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Re: Azhwars

From: Mohan Sagar (
Date: Wed Feb 27 2002 - 20:51:01 PST

Dear Devotee,

It is my understanding that the definition provided by Sri Sadagopan and
Sri Madhavakannan is more in line with the accepted definition of the
term "AzhwAr." It is understood that this title, which only really
applies to twelve blessed souls, is derived from the Tamil root "Azh,"
which means "deep."  The term itself - which the noted Professor of
SriVaishnavam, Dr. Vasudha Narayanan, states was probably first used in
SriVaishnava literature by ThirukurukaipirAn pillAn - is used to
describe the mystical experience of the twelve saints, who "dove deep -
immersed themselves, if you will -  into their love for Sriman
Narayana."  Analogies of bathing are used quite often in AzhwAr poetry
to describe this bliss of devotional love, and therefore it seems rather
apt for them.

The number of azhwArs and their hymns was revelealed to us by our first
achAryan, Sri Nathamunigal, in the 10th Century C.E. through a mystical
vision that he had of Sri NammAzhwAr, the greatest among the AzhwArs and
the only one among these mystical saints who is regarded to be part of
our achArya paramparai (lineage of
teachers).  Through this vision, all of the 4000 verses of the azhwArs'
poetry were compiled by Sri Nathamuni, and later ordered, formalized for
ritual, and set to the unique musical tone that we hear traditional
scholars chant to this day.

While the history of India is filled with many saints, and many verses
to many deities, what makes the AzhwArs' poetry so unique is that it
clearly parallels the vEda in its content, and at times, even goes to
the point of clarifying the mysticism of the vEda itself.  Since the
vEdas are considered complete, so too are these Tamil verses in
clarifying them and in revealing divine truths in a vernacular that is
available to anyone.  Consequently, the number of the verses in the
divya prabhandam and the number of AzhwArs remains constant.

I hope this helps.

adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan

Rajaram Venkataramani wrote:

>  Let me restate my original question :
> The azhwars lived in different times. How is that the twelve were chosen to be named so ? Who did that  and when ?
> Yours humbly
> Rajaram V.

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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