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Book Review from Hindu Newspaper: Sri Vaishnavism and its apostles

From: Mangala I. Kadaba (
Date: Tue Apr 21 1998 - 10:01:02 PDT

                             [THE HINDU]

                      Tuesday, April 21, 1998
                       SECTION: Entertainment

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            Sri Vaishnavism and its apostles

            Date: 21-04-1998 :: Pg: 23 :: Col: e

            THE VOICE OF ALWARS AND ACHARYAS: (Tamil- English) Dr.
            M. Varadarajan; Sri Ananth Publications, 14/86,
            Padmavathipuram, Tiruchanur Road, Tirupati-517503. Rs.

            The book under review is a collection of miscellaneous
            articles in English and Tamil on Vaishnavism in general
            and on Azhvars and Acharyas in particular, highlighting
            their contribution to the growth and development of the
            Vaishnava philosophy.

            The great mystic saints, popularly known as Azhvars,
            because they were deeply immersed in God and in His
            auspicious qualities, have recorded their ecstatic and
            soul-stirring outpourings in sublime and beautiful Tamil

            These divine compositions, collectively called as the
            Nalayira Divya Prabhandham, are fortunately made
            available to posterity, solely due to the missionary
            zeal and untiring efforts of Nathamunigal, the
            celebrated Vaishnava savant belonging to the ninth
            century A.D., who retrieved this treasure that was lying
            dormant for several centuries after the Azhvars.

            The credit for arranging and codifying the Divya
            Prabandham into four parts also goes to Nathamunigal,
            who can be compared, in this context, to Veda Vyasa, who
            had codified the four Vedas. Nathamunigal also set the
            Azhvars' compositions to music and taught them to his
            nephews, the musical tradition being carried down the

            In fact Nathamunigal was the first Acharya, after the
            Azhvars, who spread Vaishnava religion and philosophy.
            He was followed by a succession of great and dedicated
            Acharyas like Alavandar, Ramanuja, Parasara Bhattar,
            Vedanta Desika and Manavalamamunigal, all of whom
            further developed, enriched and established on a firm
            footing the Visishtadvaita system of philosophy.

            Other Acharyas like Nampillai and Periyavachanpillai
            also wrote elaborate commentaries on the Divya
            Prabandham bringing out its esoteric meanings, drawing
            parallels from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vishnu

            Apart from singing the praise of other forms of the Lord
            like Narasimha, Rama and Krishna, the Azhvars
            concentrated more on the Archa form of the Lord (icons)
            which one finds in temples; and the holy places so sung
            by the Azhvars are called Divyadesas, which are 108 in

            The author discusses in these articles, in greater
            detail, the various aspects mentioned briefly supra. The
            bridal mysticism of the Azhvars, which springs from
            their intoxicated love of God, is discussed in a couple
            of articles. The pre-eminence enjoyed by Andal and her
            Tiruppavai, even amongst the Azhvars and their
            compositions respectively, is well brought out in
            another article.

            Two articles in English and six in Tamil talk
            exclusively about Tirumala-Tirupati, the various rituals
            observed there, association of Acharyas with the holy
            place and anecdotes connected therewith. The nine- fold
            relation between the Jivatma and Paramatma is well
            brought out in another article. A couple of articles
            describe the scenic beauty and nature in its pristine
            glory, as portrayed by the Azhvars.

            The book, written in a simple and clear style, can be
            read with advantage for gaining a basic idea of
            Vaishnavism and its apostles. Spelling mistakes in
            English and Tamil, which are not infrequent, could have
            been avoided.

            V. N. Gopala Desikan

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