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Re: Alwars

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Fri Sep 29 2000 - 10:11:45 PDT

Dear Lakshmi,

There are many articles in the archives which debate this
issue. There are two opinions, both of which were expressed 
by the early acharyas themselves. In fact, the early acharyas 
didn't seem to be bothered with making a strict, academic 
distinction between the two concepts.

The opinion that the Alvars were samsAris who arose through
the gift of the Lord's grace is expressed explicitly in
Nampillai's and Periya-vaaccaan Pillai's commentaries (13th cent) 
on Nammalvar's Tiruviruttam.  Periya Parakaala Swami's commentary 
(17th cent) presents the other view and argues against this
position. What has resulted from this is that as we have it
today, the Vadagalai school's position is that the Alvars were
nitya-suris, and the Thengalai school's position is that they
were samsAris. However, I have heard people from both schools
express the opposite position, and I doubt that several centuries
back differences on this issue fell along kalai boundaries.

The best discussion of this debate that I have read is found
in Sri Uttamur Swami's introduction to his Tiruvaymoli urai
'prabandha-rakshai'. Both positions are outlined in a fair
manner.  Sri Uttamur Swami sides with the position that they
are nitya-suris, though I remain unconvinced for the same
reasons that you mention in your question.

Now a note regarding the 'ArAyirappadi guru-paramparA-prabhAvam'.
There is a section in all the published editions of the text
that discusses the divinity of the Alvars. This section is
known as the 'Divya-Prabandha PraamaaNya Samarthanam'. I received a 
note a while back from Sri M. Srinivasan, a student of the 
GPP 6000, about the authenticity of this section:

   This note is to let you know that the authorship of the Divyaprabandha
   PraamaaNya Samarthanam (DPS) is not to be attributed to Sri. Pinbazhagiya
   PerumaaL Jeeyar, according to well-respected Sri Vaishnava scholars.
   It is true that the DPS is included in the 6000-padi Guruparamapara Prabhavam
   (GP6000) and that the authorship of the GP6000 is definitely attributed to
   Sri. Pinbazhagiya PerumaaL Jeeyar. However, the DPS's authorship is attributed
   to later Acharyas than Sri. Pinbazhagiya PerumaaL Jeeyar.
   My copy of the GP6000 was published in 1906. It had three eminent scholars for
   its editors, the best known among them being Sri. Vai. Mu.
   Gopalakrishnamachariar. This edition has a footnote where the DPS begins. This
   footnote points out that the DPS was added by later acharyas according to
   'sampradaayam vallaar (experts on the tradition)'. It also notes, by way of
   confirming the expert opinion, that the DPS cites the name of Azhakiya
   MaNavaaLa Naayanaar, who came later in date after Sri. Pinbazhagiya PerumaaL
   Jeeyar thus making it chronologically inconsistent to attribute authorship to
   the jeeyar.

I refer you to these other articles which present both sides.

Hope this helps,

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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