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A Dialog on Hinduism - Chapter 2 - Post

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (MFPD_at_UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Date: Fri Apr 26 1996 - 09:38:31 PDT

Post 3 of 14
Chapter 2 of 13 of  "A Dialogue on Hinduism,"
Published by Sri Visishtadvaita Research Centre, C/O Sri
Ahobila Mutt, 66, Dr. Rangachari Road, Madras 600 018, 1990

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====Start of Chapter 2 of 13 from Sri Gopala Desikan's book=======

                       Chapter 2

                  Alwars and Acharyas

Q.   What is the importance of Guru or Acharya in our
     system of philosophy?

A.   To understand the proper meaning of Sastras is
     very difficult.  We have to properly interpret some
     of the texts, which seem to be conflicting with
     each other.  There are also inner meanings and
     secret meanings of the various mantras and slokas.

     So, all these things can be properly understood,
     only by learning under a Guru or Acharya.  So, the
     Acharya is most important, for properly
     understanding our religion and philosophy.

Q.   Before starting on the principles of our Vaishnava
     system, please tell me about our Gurus and their
     order (Guru parampara).  Who is our first Guru?

A.   Lord Narayana is our first Guru.  He taught Vedas
     to Brahma and Brahma in turn taught the Vedas to
     others.  Hence at the head of our line of Gurus is
     Lord Narayana.

Q.   Who comes next?

A.   Next in the line of Gurus is naturally our Goddess
     Mahalakshmi and then comes Vishvaksena or
     Senai Mudaliar. (This is a term of respect,
     traditionally used for denoting Vishvaksena  and
     not to be confused with the word, as used at
     present).  He is the controller of Vaikunta or

     Vishvaksena taught Nammalwar or Satakopa the
     philosophy of our system.

Q.   Who comes next after Vishvaksena?

A.   Nammalwar or Satakopa comes next.

     At this stage, can you briefly tell me about the
     Alwars, since you are now mentioning

A.   There are ten Alwars.  Some people include Andal
     and Madhurakavi and say there are twelve Alwars.

Q.   Why were they called Alwars?

A.   'Alwar' in Tamil means one who is immersed.
     Since these saints were always immersed in the
     Lord and His qualities, they were called Alwars.

Q.   When were they in this world?  What was their

A.   We say that they were in this world before and near
     the beginning of Kaliyuga.  That is more than 5,000
     years ago.  The modern research scholars say that the
     Alwars were between the sixth and ninth century

Q.   Can you briefly tell me about the Alwars?

A.   The first three Alwars are called Poigai Alwar,
     Bhutattalwar and Peyalwar.  All the three together
     are called the first alwars, because these three were
     the first in the line of Alwars and they lived during
     the same period.

     Poigai Alwar was born in the month of Aippasi in
     the Star Sravanam.  Bhutattalwar was born in the
     month of Aippasi in the Star Avittam and the
     Peyalwar in the same month, in the Star Sathaya on
     three successive days!

Q.   Where were they born?

A.   Poigai Alwar was born at Kanchipuram.  Tradition
     has it that he was born in a tank and hence is called
     Poigai Alwar. (Poigai = Tank).

     Bhutattalwar was born in Mahabalipuram and
     Peyalwar in Mylapore, Madras.

     I am not going into the life histories of the Alwars
     because that will form a separate book.  I will only
     deal with their places of birth and the month and
     star under which they were born.

Q.   Who came next?

A.   The next Alwar was Tirumazhisai Alwar.  He was
     born in Tirumazhisai near Madras, in the month of
     Thai in the star Makha.

     Then came Nammalwar or Satakopa.  He was born
     at Alwartirunagari in the month of Vaikasi and star
     Visakha.  Nammalwar is considered the chief of
     the Alwars.  He expounded the system of
     Visishtadvaita philosophy in clear terms in his
     works.  Hence he is given the greatest importance
     among all the Alwars.

     Madhurakavi, was his disciple.  Madhurakavi was
     born in Thirukkolur in the month of Chittirai, star
     Chitra also.

     Next came Kulasekhara Alwar.  He was born in the
     month of Masi and star Punarvasu His birth place
     is Vanjikkalam.  It is not clearly known as to
     where exactly this place is.  Some people say that
     it is Karur and some others say that it is in Kerala.

Q.   Who came next?

A.   Next was Perialwar, who was born in Srivilliputtur
     in the month of Ani and star Swati.  Andal was found
     among the Tulasi plants in Srivilliputtur in the month
     of Adi in the star Puram and was brought up by

Q.   What about the other Alwars?

A.   Thondaradippodi Alwar was born in
     Tirumandangudi near Kumbakonam in the month of
     Margazhi and the star Kettai.  Tiruppanalwar was
     born in Woriur, near Tiruchi, in the month of
     Karthikai and the star Rohini.

     The last among the Alwars was Tirumangai Alwar,
     who was born in the month of Karthikai and star
     Karthikai, in Kuraiyalur or Tirunagari near Sirkazhi.

Q.   Can you indicate briefly the works of the Alwars?

A.   Nammalwar was the author of four Prabandhas
     which form part of the sacred 4000 verses, called
     Divya Prabandha.  The Prabandhas of Nammalwar

     Peria Tiruvandadi

     The four works are equated to the four Vedas.
     Tiruvaimozhi, in particular, is called the essence of
     the Sama Veda.

     Poigai Alwar is the author of Mudal Tiruvandadi.
     Bhutattalar of Second Tiruvandadi and the Peyalwar
     of Third Tiruvandadi  each comprising 100 verses.
     Tirumazhisai Alwar  authored Tiruchanda Viruttam
     and Nanmukhan Tiruvandadi.  Madhurakavi
     authored  Kanninun Siruthambu.  Kulasekhara Alwar
     authored Perumal Tirumozhi and also Mukunda
     Mala in Sanskrit. (His authorship of Mukundamala
     is disputed by some people.)

     Perialwar authored Perialwar Tirumozhi.  Andal
     gave to the world Tiruppavai and Nachiar
     Tirumozhi.  Thondaradippoai Alwar  Tirumalai and
     Tiruppalli ezhucchi.  Tiruppanalwar Amalanadipiran.

     The last in the list of Alwars is Tirumangai Alwar
     who wrote six Prabandhas and these are equated to
     the six angas of the four Vedas of Nammalwar.  The
     six Prabandhas of Tirumangai Alwar are:

     Peria Tirumozhi
     Siriya Tirumadal
     Peria Tirumadal

Q.   Who is next in the line of Gurus, after Nammalwar?

A.   After Nammalwar comes Nathamuni, who was born
     in Kattumannar Koil near Chidambaram, in the
     month of Ani and star Anusham.

     His disciple was Uyyakkondar who was born in the
     month of Chittirai and star Karthikai, in Tiruvellarai.

     His disciple was Manakkal Nambi who was born in
     the village Manakkal, near Lalgudi in the month of
     Masi and star Makham.

     The next in the line of Acharyas is the great
     Alavandar or Yamunacharya.  He was the grandson
     of Nathamuni and was the disciple of Manakkal
     Nambi.  Alavandar was born in the month of Adi and
     star Uttaradam, in Kattumannarkoil.

Q.   Please tell me further the line of Acharyas.

A.   Alavandar's disciple was Peria Nambi who was born
     in Srirangam in the month of Margazhi and star

     Then comes the great Ramanuja.

     Afterwards, there are two lines.  There is one line of
     Acharyas of whom Vedanta Desika was the most
     prominent.  There is another line of Acharyas which
     goes on to Manavala Mamunigal.

     Ramanuja (1017 - 1137 A.D.) was born in
     Sriperumpudur in the month of Chitrai and star

     Vedanta Desika (1268 - 1369 A.D.) was born in
     Thoopul near Kanchi in the month of Purattasi and
     star Sravanam.

     Manavala Mamunigal (1370 - 1443 A.D.) was born
     at Sikkil Kidaram, in the month of Aippasi and star
     Mulam.  It is also said that he was born in

Q.   But I heard that Ramanuja had five Acharyas?

A.   Yes. 1. Peria Nambi was the chief or principal
     acharya.  Then Ramanuja learnt meanings of secrets
     (rahasyas) from 2. Tirukkottiur Nambi.  He studied
     Tiruvaimozhi under 3. Tirumalai Andan.  He learnt
     stotras, under 4. Alavandar Alwar and studied
     Ramayana under 5. Tirumalai Nambi.  Thus he had
     five acharyas.

Q.   What are the other names of Ramanuja?

A.   Ramanuja is also called Bhashyakara, Yatiraja,
     Udayavar, Emberumanar and Yatiswara.

Q.   Can you indicate briefly the works of these great

A.   Nathamuni gave us two works  Yoga Rahasya and
     Nyayatattva.  Alavandar gave to this world 8
     works.  These are:

     Agama Pramanya
     Purusha Nirnaya.

     Three Siddhis called Siddhi Trayam, namely, Atma
     Siddhi, Iswara Siddhi and Samvit Siddhi.

     Then Gitartha Sangraha, Stotra Ratna and Chatus

     The next great Acharya Ramanuja gave us nine
     works or nine gems.  These are: Sri Bhashya,
     Vedanta Dipa, Vedanta Sara, Vedartha Sangraha,
     Gita Bhashya, the three Gadyas, namely Saranagati
     Gadya, Sriranga Gadya and Vaikunta Gadya and
     then Nitya.

     The works of Vedanta Desika are more than 100 in

     They cover different fields like devotional stotras,
     kavya, drama, works on philosophy, and
     commentaries on great works.

     It is a wonder how a person could write so many
     works within a life span.  It is difficult for us even
     to read and understand all his works in a life time.

     What are the more important works of Sri Desika?

A.   All works are equally important.  I will give you the
     names of some of the works.

     Rahasyatrayasara is a book which gives in detail the
     inner meanings of the three secrets or rahasyas.  In
     the process, it expounds our Vaishnavite philosophy.
     It also dwells at length on the prapatti or saranagati
     as the means of attaining salvation.

Q.   What are the three secrets or rahasyas?

A.   We will discuss them later.

Q.   What are some of the other works of Desika?

A.   We have Tatparya Chandrika.  This is a lucid
     commentary on the commentary of Bhagavad Gita
     that was written by Ramanuja.  Paduka Sahasra
     describes the greatness and beauty of the paduka of
     Sri Ranganatha in 1000 verses.  Yadavabhyudaya
     gives the story of Sri Krishna.  The slokas of
     Yadavabhyudaya are full of grandeur and beauty and
     the lyrical value is something supreme.  It is because
     of the greatness of this work that it has been
     commented upon by Appayya Dikshitar, the great
     Advaita scholar.

     We have Sankalpa Suryodaya.  This is an allegorical
     drama, again explaining the Visishtadvaita

     We have the work Sata Dushani.  This contains
     arguments against Advaita philosophy.  As the name
     indicates, perhaps, it was intended to have 100
     arguments.  However, we now have only 66
     arguments left, all against Advaita Philosophy.

     We then have the devotional verses or stotras.  Some
     of these are: Hayagriva stotra, Dasavatara stotra,
     Bhagavad Dhyana Sopana, Gopala Vimsati.  Daya
     Sataka on Sri Venkateswara of Tirupati, Sri Stuti and
     Garuda Panchasat.

     Nyayaparisuddhi, Nyaya Siddhanjana, Adhikarana
     Saravali and Tattvamuktakalapa are works on our

Q.   What are the works of Manavala Mamunigal?

A.   He wrote beautiful commentaries on Perialwar
     Tirumozhi and Ramanuja Nutrandadi; on
     Mumukshuppadi, Tattvatraya and Sri Vachana
     Bhushana of Pillai Lokacharya; on Acharya
     Hridayam of Alagiamanavalapperumal Nayanar; and
     on Jnanasaram and Prameyasaram of
     Arulalapperumal emberumanar.

     He also wrote Upadesaratnamala, Arthi prabandha,
     Yatiraja  Vimsati and Tiruvaimozhi Nutrandadi,
     besides other works.

Q.   What about other Acharyas?.

A.   There are number of other Acharyas who have
     contributed significantly to Vaishnavism.  I will
     mention some of the Acharyas now.  You can refer
     to other books for fuller details.

     Kurattalwan wrote Panchastavas:
     1)   Sri Vaikunta Stava
     2)   Atimanusha Stava
     3)   Sundarabahu Stava
     4)   Varadaraja Stava
     5)   Sri Stava

     Tirukkurukaippiran pillan wrote commentary (6000
     padi) on Tiruvaimozhi.
     Kidambi Achan;
     Engalazhvan wrote commentary on Vishnu Purana.

     Parasara Bhattar wrote commentary on Vishnu
     Sahasra Nama (Bhagavadgunadarpanam), Sri
     Rangaraja Stava and Srigunaratna Kosa, besides
     Nanjiyar wrote commentary on Tiruvaimozhi (9000
     padi); and Sri Sukta Bhashya. (This is disputed by
     some people.)

     Vatsya Varadacharya (Nadadur Ammal) wrote
     Tattva Sara, Prapanna Parijata among others.

     Sudarsana Bhattar wrote Sruta Prakasika and Sruta
     Pradipika, both commentaries on Sri Bhashya.

     Appullar wrote Nyayakulisa.
     Periavachan Pillai wrote beautiful commentaries on
     Divya Prabandha, besides many other works.

     Vadakku Thiruveethi Pillai wrote Edu Commentary
     on Tiruvaimozhi (36000 padi).

     Pillal Lokacharya wrote 18 Rahasyas  the more
     important being Mumukshuppadi, Tattvatraya and
     Sri Vachana Bhushana.

     Alagiamanavalapperumal Nayanar wrote Acharya
     Hridayam, besides commentary on Tiruppavai and
     other works.

(Pillai is a term of respect, and not to be confused with the
present day use of this word.)