanthi malai( holiest of holy garland adoring Lord Sri Krishna) and the Nithya Suris( souls that have attained permanent salvation) as Azhwars in this transient world for the redemption of mankind (Jivathmas/ individual soul.). Azhwars are accorded status higher than the sages for the saints and sages performed Tapasya, Homams and Yaghyas to attain salvation by controlling their karmendriyas ( the five senses, ego, intellect and mind) , whereas Azhwars lived in this world among the ordinary people and led an ordinary life with an extraordinary devotion towards Sri Krishna , their only mission is to let mankind know the true purpose and essence of life, the type of devotion to be accorded to Sriman Narayana and Sri Lakshmi amma and the pious ways to attain the most divine lotus feet of our lord which is the only permanent abode of happiness free from all material impurities. They composed the nalaayiram Divya prabandams in Tamil (total 4000 holiest of holy verses of all the twelve azhwars combined in praise of our dearest Lord Sri Krishna) which contains the essence of Vedas. Their writings were in Tamil because every saint who appears on this earth, be it Mira Amma, Gyaneshwar Mauli, Sant Kabir etc wanted the local people to understand their writings / discourses in the language they are most comfortable in and have knowledge of and hence being born in the south of India, one of the major language spoken is Tamil, all their works are in Tamil to maintain a very deep connect with the people there , to ensure their preachings are easily understood and also each of our mother tongue effortlessly ensures our ideas , thoughts , feelings and emotions are easily and correctly expressed for we have attained proficiency in them. Of course, all their works, now , are available in English too, for greater access to many devotees across the world, thanks to the erudite who have translated their works.
The twelve azhwars – Nitya suris are those atmans(souls) who have attained moksha permanently.. They were sent to our dearest mother earth by Sriman Narayana for a specific purpose , they are the physical manifestation of Sri Krishna’s possessions such as his conch, mace, garland of flowers, etc. They took the mortal form, on the desire of Sriman Sri Krishna to propagate his divine message, to the entire mankind, on his behalf. In a very lighter vein, once our lord remarked, that many times he wants his leelas, his greatness and his stature to be known not from his own mukha kamalam (lotus lips) since many would consider him egoistic and hence he wanted his height and depth (fathomless to be precise) to be known through these nitya suris, going to only prove how humble our beloved lord is, he neither craves fame, nor status only keenly desires all his beloved creations to love him unconditionally.
The twelve azhwars and their original status at Parmapadam with their auspicious star / Nakshatram under which they manifested are mentioned below:
- Poigai Azhwar - Manifestation of Lord Sri Krishna’s conch, Panchjanyam, Star/ Nakshatram - Tiruvonam, Shravana Nakshatra.
- Bhoothatha Azhwar – As Lord Sri Krishna’s mace, Kaumodhaki, Star/ Avittam Nakshatram
- Pey Azhwar – As our Lord’s sword, Nandaka , Star/ Sadaya Nakshatram.
- Tirumazisai Azhwar – As Sudarshana chakram, Star/ Magham Nakshatram
- Madhurakavi Azhwar – As Garuda, lord’s vahanam/ vehicle , Star/ Chitrai Nakshatram
- Namazhwar - As Vishwaksena , lord Sri Krishna’s commander and chief,
Star/ Nakshatram- Vishaakam
- Kulashekhara Azhwar - Kausthubham ( Lord Sri Krishna’s jewel adorning his neck), Star/ Nakshatram – Punarvasu.
- Peria Azhwar/ Vishnuchittar - Lord Sri Krishna’s Garuda, Star/ Nakshatram – Swathi. Peria Azhwar is the foster father of Andal amma who herself is one of the azhwars.
- Andal amma/ Godhai - None other than Bhumadevi amma ,( mother earth ) Lord Sri Krishna’s wife and divine consort……….. Star/ Nakshatram – Pooram.
(ONLY FEMALE AZHWAR, OTHER ELEVEN WERE MALE, SO ANDAL AMMA IS ACCORDED A VERY SPECIAL PLACE IN THE LOTUS HEART OF OUR DEAREST SRI KRISHNA FOR SHE IS NONE OTHER THAN BHUMA DEVI , HIS DIVINE CONSORT)
- Thondaradipodi Azhwar - Lord Sri Krishna’s garland ( Vanamalai), Nakshatram/ Star – Kettai
- Tiruppan Azhwar- As srivasta, an auspicious mark on Lord Sri Krishna’s chest, Nakshatram/ Star- Rohini.
- Tirumangai Azhwar - As saranga , Lord Sri Krishna’s bow, Nakshatram/ Star Krittika
Traditionally Sri Ramanucharya and Sri Vedanta Desikan acharyan are not considered amongst the twelve Azhwars, mystic nitya suris , but many school of thoughts opine to include their works if not within the twelve azhwars but to definitely consider them separately for their highest contribution to Srivaishnavism which is at its optimum best..
- Sri Ramanujar Acharyan ( One of the Greatest Profounder of the Vishithadvaita Philosophy of Srivaishnavism) – incarnation of Anantaseshan as primary , secondary as Sri Lakshmana, Nakshatram/ Star- Tiruvadirai.
- Sri Vedanta Desikan Acharyan – Incarnation of the bell of Sri Govinda at Tirupati Temple, Nakshatram/ Star – Rohini - born after 131 years after his guru , Sri Ramanuja acharyan attained parmapadam,
- To 3. Poigai Azhwar/ Pey Azhwar/ Bhoothata azhwar: These three azhwars belonged to Dwapara yuga (before 4200 BC). They were born of divinity , Venerable Poigai azhwar was born near a pond (in Tamil Poigai means small pond) and hence he was named Poigai, Pey and Bhoothath azhwar were so madly in love with Sriman Narayana as though they were possessed by our divine lord and hence they were lovingly called Pey and Bhoothata (in Tamil their names mean one who is possessed). All the three azhwars were contemporizes. Once they took shelter in a very small dim dingy room on a very heavy rainy day. The room was so small that they could barely breathe and stand, and all of a sudden one force pushed all the three and they got a feeling one more person is inside the room for taking shelter from the heavy rains. What they saw was beyond any human description or emotions, it was none other than Sriman Narayana himself who stood amongst them , resplendent , like the divine rays of million suns put together, their immense , pure , unalloyed devotion to our dearest lord Sri Krishna enabled them to be blessed with such a heavenly angelic sight. Their joys knew no bound, in the pouring rains they started singing in the divine praise of our lord Sri Krishna which only goes to prove , when we love our lord with the greatest spotlessness and pristine devotion , without wanting anything in return , he is ever ready to accord his darshan. Such is the glory of our most compassionate lord Vithu mauli. Please call him and he will come running in a lightening speed, the only criterion being our restlessness in realizing him , many times we may not be able to physically touch him or speak or see him directly as we generally do in our human relations, but feel we all can at all times, in everything around us, in the vast beautiful nature, flora , fauna, in his creations, animate and inanimate if only we gave that few minutes of our life everyday surely each one of us , at any stage of our devotion, at the foothills or at the peak can definitely become conscious of our most beloved Lord Sri Govinda. Reverential Poigai azhwar, Bhoothat azhwar and Pey azhwar were pioneer azhwars who were highly instrumental in the initiation of Sri vaishnava philosophy , let us wholeheartedly and unconditionally with the purest of pure devotion surrender unto their lotus feet to guide us towards the supreme personality of godhead Lord Sri Govinda/ Madhava/ Madhusudhana……..
- Tirumazisai Azhwar: He was born in 4203 BCE. A childless tribal couple called Tiruvaalan and Pankaya Chelvi engaged in cutting canes found the child and took it home although he was born to Bhargava maharishi and his wife Kanakangi after an unusual 12 months stay in the womb. The fetus came out as just a lifeless lump of flesh with no arms and legs. The couple were terribly depressed and with unwillingness left it under a bamboo bush and proceeded with their spiritual journey. Lord Govinda appeared with his divine consort Lakshmi amma and blessed the "flesh" with their merciful grace (kataksham) it turned into a lively human being who was then lovingly nurtured by the childless tribal couple .Strange are the ways of our dearest lord Sri Krishna, he himself was born to Devaki amma and Lord Vasudeva but was very lovingly taken care by Yashoda amma and Nanda Maharaja. Yashoda amma’s love for little baby Krishna is unparalleled in the history. Every single second she lovingly forgave her dearest of dear baby Krishna for all his lovely childhood pranks ( can we call them leelas) and the most poignant moment was when she could not accompany him to Dwarka when he was to take up kingship, Lord Sri Krishna’s tears at the separation from his most loving mother can melt the strongest of strong rocks.
Thirumazhisai Alvar proclaimed that he didn't belong to Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya & Shudra in one of his couplets as he was considered (Avarna) beyond caste bound person. Yes, very true to the core, as uttered by our dearest Lord Sri Krishna, in our most divine Srimadh Bhagavad Gita, one is not a Brahmin by birth , he is to be accorded any status exalted or otherwise only by his deeds/ his actions which have to be at its very best, pure and meritorious filled with compassion and love for every of our dearest of dear Vithu mauli’s creation, inanimate or animate. Here, it comes to my mind , a beautiful maxim the hands that serves is holier than the lips that pray, “Manava seva is Madhava seva, why only manava seva, duty and service towards every of our dear lord’s creation whether human or otherwise, serving every devotee of our dearest Sri Govinda will please him ever and will cleanse each of our souls for a single dedicated saatvik (pure) service is better than thousand prayers. Thiru in Tamil means pure, saatvik, goddess of wealth Mahalaxmi amma and hence every godly person is prefixed with Tiru which is auspiciousness and hence all the Azhwar’s would have Tiru as their prefix denoting auspiciousness and purity. Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s contribution in the 4000 divya verses is 216 in number which contains his immense love for Sriman Narayana who means the world to him. One billionth of a second he cannot live without his most loved Sri Krishna which he keeps mentioning in all his most pious verses.
The Azhwar’s affirmation ( I have clearly known that Sriman Narayana is the only one and one Parmatman which he repeats three times over, followed by a beyond question/ irrefutable declaration the fourth time, as emphatic as Sri Vyasa Bhagavan’s assertion, ‘Satyam, Satyam. Puna: Satyam……na daivam Kesavath Param’.(‘It is the truth, truth, truth, there is no god greater than Kesava). Holiest of holy Tirumazisai Azhwar’s deepest love for our dearest lord Sri Govinda , his immense compassion to redeem us is worth countless prostrations and salutations. May we lovingly surrender unto his divine lotus feet, for surely he will lead us very safely , caringly and lovingly unto the most divine lotus feet of our dearest of dear Vithu mauli. He surely has that much influence over our lord and our dearest mother Lakshmi amma. No doubt about that at all.
OM TAT SAT.
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE HARE RAAMA HARE RAAMA RAAMA RAAMA HARE HARE.