” Alvars “ most of the people wil be reading this word for the first time.When we hear of Bhakti movement names of saints like Kabir, Tulsidas, Tukaram, Meera, Ravidas,Jaydeva etc comes to our minds.How much do we know about the saints of south India ? Alvars were the vaisnava saints of South India.We also have Saivaite saints known as Nayanmars, we will talk about them later. Today’s post is on Alvars.
Let’s start The word ‘Alvar ‘ means one who has gone deep in the knowledge of God, one who is immersed in the contemplation of him. These are the saints, for whom there is Joy in living, loving and serving. They were 12 in numbers who lived between 5th and 8th centuries A.D. Alvars sang the glory of the Supreme Deity in the Tamil hymns. They sang in total 4000 songs in 24 collections (prabhandham) known as “Divya Prabhandanam“. The order assigned to the alvars and their divine hymns is known as ” Sri Vedanta Desika.” Vaishnavas worship all the alvars with equal reverence and consider their hymns to be valid as Vedas. The hymns are intensely devotional in character and represent the spontaneous outpouring of their deep love and experience of God.These hymns are recited by vaishnavas during worship in temples and at homes on certain special occasions.
The order of Alvars acknowledged by the Sri Vedanta Desika are as follows
1. Pogai Alvar
2. Bhoothath/Putatta Alvar
3. Pey Alvar
4. Tirumalisai Alvar
6. Kulashekhara Alvar
8. Tondaradippodi Alvar
10. Tirumangai Alvar
12 . Madhurakavi
Andal was the daughter of Periyalvar and Madhurakavi was a disciple of Nammalvar. Now you happen to have some knowledge about Alvars, Let me present you their beautiful composition. The following compostions are of Nammalvar. But before reading it is said that don’t read the verses very fast, read each line very slowly and enjoy the essence of it.
The below verses speaks of Bhagwan Sri Narayan’s attachment to his Sharnagatas and Bhaktas
In the midst of the devotees is the Lord, and near them too;
To be far from his votaries, He cannot abide;
Like a child leaning on the (mother’s) waist , He would cling to His devotees;
He would force His way into their hearts;
He would rest on their shoulders, and enthrone Himself on their tongue !
He would be seen in the pupil of their eyes , and in the centre of their brow;
Yea, in the crown of their heads too!
— Thus, in the yogic mode – Prathyahara- Satakopa , the Sage visioned the Lord, Step by step, and shows us how he experienced the Union Divine!
The below verse shows how Bhagwan Sri Hari is the most easy to please.
No need to buy anything, to adore Him- (water, herb, leaf or flower will do);
Yea, no prescribed ritual too- any one can cherish him Him in his own way;
Strange, He is pleased with ever so little!
He is the Master charmed by our good feeling !
His greatness is ambrosia – sweet !
To the devotees who adore His feet, He is passing dear ;
Let them but once cherish Him, Salvation is sure for them !
He is rooted in Dharma and is its fruit as well !
In an instant, he would wipe out clear all our sins!
So Madhava (the Lord of Sri) is most easy to adore – Saith Satakopa
Another one Here
The pure of heart can find Him most ravishing;
He is the balm to all our ills and sins;
He is the perennial ambrosia, unsatiating;
He can never find an excuse to forsake us!
His desire to help us ever swells;
He will not let us even think of deserting Him!
Yea, He is unable to leave the heart of His devotees !
He is bound indissolubly with his votaries!
He removes all weariness from His bards !
Well then, Service to this Lord- wouldn’t it be ever so sweet?
P.S, The word ‘yea’ is old form of ‘Yes’. There are many books on Alvars. I have taken the above translations from Sri Vedanta Desika. There are many more beautiful compositions you can read them.