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Hindu Tamil Saints:
Alwars and Nayanmaars of South India

Bakthi /Devotional Period in Tamil History

Sangam Age (that lasted till ca. 3rd century AD) is an important period for Tamil Literature. After this, during the next few centuries (Kalabhra Period) there was a lull in literary output. Then came a period of about four centuries (6- 10th C. AD) when a number of devotional or Bakthi literature appeared. There were many important saivaite and Vaishnavaite literature contributions. On a latter date, Nambi Andar Nambi and Nathamuni compiled respectively these saivaite and vaishnavaite literary works as "twelve thirumurais" and "naalayira divya prabhandam". Amongst many Tamil devotees who lived and contributed during this period, 63 saivaite ones (known as Nayanmaars) and 12 vaishnavaite ones (known as Alwars) stand out for their extreme devotion and dedication to God. Herein we list details of these Tamil Saints of this Bakthi period.

Alwars (Vaishnavaite Saints)

Alvar means one who is "immersed" in the experience of God, the omnipresent mysterious One. Tradition reckons 12 Alvars. They come from all walks of life and all strata of society and include in their ranks one woman. Between the fifth and ninth century, in the Tamil-speaking region of South India, these saints revitalized the Indian religious milieu, sparking a renewal of devotional worship throughout the subcontinent. Traveling from place to place, from temple to temple, from holy site to holy site, they composed exceedingly beautiful poetry to their Divine Beloved, Vishnu, as an expression of their love for Him. Anyone can see why their poetry was so attractive; at once both impassioned and philosophical, their words cut across all barriers of caste and class, attracting all to their faith. In doing so, they sculpted a new religious heritage of intensely emotional bhakti, or love of the Divine, whose impact is still felt today in the Indian religious life.
The Alvars composed approximately 4000 Tamil verses. In the 9th-10th centuries, the philosopher-saint Nathamuni went to extraordinary efforts to recover these verses from near oblivion. Nathamuni arranged them as the Divya Prabandham, or Divine Collection, set many of them to music, and rejuvenated the tradition of formally reciting them in temples.

Alwar Saint
(Period, Place)
Other names Month StarSign
Poigai Azhwar
7th C. AD, Kanchipuram
Saro-yogi, Kaasaara-yogi,
Poigai-piraan, Padma-muni, Kavinyarporeyeru
Aiypassee Thiruvonam (Sravana) Panchajanya (Conch)
Bhoodath Azhwar
(7th C. AD, Mylapore)
.. Aiypassee Avittam (Dhanishta) Kaumodakee (Mace/Club)
Pey Azhwar Kairava-muni, Maha-daahva-yaar Aiypassee Sadayam (Satabhishak) Nandaka (Sword)
Thirumazhisai Azhwar
(7th C. AD, Thirumazhisai)
Bhakthi-saarar, Bhaargavar,
Magisaaraapuriswarar, Mazhisai-piraan
Thai Magam (Magha) Sudarshanam (Discus)
Namma Azhwar
(9th C. AD, Azhwar Thirunagari (Kurugur))
Sadagopan, Sadaari, Paraankusun,
Maaran, Vakulaaa Baranan, Kurugaiyar-kone
Vaigaasi Vishaakam (Vishaaka) Vishvaksena (Commander)
Madhura Kavi Azhwar
(9th C. AD, Thirukollur)
Inkaviyaar, Azhwaarukku Adiyaan Chitthirai Chitthirai (Chithra) Vainatheya (Garuda)
Kulashekara Azhwar
(8th C. AD, thirvanjikkolam)
Kolli-kaavalan, Koodal-naayakan,
Koyikone, Villavar-kone, Cheyralar-kone
MaaseePunar Poosam (Punarvasu) Kaustubha (Gem Necklace)
Periya Azhwar
(9th C. AD, Sri Villiputhur)
Vishnu-chitthar, Patta-naadan,
Battar-piraan, Sri-Villiputthooraar, Sriranganaatha-Svasoorar
Aani Swathi (Swaathee) Garuda (Chariot)
(9th C. AD, Sri Villiputhur)
Choodikoduttha Naacheyaar, Godai,
Aadi Pooram (Poorva Phalguni) Bhoodevi
Thondaradippodi Azhwar
(8th C. AD, Thirumandangudi)
Vibranaaraayanar, Thirumandangudiyaar,
Bhakthangirirenu, Palliunartthiya-piraan
Maargazhi Kettai (Jyeshta) Vanamaalai (Garland)
Thirupaan Azhwar
(8th C. AD, Uraiyur)
Paanar, Muni-vaahanar,
Yogi-vaahanar, Kaveeswarar
Kaarthigai Rogini (Rohinee) Srivatsa
Thirumangai Azhwar
(8th C. AD, thirukurayalur)
Kaliyan, Aalinaadan, NaaluKaviPerumaal,
Arulmaari, Parakaalan, Mangaiyarkone
Kaarthigai KrithikaI (Kritthikaa) Saranga (Bow)

Naayanmaars (Saivaite Saints)

nAyanmAr refer to the 63 devotees (and 9 general devotees) of Lord Shiva who lived before or during the life time of Sundaramurthy Nayanar. Sundarar praised them all in the thiruththoNdath thokai, he sang at thiruvArUr. "periya purANam" of Cekkizhar talks in detail the life of these 63 devotees. It is important to note that these devotess come from very different background (caste, economic background, main work for living), stages of life (single, married or sanyasi) and include both male and female ones. Some were learned scholars while others did not have any formal schooling. The unifying factor is their extreme devotion to Lord Shiva, through which the bliss of His grace.

Saint Month Star
thirunIlakaNda nAyanAr thaivichAkam
iyarpakai nAyanAr mArkazi uththiram
iLaiyAnkudi mARa nAyanArAvaNimakam
meypporuL nAyanArkArththikaiuththiram
viraNmiNda nAyanArchiththiraithiruvAdhirai
amarnIdhi nAyanAr AnipUram
eRipaththa nAyanAr mAchi hastam
EnAthi nAtha nAyanAr purattAchi uththiram
kaNNappa nAyanAr thai mirugachIrcham
kuN^kiliyak kalaya nAyanAr AvaNi mUlam
mAnak kanychARa nAyanAr mArkazi svAdhi
arivAttAya nAyanAr thai thiruvAdhirai
AnAya nAyanAr kArthikai hastam
mUrththi nAyanAr Adi kruthikai
muruga nAyanAr vaikAchi mUlam
uruththira pachupathi nAyanAr purattAchi asvini
thirunAlaip pOvAr nAyanAr purattAchi rOhiNi
thirukkuRipputh thoNdar chiththirai svAthi
chaNdIcha nAyanAr thai - uththiram
thirunAvukkarachar chiththirai chathayam
kulachchiRai nAyanAr AvaNi anusham
perumizalaik kuRumba nAyanAr Adi chiththirai
kAraikkAl ammaiyAr paN^guni svAti
appUdhi adikaLAr thai chadhayam
thiru nIlan^akka nAyanAr vaikAchi mUlam
naminandhi nAyanAr vaikAchi pUsam
thiru nyAnychampan^dhar vaikAchi mUlam
EyarkOn kalikAmar Ani rEvati
thirumUla nAyanAr aippachi asvini
dhaNdiyadikaL paN^guni chadhayam
mUrgga nAyanAr kArththikai mUlam
chOmAchi mARa nAyanAr vaikAchi Ayilyam
chAkkiya nAyanAr mArkazi pUrAdam
chiRappuli nAyanAr kArththikai pUrAdam
chiRuththoNda nAyanAr chiththirai baraNi
kazaRiRRu aRivAr nAyanAr
(chEramAn perumAL nAyanAr)
Adi svAti
gaNa nAdha nAyanAr paN^guni thiruvAdhirai
kURRuva nAyanAr Adi thiruvAdhirai
pukazch chOza nAyanAr Adi kruththikai
narachiNka munaiyaraiya nAyanAr purattAchi chadhayam
adhipaththa nAyanAr AvaNi Ayilyam
kalikkamba nAyanAr thai rEvathi
kaliya nAyanAr Adi kEttai
chaththi nAyanAr aippachi pUcham
aiyadikaL kAdavar kOn nAyanAr aippachi mUlam
kaNampulla nAyanAr kArththikai kruththikai
kAri nAyanAr mAchi pUrAdam
ninRa chIr nedumARa nAyanAr aippachi baraNi
vAyilAr nAyanAr mArkazi rEvathi
munaiyaduyAr nAyanAr paN^guni pUsam
kazaRchiNka nAyanAr vaikAchi baraNi
idaNkazi nAyanAr aippachi kruththikai
cheruththuNai nAyanAr AvaNi pUsam
pukazth thuNai nAyanAr AvaNi Ayilyam
kOtpuli nAyanAr Adi kEttai
pUchalAr nAyanAr aippachi anusham
maNkayark karachiyAr nAyanAr chiththirai rOhiNi
nEcha nAyanAr paN^kuni rOhiNi
kOchcheN^kat chOza nAyanAr mAchi chadhayam
thirunIlakaNda yAzppANa nAyanAr vaikAchi mUlam
chadaiya nAyanAr mArkazi thiruvAdhirai
ichainyAniyAr chiththirai chiththirai
cundhara mUrthi nAyanAr Adi svAthi

Sundaramurthy Nayanar
8th C. One of the four Tamil Samaya Acharyas (four Tamil religious Teachers)

Thiru Neelakanta Nayanar
Lived in Chidambaram. Potter by caste. thai month, vicAkam

Iyarpahai Nayanar
native of Kaveripoompattinam. Vaisya by caste.
markazhi month, uthiram

Ilayangudi Mara Nayanar
A farmer who lived in a village called Ilayangudi
AvaNi month, makam

Maiporul Nayanar
A pious King who ruled over the hill tribes of Sethi.
karththikai month, uthithiram

Viralminda Nayanar
Vellala by caste. Lived in the hill town of Sengunru.
chiththirai month, thiruvathirai

Eirpatha Nayanar
born in Kaaruvur, on the banks of the river Ambiravathi.

Enadinatha Nayanar
A Shanar (toddy topper) born in Eyinanur in Chola Kingdom.

Kannappa Nayanar
Tinnanar, son of a hunters' King Nagan.

Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar
A brahmin born in Thirukadavur in Chola Kingdom; got the name because he always holding a pot (an incense pot)in his hand.

Manakanchara Nayanar
Lived in Kancharur in Chola Kingdom. A vellala by caste, a hereditary Senathipathi. A contemporary of Sundaramurthy Nayanar.

Arivattaya Nayanar
Lived in Kannamangalam in Chola Kingdom.

Anaya Nayanar
A cowherd in Mazhanad (Trichi district).

Murthy Nayanar
A vaisya king born in Madura of Pandya King. To adore Lord Shiva with sandalwood paste, smearing it all over the Lingam is regarded as a great form of worship by him.

Muruga Nayanar
Born in Tirupukalur. Contemporary of Gnana Sambandar.

Rudra Pasupathi Nayanar

Thiru Nalai Povar Nayanar

Thiru Kurippu Thonda Nayanar

Chandeswara Nayanar

Thirunavukkarasar Nayanar (Appar)

Kulichirai Nayanar

Perumizhalai Kurumba Nayanar

Karaikal Ammaiyar

Thiru Nalai Povar Nayanar

font color="blue">Appuddi Nayanar

Thiruneelanakka Nayanar

Nami nandi adigal

Thiru Gnana Sambandar

Eyorkon Kalikama Nayanar

Dandi Adigal Nayanar

Murga Nayanar

Somasira Nayanar

Sakkiya Nayanar

Siruppuli Nayanar

Siruthonda Nayanar

Cheraman Perumal Nayanar

Gananatha Nayanar

Kootruva Nayanar

Pugal chola Nayanar

Narasinga Muniyaraiyar

Adipattha Nayanar

Kalikampa Nayanar

Kaliya Nayanar

Satti Nayanar

Kanampulla Nayanar

Kari Nayanar

Ninra Seer Nedumara Nayanar


Vayilar Nayanar

Munaiyadavur Nayanar

Idangazhi Nayanar

Pugaz thunai Nayanar

Kotpuli Nayanar

Pusalar Nayanar

Nesa Nayanar

Kochangat Chola Nayanar

Thiru Neelakanta Yazhpanar

Sadaya Nayanar



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