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Alwars and Acaryas - Part I Alwars- Sections 1 and 2

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Date: Mon Apr 22 1996 - 08:36:51 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas' 
I am presenting the series on Alwars and Acharyas commencing with Part I on
Alwars - Sections 1 and 2
Dasoham
Anbil Ramaswamy
         ALWARS AND ACHARYAS

[Note : The following words should be pronounced as indicated against each A:
lwar : Aazhwaar; Acharya : Aachaarya; Andal : Aandaal]
SECTION 1 : INTRODUCTION
No work on any philosophy can be complete without an understanding of the
architects who made it possible. This is even more so in the case of
Religious philosophy because  the hagiographic background of the great
savants who had the 'savoire faire' thereof would reinforce the credibility
in the system  which they not only preached but also practiced in their
lives.

The works of Alwars stood mysteriously a replica of the Vedas themselves and
therefore came to be known as Dravida Veda. In fact, there is a view that
even the great Rishis are no match to the greatness of the Alwars because
these Rishis got their 'Gnanam'
 ( wisdom0 as a result of their own  actions of 'spiritual merit' 
( Punyam) and therefore called ' Aarsha' whereas the wisdom of the Alwars was
the direct result of the Lord's divine grace and therefore called ' Divyam'.
It is because of this that the works of Alwars is called ' Divya Prabandham'.


 These works are non-pareil in every sense- be it in  sentiment, style or
syntax.They take even a casual reader on a guided tour into the esoteric
exegesis  of the Vedas without offending the provisions of exclusions and
prohibitions enjoined in the study of the Vedas in original.

Due perhaps to historical reasons, much of these treasures had been lost to
humanity for a while. It was given to the great Nathamuni to retrieve and
revivify them in their pristine glory for the benefit of posterity. The long
line of the lineage of preceptors who followed him kept the torch burning and
handed them over to  successive generations . We can justifiably be proud of
the rich heritage . It is our bounden duty, therefore, to familiarize
ourselves with the lives and works of these preceptors , the least we can do
as a token of our gratitude for the invaluable treasures bequeathed to us.
Hence, this Chapter on ' Alwars and Acharyas' - which purports to be a  very
brief introduction to their lives and works. We would like to remind our
readers that this does not claim to be a complete list of the great souls nor
exhaustive in point of details of even those included. It does not mean that
any of the Acharyas not mentioned here are any the less important. The
omissions reflect only the author's  lack of exposure to the full facts of
the invaluable  contributions of these innumerable savants.
                                    SECTION   2   :  LIFE OF  ALWARS
2.1. Poigai Alwar, 2 .2., Budat Alwar and 2.3. Pey Alwar
 are the first three Alwars ( Mudal Alwars)
They were contemporaries who were born in the same Siddharti year and in the
same Aippasi month of Aippasi  in the same Suklapaksha on successive Tuesday,
Wednesday and Thursday, in the constellations of Tiruvonam, Avittam and
Sadhayam, on the Ashtami, Navami   respectively. 

Poigai Alwar , an incarnation of Panchajanyam, the divine conch of Lord
Vishnu appeared on the lotus bud in a pond in Tiruvekka near Kanchipuram.
Budat Alwar , an incarnation of Kaumodhaki, the divine mace of Lord Vishnu
 appeared in a Kurukkatti flower in Mahabalipuram, also near Kanchipuram
where the Lord instead of reclining on his divine couch of Adisesha, reclines
onthe floor and hence is called ' Stala Sayana Perumal'.. Pey Alwar, an
incarnation of Nandaki, the divine sword of  Lord Vishnu appeared in a red
lily in the well of the temple of Adhikesava Perumal at Mylapore, Madras.

Nammalwar calls them ' In Kavi Paadum Parama Kavigal'- the greatest poets who
sang the sweetest songs'. Tirumangai Alwar hails them as  ' Senthamizh
Paaduvaar'- ' Those who sang in chaste Tamizh'. Periyavaachan Pillai known as
the 'Vyaakhyaana Chakravarti'- Emperor among commentators says  Poigai Alwar
established the ' Paratvam' of Lord Narayana and thus has declared the
'Tattva Gnana ' and represented ' Para Gnana' '; Budat Alwar explains how
this  ' Gnana' blosssoms into 'Para Bhakti' and Pey Alwar demonstrated how
these lead to the ultimate ' Parama  Bhakti' or   ' Saakshaat kaaram'- the
very realization of the Supreme Lord. Thus they represented the three stages
of spiritual unfoldment. Therefore, the works of all the three Alwars are
considered together as a single  ' Prabandha' known as 'Iyar Paa'.

All the three were so much devoted to the Lord that they had no other
thoughts and lived as recluses in the forests. They were  constantly
meditating and moving from place to place like mendicants offering obeisance
at various temples consecrated to Lord Narayana but they had not known each
other nor  had ever met with each other and hence were ' perfect strangers'.

Once, they chanced to meet at 'Tirukkoyilur' accidentally. Feeling sleepy at
nightfall, Poigai Alwar found a small pial at the entrance of a house just
enough for a single person to lie down and sleep. After a while, there came
Budat Alwar who  requested permission to stay with him. Poigai Alwar
permitted him saying that the pial was sufficient for two people to just sit
down and spend the night. No sooner had they seated themselves, than came
there Pey Alwar also seeking a place to rest. It had by then started to rain.
The two earlier occupants accommodated the newcomer  saying that  the
threesome could stand  for the space was just enough for that and spend the
night. And, indeed  'three was company'

As they started to share their experiences in their itineraries, they found
that an invisible fourth person was  trying to turn the company into a crowd
by pressing them hard together in an obvious attempt to accommodate himself
in the already cramped space. The three Alwars found out in their divine
vision that the fourth person was none other than Lord Vishnu, who had
brought them together.

Poigai Alwar composed the first 100 verses starting with the words ' Vaiyam
Tagaliya, Varkadale Neyyaaga' ( the universe being the lamp and the oceans
being the lubricant). 
Vaiyam Thagaliyaa Vaar Kadale Neyyaaga / Veyyak Kadirone Vilakkaaaga / Sudar
Aazhiyaan Adikke Soottinen Son Malai / Idar Aaazhi Neengukave Enru /
" Lord Narayana is the cause of this wonderful universe and the seas; He
holds the divine discus; As a means to cross the miserable ocean of
'Samsara', I am dedicating this garland of verses. I had His vision in the
light of the lamp of earth, the lubricant ghee being the waters of the ocean.
The bright Sun is the one that sheds light on this."
Vaiyam : Universe, VaarKadal : The sea surrounding it, Thagazhi : Lamp,
Veyyak Kadirone : The hot Sun, Seyya : Beautiful, Sudar Aazhi : Lustrous
discus, SonMalai : Garland of words (verses), Idar Aazhi : ocean of misery (
Samsara)

Next, Budat Alwar sang the second 100 verses sarting with the words " Anbe
Tagaliya,  Aarvame Neyyaaga' ( with love as lamp and devotion as the
lubricant).
Anbe Thagliyaa Aarvame Neyyaaga / Inburugu Chintai Idu Thiriyaa /  Nanpurugi
Gnaana Chudar Vilakku Etrinen / Naaranarku Gnaana Thamizh Purindha Naan
"I  who wrote this song that bestows wisdom, with love as the lamp, endearing
involvement as the lubricant ghee, and knowledge as the wick of the burning
torch, dedicated myself to the service of the Lord"
Aarvam : Parabhakti-to feel the love of God intimately, Inbu : endearing

Lastly, Pey Alwar concluded by singing the third 100 verses starting with the
words ' Tiruk Kanden, Pon Meni Kanden' 
( I found the glorious, golden form of the Lord').
Tiruk Kanden Pon Meni Kanden- Thigazhum / Arukkan Ani Niramum Kanden- Seruk
Kilarum / Pon Aazhi Kanden Puri Sangam Kai Kanden / En Aazhi Vannan Paal Inru
On witnessing the glorious vision in which the entire universe was the very
body of Lord Narayana, the Alwar proceeds to describe all that he had seen. "
I have seen the glory of SRI, the consort of the Lord; I have seen hos
bewitching body that is azure in color as the sea; I have seen his brilliance
like that of the Sun; on his one hand, he holds his divine discus that
reverberates in the battlefield  and on the other he holds the divine conch.
Seru : Battle, Aazhi Vannan : One whose color is like that of the blue seas.

The verses were so constructed that the ending word of each verse became the
commencing  word of the next verse - a special kind of prosody characteristic
of Tamil literature called 'Anta Adhi' 'Anta' means 'end' and 'Adhi' means '
beginning'. The three works were thus called First Antadhi, Second Antadhi
and Third Antadhi respectively and set in motion the mellifluous flow of
Bhakti literature to follow.

Thanians on the three Alwars ( Dedication verses)
Thanian on Poigai Alwar is as follows:
Kaidai Ser Poompozhil Soozh Kachi Nagar Vanduditha / Poigai Piraan Kavignar
Per eru- / Vaiyathu Adiyaarkal Vaazha Arum Tamizh Nootrantaadhi / Paadi
Vilanga seidhan Parindu/
"The foremost among poets- Poigai Alwar was born in the Garden city of
Kanchipuram. With utmost compassion to redeem the devotees on the earth and
take them to the feet of the Lord, he composed the rare composition of 100
psalms in the Antaaadhi style" Por Eru : Like a great bull, Padi Vilanga : To
redeem the earth(ly beings), Parindu : Being compassionate

Thanian on Budat Alwar composed by Tiruk Kurugai Piran
En Piravi Theera Irainjinen Innamudhaa / Anbe Thagali Alithaanai- Nun Pugazh
Ser / Seedathaar Muthukkal Serum Kadan Mallai / Budathaar Ponnan Kazhal /
" I prostrate at the beautiful feet of Budat Alwar to secure redemption from
Samsara. It is he who gave us the insatiable nectar " Anbe Thagaliya"
pasuram; the one who is known for his ' Paragnaanan' - the supreme wisdom. He
was born on the shores of Mahabalipuram ( Kadan mallai) wher the cool streams
of the sea contain precious pearls"

Thanian on Pey Alwar
Seeraru Mada Tirukkovilur Athanul / Karaar Karu Mukhilaik Kaanap Pukku /
Oraat Thiruk Kanden Enru Uraitha Seeraan Kazhale Uraik Kandaai Nenje! Ugandhu
/
" O! My mind! On the corridors of the ramparts of the lovely Tirukkovilur
where reclines the Lord with the color of the rain bearing clouds.
Experiencing an intimate bonding with him, the great Pey Alwar has bequeathed
to us his psalm "Tiruk Kanden" in Antaadhi style. You can derive divine
ecstasy by concentrating on his holy feet"

Since he was one different from others, he was called ' Pey'. He represents '
Parama Bhakti' which means his intensity of the love of Lord was such that
without this Anubhava, he would die as a fish out of water.

The Divya Desams consecrated by the three Alwars
Poigai Alwar : ( 7) Tiruvarangam, Tiruvinnagar, Tirukkovilur, Tiruvekka,
Tiuvenkadam,Tirupparkadal and Paramapadam 
Budat Alwar : ( 13 ) Tiruvarangam, Tanjai, Tirukkudanthai, Tirumaliruncholai,
Tirukkoshtiyur, Tiruthankaal, Tirukkovilur, Tirukkachi, Tiruppaadakam,
Tiruneermalai, Tirukkadanmallai, Tiruvenkadam, and Tiruppaarkadal 
Pey Alwar (14) Tiruvarangam, Tirukkudantai, Tiruvinnagar,
Tirumaliruncholai,Tirukkoshtiyur, Ashtabuyakaram,Tiruvelukkai, Tiruppaadakam,
Tiruvekka, Tiruvallikkeni, Tirukkadikai, Tiruvenkadam, Tiruppaarkadal and
Paramapadam