Friday, May 6, 2016


The Mystic 12 Vaishnava Saints Of South India--Aazhwaars

(Compilation for a Discourse by N.R.Srinivasn, Nashville, TN, May 2016)

God, The all-powerful God with his Sakti accompanying Him, out of infinite compassion for their children as Universal Parents (Jagatah  Pitarah)  descends on  Earth periodically to  destroy  the evil, protected the pious and   restored Dharma. With his concern that such Avatars cannot be so frequent, they assuming the forms of Holy-men and Holy-women to resuscitate religion   and help people move forward pursuing the    path of Jnaana (divine Knowledge)   that  leads to  good and progress spirituality, come into this world frequently. To that class belong the 12 Azhwars and 63 Nayanmars. I often wonder why they  were all Tamils like me which makes me so proud though I have to wait  on the shores of Lithe  before I could have an entry and  have a  name!

Tamil Sangam Period (that lasted till ca. 3rd century AD) is an important period for the growth and development of Tamil Literature. After this,   there was a period lull in literary output and even many literary works were lost in a turbulent time.  Then followed a period of four centuries when the Tamil literature revived and progressed with royal patronage. In fact many kings themselves were literary figures who were mostly followers of Siva. It was   a period when Bhakti Marga (Hindu devotional School) got a boost moving away from the declining ritualistic Vedic Jnaana Marga as well as the   declining influence of religions that sprung out of Hinduism like Buddhism, Jainism etc.   There were many important Saivaite and Vaishnavaite literary contributions during this period.   At a later date   Nambi Andar Nambi and Nathamuni compiled respectively these Saivaite and Vaishnavaite literary works respectively as "Twelve Thirumurais" and "Naalayira Divya Prabhandam (NDP)". Amongst many Tamil devotees who lived and contributed during this period, 63 Siva worshippers  known as Nayanmaars and 12 Vishnu worshippers known as  Aazhwars known  for their extreme devotion and dedication to  the God they believed in came to lime light.  They were all raised to the level of demi-gods and their idols were installed in all South Indian Temples on a prominent platform at the very entrance. This later gave inspiration to worship all saints irrespective of their sex, caste, creed, race or language like Saibaba, Swami Narayan, Surdas, Kanakadas, Ravidas, Bhakta Kabir, Mira Bai etc. Here we will talk about Twelve Aazhwars.

The Azhwars are Twelve Srivaishnava Tamil/Malayalam poet-saints of South India belonging to the Hindu Devotional School (Bhakti) who  dedicated their faith and devotion  to Lord Vishnu, particularly the Eighth Avatar of Lord Krishna pouring their heart and soul  in their songs of longing, ecstasy and service. Azhwar is a Tamil word meaning “one who is deep in thoughts on the Lord Vishnu”, They are venerated especially in Vaishnava School of Thought and are considered as avatar of Lord Vishnu’ accessories as well as attendants.  You can therefore   invariably find their idols being worshiped in all Vishnu Temples in the South though they do not have separate sanctum as is for Ramanuja or Vedanta Desika and their birthday celebrated. They are also similar to Bhakti Vedanta followers who believe in Krishna as Parabrahman   or Supreme Being and not mere Avatar.

Many historians place the Azhwars’ period   between 5th century to 10th century CE. However their Dhyanslokas in scriptures indicate   Azhwars lived between 4200 BCE - 2700 BCE.  Initially they were ten only but later both Andal and Madhurakavi were added to the list.   Andal is the only female saint-poet in the 12 Azhwars whose deities are installed in separate sanctums and worshiped besides being present also in the assembly of Azhwars.    They are the counterparts of 63 Nayanmars of Saivism who are also Tamils.
The devotional outpourings of Azhwars composed during the period of early medieval Tamil History are contained in    Nalayira Divyaprabhndam, a collection of 4000 divine hymns.   It helped  to revive the  Bhakti School of thought  through their hymns glorifying    Vishnu and his Avatars. Saivism too believes in Avatar concept but more often than not    consider as instant forms of Siva warranted by the situation  to destroy the evil and bring in orderliness.  Azhwars have glorified 108 sacred spots in India all of them being in South India except a few and the temples situated in these places attract crowds made famous by their devotional songs (Azhwar Paadiya divya kshetram).  
“The hymns of Aazhwars describe   the devotee’s experience of the quest for and encounter with Lord Vishnu –often coming into his presence at one of the places sacred to him in the Tamil Nadu amid fertile field, on forested hillsides or prosperous towns. Those sites mentioned in the Aazhwars’ hymns came to be known in the later tradition as 108 divine places or Divyadesas. The places most often mentioned in the above hymns as the abodes of Vishnu are Srirnagam; Tirupati where Lord Venkateswara dwells; Kanchipuram, which is filled with numerous sites sacred to Vishnu. The hymns celebrate the God’s power and his unfathomable nature, his dark-hued beauty (karmeni) and his attachment to the Goddess Lakshmi. We also see a rich mixture of the images of Vishnu, drawn from both pan-Indian and Local Tamil   Traditions; there is the frequent mention of Vishnu’s Incarnations of Vamana, Narasimha and Rama—but the mythology of Krishna as the cowherd is particularly prominent. And especially Krishna, the lover” mentions Joan Cummins in his Book on Vishnu. 
The works of Azhwars stood mysteriously a replica of the Sanskrit Vedas alone, and therefore came to be known as Dravida Veda. Religiously devoted and orthodox Vaishnavites of the Tamil Nadu  feel that even the great  Rishis  are no match to the  greatness  of the  Azhwars because  these  Rishis  got their    wisdom (Jnaanam)  as a result of their  acquired 'spiritual  merit' ( Punyam) whereas the wisdom of the Azhwars was the  direct result of the Lord's divine grace and therefore  called ' Divyam'. They were all directly connected to Vishnu as his Vaibhavas (Vishnu’s weapons and decorations like Kaushubha, Vanamali and others) or glories or attendants Vishwaksena and Garuda. It is because of this that the works of Azhwars is called ' Divya  Prabandham' that are 4000   Paasurams (poems). 
“These works of Azhwars are unparalleled in every sense-- be it in sentiment,  style or  syntax. They  take  even a casual  reader  on a  guided  tour  into the  esoteric  exegesis of the Vedas without  offending the  provisions of exclusions  and prohibitions  enjoined in the study of the Vedas in original” says  Sri Anbil  Ramaswamy of USA. 
 The Paasurams were collected and brought out by one of the much revered Sri Vaishnava  Saint called Sriman  Naathamuni.       By divine grace  Sriman  Naathamuni could collect all the   Tamil  hymns  praising Lord Vishnu.  It is believed that Sriman  Naathamuni  heard  them from some devotees visiting   his home town of Veeranaaraayanapuram   or present day Mayavaram.
Perhaps due to historic turbulent period, much of these treasures should have been lost to humanity for a while,  if according  Tamil scriptures their living period even goes back to Dwapara Yuga.   It was given to the great   Naathamuni  to  retrieve  and  revivify them in their  pristine  glory for the benefit of  posterity.  The long-line of the lineage of preceptors who followed him kept the torch burning and handed them over to successive generations.  We can justifiably be proud of the rich heritage today.   Unfortunately they are in Tamil language spoken by a few and can be reached only through translations in English or through the religious discourses by the Tamil learned who are often English educated also.  Their biography can be briefly and crisply be reported by the individual Dhyana Slokas or meditational hymns to pay respect to them.
The Bhakti literature that sprang from Azhwars made religious devotees depend more on Tamil literature in their worship replacing the divine language Sanskrit.  Sanskrit is also hard for   Tamils. Of late they have almost neglected the study of Sanskrit but for a few like me. Tamil language can survive independent of Sanskrit. Later they added certain scripts called Grantha scripts to blend properly Sanskrit words and Vedic terms in their devotional songs thus enriching Tamil. In fact Malayalam can be called Sanskritized Tamil. One of the Azhwars, King Kulasekharan was a scholar in Tamil, Malayalam and Sanskrit.   Azhwars have    contributed to the establishment and sustenance of a culture that broke away from the ritual-oriented Vedic religion and rooted itself in devotion as the easy and sure path for salvation.    Azhwars are credited for establishing Pancharatra and Vaikhansa Sampradyas besides others  as well as bringing orderliness in the worship of Vishnu leading to Moksha.
Not all Azhwars are Brahmins by birth and include even a scheduled caste born Azhwar. Orthodoxy has accepted them as Gurus. When one is a Sthitaprajnya (man of steadfast mind solely focused on the Lord) caste considerations do not come into picture and they are Brhamjnyas (men with the knowledge of Brahman) far above Brahmanas.
Here are the Dhyanaslokas on each Azhwar, hymns to contemplate on them and  offer prayers to them. These are in Sanskrit Language.
Poigai  Azhwar
Tulaayaam sraavane jaatam kaanchaayaam Kaanchanavaarijaat |
dwaapare panchajanyaamsam saro myoginam-asraye ||
I take refuge in Saroyogi, who was born of a golden lotus in the month of Aswina(October-November) under the influence of the asterism Sravana (twenty second stellar mansion) in the Dwaapara Yuga in the city of Kanchipuram. Who is the incarnation of Panchajanya (the conch of Vishnu).
Bhuta Azhwar
Tulasravishthasambhootam bhootam kallolam-aalinah |
Teere phullot-palaaaan-mallapuryam-eede gadaamsakam  ||
I adore the saint Bhuta who was born in the month of aswina(October-November) under the influence of the asterism Sravishtha (twentythird stellar mansion) from within the blooming lotus as the manifestation of Kaumodaki (the Club of )Vishnu) at Mallapuri(Mahabalipuram) situated on the seashore.
Pey Azhwar
 Tulaa-satabhishag-jaataam mayoorapuar-kairavaat |
Mahaantam mahada-khyaatam vande sri –nandakaamsakam ||
Him I adore, that celebrated Mahatma. Who was born out of water-lily blossoming within a well in Mayurapura (Mylapore in Chennai), in the month of Aswina(October-November) under the influence of the asterism Satabhisha (twenty fourth stellar mansion) as a manifestation of Nandaka (rhe sword of Vishnu.
[These three Azhwars were born in Dvapara Yuga,   before 4302 BCE]
Tirumazhisai Azhwar
Makhaayaam makare maase  chakraamsam bhaargavodbhavam  |
Maheesaara-puraadheesam bhaktisaarama-aham bhaje ||
I worship Bhaktisaara, who was born as  the son of Bhaargva in Maheesaarapura (Tirumazhisai) in the month of Pausha (January-February)under the influence of the asterism Makha (tenth stellar mansion) as a manifestation of Sudarsana (the discus of Vishnu).
Sahaari Azhwar (Satharipu, Sahaari, Sathakopa, Parankusa, Nammazhwar)
Vaisaaakhe tu visaakhaayaam kurukaapuri-kaari-jam  |
Paandyadese Kaler-aadau sathaarim sainyapam bhaje ||
I worship Sathaari, the incarnation of the commander-in-Chief Vishwaksena of the army of Sri Vishnu, who was born in the beginning  of Kaliyuga as a son of Kari at Kurukapuri in the land of Pandya in the month of Vaisakha (May-June) under the influence of asterism Visaakha (sixteenth stellar mansion).
Madhurakavi Azhwar
 Chaitre  chitraa-smudbhootam Pandyadese khagaamsakam |
Sree paraankusa sadbhaktam Madhuram kavimaasraye ||
I take refuge in him, who was born in the month of Chaitra (April-May) under  the influence of the asterism Chitra (fourteenth stellar mansion)  as a manifestation of Garuda, the King of Birds, and who had great devotion to Parankusa   Sataharipu (Nammazhwar).
Kulasekhara Azhwar
Kumbhe punarvasubhavam Kerale Cholapattane |
Kaustubhaamsam dharaadheesam Kulasekharam-asraye ||
I take refug in King Kulasekhara (the ruler of Kerala). Who was born in Cholapattana (Tiruvanjikkolam) of Kerala. In the month of Magha (February-March) under the asterism Punarvasu (seventh stellar mansion) as the manifestation of Kaustubha (the gem of Lord Vishnu)
Jyeshthe  svaateebhavam vishnurathaamsam dhanvinah pure |
Prapadye svasuram vishnorvishnuchittam purah sikham ||
 I take refuge in Vishnuchitta (whose mind would ever remain permeated with Vishnu-   Consciousness) who was born at Dhanvinapura (Srivilliputtur0 under the influence of the asterism Swati (fiftent stellar mansion) in the month of Jyeshtha (June--July) as the manifestation of the nchariot of Vishnu, who was reputed  as the father-in-law of Vishnu (his daughter was married by Narayana Himself) and who belonged to the Brahmana community called Purahsikhah, (who wore tufts on the foreheads).
Aandaal or Goda
 Aashaadhe  Poorvaphalgunyaam  Tulaseekaana-udbhavaam |
Paandye viswambharaam Godaam vande Sree Ranganayakeem ||
Tondaradippodi Azhwar
Kodande jyeshthanakshatre mandangudipurodbhavam  |
Cholarvyaam  vanamaalaalaamsam  bhaktanghri-renum-aasraye ||
I take refuge in the greatest of devotees known by the name “Dust of the Devotees’ Feet” who was born under the influence of the asterism   Jyeshtha (eighteenth stellar  mansion) in the month of Agrahayana (December-January) as a manifestation of Sri Vishnu’s Vanamaalaa (garland   made of forest flowers  at Mandagudipura (near Tiruchirapalli) in the K`ingdom of Cholas.
I received the following write-up on   twelve Azhwars sent through courtesy IndiaDivine.Org for further propagation, I therefore thought of reproducing the same without going into detail on each one of them. I have talked on Andal, the only Tamil female saint at length. Though Ramanuja and Madhva do belong to the Azhwar category their contributions are far above Azhwars and their efforts to spread Vaishnavism through the length and breadth of India   needs exclusive  and exhaustive  treatment .  I have therefore given special discourses on all of them.  I hava also the privilege of adding the special write ups on Nammaazhwaar and Madhurakavi Azhwar by a religious scholar BRG Iyengar as appendices. My task in further  describing these twelve  Nityasuris or Parmahmsas (emancipated souls)  has been made easy by the following  courtesy dispatch by IndiaDivine.Org for further propagation.

Azhwars: The Mystic Vaishnavite Saints of the South India
Posted by Aarthi Kannan | Feb 17, 2016 |  IndiaDivine.Org
Azhwars (or Alvar) are the Vaishnavite saints who had composed a collection of 4000 hymns, called Nalayira Divya Prabhandham (4000 divine verses) in praise of Lord Vishnu and His many avatars.
These verses are called “Dravida Veda” ­ that is Vedas in the Tamil language! The word Azhwar, in Tamil, means “one who is immersed”. Since the azhwars were immersed in their devotion and love for the Lord, they were called so.The azhwars are twelve in number:­ 11 men and 1 woman, and they belonged to various castes, by birth. The only common thread amongst them all was their unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu.
The traditional view of the beginning of the timeline for the azhwars has been from the end of Dvapara yuga. The first three azhwars are said to have been born at the end of Dvapara yuga, just after Krishna departed from this earth.
1. Poigai Azhwar:
Considered as the first of the 12 azhwars, poigai azhwar was found in a pond (Poigai in Tamil) in the Yadhothakaari temple in Kanchipuram (near Chennai), hence he is called Poigai Azhwar. He is believed to have been born as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu’s conch,­ Panchajanya. He composed 100 songs in praise of the Lord.
2. Bhoothath Azhwar:
Bhoothathazhwar was found in a liquorice flower (Athimathuram in Tamil) in a pond at the Kadalmallai temple (at present Mahabalipuram near Chennai). Bhootham means one who is possessed. Since this azhwar was so possessed by his devotion to the Lord, he was called Bhoothathazhwar. He is believed to have been born as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu’s mace ­ Kaumodakee. He composed 100 songs in praise of the Lord.
3. Peyazhwar Azhwar:
Peyazhwar was born in Mylai (at present Mylapore in Chennai). He was found in a lily (Alli) flower in the pond of Sri AdiKesava Perumal temple. Like bhoothathazhwar, the name “Peyazhwar” also signifies one who was possessed by Lord’s devotion. Peyazhwar also composed 100 hymns in praise of the Lord.
4. Thirumazhisai Azhwar:
Thirumazhisai Azhwar was born to a saint named Bharghava Muni. He is considered to be an incarnation of Lord’s discus ­ Sudharshana Chakra. Since at birth, Thirumazhisai azhwar’s body was incomplete without any of the limbs, the parents left the baby at a nearby ditch. The Lord and His Consort appeared before the baby and blessed him with a complete body. He was then adopted by another person.
The adoptive mother then gave birth to another boy, named KaniKannan, who became an ardent disciple of Thirumazhisai Azhwar. Once the king ordered KaniKannan to leave the country as he refused to sing the praise of the King, citing his vow that he,­ just like his guru, will only sing the praise of the Lord. When KaniKannan readied to leave the country, Thirumazhisai Azhwar also left the country along with him. On their way out, they went to the Yadhothakari temple and told the Lord also to come along with them. The Lord rolled his mat (Adhisesha) and left along as well.
The King then repented for his mistake and requested them all to come back in his country. All three of them then returned to their original abode. Thirumazhisai Azhwar learnt Buddhism and Jainism as well. He became an ardent devote of Lord Shiva. Once he saw an old man who was planting a tree upside down. Upon inquiry, the old man said this is not more foolish than Thirumazhisai azhwar’s devotion to Shiva in search of Moksha as only Narayana can grant Moksha.
Azhwar then got this verified by Lord Shiva himself that the only Lord Narayana can grant Moksha. The person who changed azhwar’s mind to become a vaishnavite was none other than Peyazhwar. Thirumazhisai azhwar has sung 216 hymns in praise of the Lord.
5. Thirumangai Azhwar:
Thirumangai Azhwar was born in ThirukKuraiyaloor village, to a Chola chieftan, as an incarnation of Lord’s divine bow ­ the Saaranga. Thirumangai azhwar was named Neelan and was brought up as a brave prince, who eventually became the king of “Thirumangai” country. When he sought the hands of Kumuda Valli for marriage, she put forth two conditions:
1. 1008 devotees of Vishnu will have to be fed by them every day. 2. Their feet would be washed with water and that water will be sprinkled on Neelan and herself.
The king agreed to both the conditions and happily married Kumuda. Feeding 1008 people on a daily basis took its toll on Neelan’s finances, hence he became poor and couldn’t pay the taxes to the Chola king. To continue the service of feeding the devotees, Neelan took to mugging and theft. Once he tried to take away the jewels of a newly married couple, he faced a physical challenge in removing the groom’s ring from his finger.
While trying to remove the ring, Neelan asked the groom if he had some magical power to hold the ring back. The groom (who was actually Lord Narayana) told him the meaning of “Ashtakshara Mantra” ­ the supreme 8 letter mantra of Om Namo Narayanaya. On hearing this and on touching the Lord’s feet for removing the ring, Neelan’s mind gets corrected and he starts praising the Lord and His Consort ­ Lakshmi. The Lord then told him to go to all temples and sing in praise of the Lord.
6. Thondaradipodi Azhwar:
Thondaradipodi was born in a village named “Thiru mandaggudi” near Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, as an incarnation of Vishnu’s garland Vanamaala. He was born to a brahmin parents who named him “Vipra Narayanar”. He used to be so engrossed in his love for the Lord that he never paid any worldly attention to women.
Once two sisters who were dancers at the King’s court were passing through Vipra Narayanar’s garden,  while the latter did not even notice these beautiful ladies near him. The younger sister then vowed to gain his attention and his love. She faked her identity as a desolate woman and gained his confidence and trust. Eventually Vipra Narayana will fall in love with this dancer. She began to love him sincerely as well.
However, her mom was money minded and asked Vipra Narayana to gift her expensive ornaments/silverware in return for her daughter’s hand. Vipra Narayana returned to his hermitage with disappointment. The Lord decided to play a divine game here. He disguised Himself as a disciple of Vipra Narayana and went to the dancer’s mom with a huge silver vessel, claiming to have been sent by Vipra Narayana himself.
The next morning, the temple archakas found the temple’s silver vessel missing and traced it to the dancer’s mom who then pointed at Vipra Narayana as her source of the vessel. Before the King could punish them, the Lord appeared in the King’s dreams and explained the situation. The King then sent back Vipra Narayana with utmost respect.
Vipra Narayana spent the rest of his life as an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Vipra Narayana considered himself as lowly than the dust particle of a Vishnu’s devotee, hence the name Thondaradi podi azhwar. Thondar = devotee, adi = feet/sand on the feet, podi = small/lowly.
7. Thiruppaan Azhwar:
Thiruppaan azhwar was born in the Paanar (musician) caste in a village called Uraiyoor near Sri Rangam, as an incarnation of Srivatsa ­ the mole on Lord Vishnu’s chest.
Due to the erstwhile restrictions on people of certain castes, the Paanar people were not allowed to touch the Cauvery water or to visit the Sri Rangam shrine. So Thiruppaan azhwar used to stand across the other bank of the Cauvery River and sing praises on Sri Ranganatha. Once Sri Ranganatha came in the dreams of a devout Brahmin Loka Saaranga Maha Muni, who used to bring Cauvery water for Lord’s Holy bath  and asked him to carry Thiruppaan azhwar on his shoulders the next day.
Despite huge protest by Thiruppaan azhwar, Saaranga Muni forced him to get on to his shoulders and carried him to the Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple. The world got to know the intent of the Lord (that caste doesn’t matter when it comes to devotion and attaining Lord’s affection).
8. Periyazhwar: Periyazhwar was born in SriVilliputthur in Tamilnadu, as an incarnation of Garuda,­ Lord Vishnu’s vehicle. He was raised with great stories from Krishna Avatara and other avataras.
Once the King of Madurai had a doubt regarding his next life ­ “if he wanted to have a good next life, what should he be doing about it?”
He announced huge prize money for someone who could give him a satisfactory answer. Lord Vishnu came in Periyazhwar’s dreams and asked him to go to the King the next day. Periyazhwar went to the King and explained how surrendering one’s ego, wealth and anger and show dedicated devotion to the Lord will fetch salvation. The King was overjoyed on hearing this response and gave the prize money to Periyazhwar and also named him “Pattarpiraan”.
Periyazhwar dedicated the money to Lord Narayana and continued his garland service to the Lord.
9. Sri Andal:
Andal was the adoptive daughter of Periyazhwar. Lord Vishnu’s consort Bhoo devi incarnated as Andal.
She was found near a Tulsi plant while Periyazhwar was tending to his garden. Her childhood was filled with stories of Krishna’s mischief, childly play and also divine powers. Periyazhwar used to make a garland for the Lord every day. Andal used to wear it on herself, check in the mirror as if talking to Krishna and then send it with Periyazhwar ­ all this was happening without Periyazhwar’s notice.
Once Periyazhwar came to know of this act of his child, he begged the Lord to forgive both of them and that he would bring a fresh garland then and there. The Lord however refused to wear the garland not worn by Andal! Such was the Lord’s affection towards this child! By the time Andal grew up, she had determined to get married to the Lord only. She sung verses by dreaming up her marriage with the Lord. She did a “Paavai” ritual during the month of Margashirsha­ getting up very early in the morning, gathering all her friends (pretending to be gopikas!), go to the river and pray to the Lord.
Each day she sung hymns to wake her friends up and in praise of the Lord. The collection of those 30 hymns are known world over as Thiruppaavai. At the end of the paavai ritual, Lord Ranganatha came in the dreams of Periyazhwar and asked him to bring Andal to his temple the next morning. Andal went with Periyazhwar to the temple and the Lord accepted her as His own wife!
10. Nammazhwar:
Nammazhwar was born as incarnation of Vishwaksena (Vishnu’s commander), in the Vellala tribe of Thirunelveli.
As a child, Nammazhwar never ate or spoke or even opened his eyes. His distraught parents left him near a temple. He crawled by himself and sat under a tamarind tree, where he would sit and meditate for 16 years. He was finally made to speak and made to lecture on dharma sashtras by MadhuraKavi azhwar, who became his disciple. Nammazhwar was named so, by Lord Ranganatha himself who called him “Namm Azhwar” ­ meaning “my devotee”!
After the life of Nammazhwar, for 100s of years, Sri Vaishnavism went into a decline, eclipsed by Buddhism, Jainism etc. It was Nammazhwar who handed over the 4000 hymns of Divya Prabhandham to NadhaMuni whose disciples/lineage until Sri Ramanuja would later spread the divine hymns to the world.
11. Madhurakavi Azhwar:
Madhura kavi azhwar was born as incarnation of Garuda, Vishnu’s vehicle, in a village called Thirukkolur. Madhurakavi azhwar is different from the remaining azhwars that while other azhwars held on to Lord Vishnu as their only way to salvation and praised Him in their songs, Madhurakavi azhwar always held on to his Guru Nammazhwar as his only way to salvation and praised him in the songs!
Madhurakavi azhwar was once visiting Ayodhya temple and he suddenly saw a bright light across the sky. He kept following that light until he found the source of the light under the Tamarind tree (the place where Nammazhwar was seated), as mentioned above. He would then ask Nammazhwar questions on philosophies and devotion, and eventually become the disciple of Nammazhwar himself.
12. Kulasekara Azhwar:
Kulasekara azhwar was born as incarnation of Kaustubha,­ Lord Vishnu’s chest jewel. Kulasekara azhwar was born to the Chera King and was brought up with warrior training as in any other prince of the time. However, he was also a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.
Once he heard the story of Sri Rama from an old saint and asked his warriors to get ready for a war with Raavana! Once the saint told him that the war is over and Sri Rama won the war single­handedly, Kulasekara azhwar asked his warriors to get back to their places. The ministers were not happy with this behaviour of their king who would easily be carried away by Vishnu devotees. Hence they devised a plan and stole Lord Vishnu’s jewels and put the blame of the devotees.
Kulasekara azhwar, unable to believe their story, asked for a pot of snakes to be brought. He announced to his ministers that he would be putting his hand in to the pot. If the jewels were indeed stolen by devotees, let the snakes bite him. If not, he will escape without getting hurt. Kulasekara azhwar put his hand into the pot and came out unhurt. His ministers then accepted the truth and begged forgiveness from the King and from the devotees as well. Kulasekara Azhwar remained a faithful devotee to the Lord for his lifetime.
The lives of the holy people like Azhwars and Nayanmars, who are liberated souls, are always consecrated to the welfare of the many that are     born on earth to improve themselves in their holy assembly in each birth. This is why searching for them, seeking them and follow their advice is immensely beneficial. By knowing and following the path discovered by these great ones by their deep and constant  meditation on the good of all living beings, one can live one’s  happy    life  (Preyas)  here on earth  leading a Pravritti Marga and also move forward to   Nivritti Marga that leads to Sreyas (Eternal Bliss).  They have the practical experience who have undergone long struggles in many human births and in the struggle achieved success as well. Then,  is it not the paramount duty of all intelligent people to benefit  from the life stories of the great ones, the message  which brings good things to life  in this world and the next too?

Madhura Kavi Azhwar
(Courtesy:  Adapted from SriRangaSri, USA)
Madhura Kavi Azhwar is an Avatar of Garuda and was born in Dwapara Yuga. Isvara Samvathsara, Chittirai Tamil month, Sukla Ekaadasi Friday, when the Chitrai Nakshathram was in ascendance. He was born in the sacred city of Thirukkoloor to a Purva Sikhaa (front tuft) Brahmin couple. Lord Krishna was still in Dwaraka at that time. Madhura Kavi mastered his branch of Saama Veda   and went thereafter on a sacred pilgrimage to Northern part of India. He was at Ayodhya during this trip and one night he saw a bright light in the southern sky. He travelled south by night to find out more about this extraordinary light.  Madhura Kavi traced this divine light as arising from a sixteen year old Nammaazhwaar lost in deep yogic trance under a tamarind tree inside the temple of Thirukuruhoor Aadhikesava   deity.
Madhura Kavi was intrigued at the stillness of Nammaazhwaar, who had no interaction whatsoever with the outside world. Nammaazhwaar was taking no food or water. Madhura Kavi stood with folded hands before this still Nammaazhwaar and asked him the question: " If the soul born of Matter (settathin Vayadil siriyathu piranthaal), what will it eat and where will it rest (yetthai thinru yengu kidakkum?). Nammaazhwaar woke up from his trance on hearing this question and answered: "It eats That and there it rests (Atthai thinRu angE kidakkum)". Madhura Kavi immediately realized that Nammaazhwaaar was "eating "-- the Divine-spoken of by Upanishads as the food of mystics-- (atthai thinRu) and was living in that Divinity (angE kidakkum), even if he had taken birth in the mortal body (Setthathin Vayitrir) as "a siriyathu" (jeevan).  Nammaazhwaar was describing that emancipated souls are rooted in God and that God is its food, water, breath, mind and bliss. This profound statement made Madhura Kavi realize the greatness of Saint Nammaazhwaarand and begged for acceptance as a disciple. Saint Nammaazhwaar initiated Madhura Kavi into Bhakthi (devotion)  and Prapatthi  (submission to the Lord) paths  and taught Madhura Kavi all his divine aphorisms. The elated and fulfilled Madhura Kavi took refuge at the sacred feet of Saint Nammaazhwaaralone and treated him as his Everything --Sarvam (Father, Mother, Master and God). Madhura Kavi spent the rest of his life serving Saint Nammaazhwaar and singing his Divya Prabhandhams (divine Hymns) and spreading the message Saint Nammazhwaar to the world. Madhura Kavi has immortalized his Acharya(Guru) Bhakthi in a prabhandham known as "Kanninunn Sirutthaampu", which is known for its celebration of  devotion to Guru (Acharya Bhakti).  Nalaayira Divyaprabhandam contains only eleven Hymns (Paasurams) contributed by Madhura Kavi Azhwaar,
Madhura Kavi was born before Saint Nammaazhwaar , when Vishnu had incarnated as  Lord Krishna  and He was ruling from Dwaraka.  This was at the end of Dwaparta Yuga.  Saint  Nammazhwwaar was born on the 43rd day of Kali Yuga  that follows Dwapara Yuga. While the Lord was in this world, Madhura Kavi did not elect to seek Him out, but waited and sought refuge later at Saint Nammaazhwaar’s feet deliberately. He sought all the ten anugrahams normally granted by the Lord from his Achaaryan(Guru) Swamy Nammaazhwaar, since Achaaryan was everything for Madhura Kavi and he restricted all his sambhandhams to his Achaaryan. The aasrayaNam of his Achaaryan was the only thing that mattered to Madhura Kavi. He performed upadesam for us that without AchArya Sambhandham and AaasrayaNam, Bhakthi and Prapathti would not become fruitful. As a tathtva Jn~Ani, Madhura Kavi practised the truism, "AchAryavatthayA mukthou" (because of having a SadAchArya sambhandham  alone one gains  Moksha Siddhi.  Swamy Desikan thus summarized in his inimitable way the essence of Madhura Kavi's ten paasurams and the noblest of paths advocated by him for our ujjeevanam (spiritual upliftment)>
Even when Krishna Paramaathmaa was living at Dwaraka i during his (Madhura Kavi's) lifetime, he did not seek Bhagavan's feet for Prapatti based on his conviction that he has to approach the Lord through a sadaachaaryan (Sadguru) and hence he waited for Swamy Nammaazhwaar's avatar  to perform Prapatthi at His sacred feet. He considered thereafter that his Achaaryan's sacred feet alone are his Taaraka-Poshaka Bhagyam and performed uninterrupted Kainkrayam (services)to his Achaaryan. Through this act, Madhura Kavi showed the world the ancient, auspicious and safe route (Tholl Vazhi) of Achaarya Bhakthi (Gurubhakti) even over Bhagavata Bhakthi (devotion to holy assembly). Madhura Kavi thus pointed out that even with the greatest Bhakthi to Bhagavaan, those who do not approach Him through a Sadaachaaryan (Guru) will not be redeemed. Madhura Kavi gave us this very important doctrine for the first  time through his “nee mun Kooriya” (as you said before)   Prabhandam.  

(Through courtesy from the author B.R.G. Iyengar, Bengaluru, India)

Bhootham Sarascha, Mahadahvaya Bhattanatha
Sri Bhaktisara Kulashekhara Yogivahaan 
Bhakataangrirenu Parakala Yateendra mishraan,
Srimat Paraankusa munim pranatosmi nityam. ||           

Nammalwar is the most celebrated mystic saint of Srivaishnava tradition.He occupies an important place.  in the lineage of Guruparampara  in the order SrimanNarayana, Mahalakshmi  Vishvaksenar, Nammaazhwaar, Nathamuni, Pundarikaksha (Uyyakkondar), Sriramamisra (Manakkal Nambi), Yamunacharya (Alavandar), Periyanambi, Ramanujacharya.

He is hailed as Prapannajanakootastha (the ancestral forbear for those who have surrendered to the Lord).  Nammazhwar acts as the connecting link between Vishvaksenar and Nathamuni, who is considered as the first Srivaishnava Acharya.

Here is an account of Nammazhwar’s life and works. I would like to refer to my earlier notes”Azhwaars” and  “Madhurakavi Azhwaar “ in this connection..

The word Nammazhvar is a combination of the two words, ‘”Nam+Azhwaar” (“Our Azhwaar”). It is the name given to him by Lord Ranganatha.
Nammazhwar is also known by several other names--
Maran – one who is different from the rest;
Parankusha – one who was like a goad to the rivals i.e., the worldly minded people;
Kurugur Shatakopan;
Vakulabharana- since he is said to have been fond of the Vakula flowers
Kaarimaaran--Since he was the son of Kaariyar.
Shatakopa, Shataari, Shatavairi, Shatajit –One who conquered air of ignorance
The Shataari placed on the heads of devotees in Vishnu temples is supposed to be the feet of Nammazhwar.  
Thirukuruhoor (Also called Azhwaar Thirunagari) is near Thirunelveli.

The presiding deity here is Adinatha.  The Teertha is called Brahma Teertha. The Sthala Vruksha   is theTamarind tree (Puliyamaram in Tamil). The leaves of this tree do not close even at night and, hence it is also called “Urangaa Puli Maram”(“The unsleeping Tamarind”). It has seven branches. It is believed that the tree is an incarnation of Adi Sesha. It is in the hollow of this tree that  Nammaazhwaar sat in meditation for sixteen years.

Kaariyar and Udayanangayar belonging to Vellalar tribe in Thiru kurugoor were devotees of Lord Adinatha.  Adinatha is one of the Avatars of Vishnu celbrared in Srimad Bhagavatam who later founded Jainism. They were childless for a long time.  They prayed to Lord Adinatha for progeny. Lord Adhinatha assured them that His amsam (part) would be born to them.  Subsequently Lord Vishwaksena took birth with divine glory. It goes without bsaying Vishwaksena about nwhom I have talked before was also a part of Lord Adinatha.

He took his birth on the 43rd day of Kali yuga on Friday, under the star Vishakha, on Sukla paksha, Chathurdashi, in Kataka lagna, in the month of Vrushabha , in Vasantha ruthu, in the year Pramathi. The child was extraordinary. It sat silently   with eyes closed, in padmasana posture- in perfect health, without taking any food or even water.   Distressed at this, the parents placed the child at the shrine of Adinatha, submitted to him in reverence and placed on him the   burden of bringing up the child. As already stated Nammazhwaar sat here for sixteen years.

Madhurakavi, a great scholar, once was on a pilgrimage to Divyakshetrams in North India. While staying in Ayodhya, he saw a bright light in the sky, coming from South.  It continued for three nights.   He then started following the light beam. This led him to Azhwarthirunagari. There, the light suddenly disappeared. He asked the local people whether there was anything special happening in the village. The villagers said that a child had been sitting under a Tamarind tree for the past sixteen years with closed eyes in a meditation posture, and, without taking any food or water.

Madhurakavi went to the tree. He found the child in meditation.  He wanted to test if the child would react to any external disturbance.  He made noise by dropping a stone in a nearby water puddle. The child slowly opened its eyes. Madhurakavi put a cryptic question to the child.
“Sethathin vayitril siriyadhu pirandhal; etthai thindru engae kidakkum?” (If in the womb of a dead thing, a subtle entity is born, what will it eat and where will it rest?”
The child gave the cryptic answer: “Atthai thindru angae kidakkum” (“It will eat that and rest there itself”)..  

 Madurakavi  immediately recognized that the child was no ordinary person; surely should be a a part and parcel  of the Lord.

The dead thing referred to is Prakriti or material nature since it has no life. The subtle entity that is born in its womb is the individual soul (jiva). A living being is conceived in matter and is born therefrom. The living being eats matter and lives in it.

Madhurakavi  fell at Nammalwar’s feet and became his disciple (Though he himself was older in age and belonged to a higher Varnam), and, stayed  with him.  He wrote down the Diyaprabhandam as   sung by Nammazhlwar.

In his brief lifespan of 35 years, Nammaazhwaar sang four immortal compositions  as the Tamil-version of the four Vedas – Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva.


This constitutes the essence of Rig Veda. Thiru means Sri. Virutham is a style of poetry. Virutham literally means an event. The event of falling in love with the Supreme Being is narrated poetically. Bridal Mysticism is symbolized in a mellifluent way. It is a poem of 100 stanzas


This constitutes the essence of Yajurveda. It is a poem in seven sections.  In all, it has 71 lines.


This constitutes the essence of Atharva Veda. It is a poem of 87 lyrical stanzas. The style is simple and direct.

Thiruvoimozhii (literally means Divine words)

This is the magnum opus of Nammaazhwaar —the treasure of Vaishnavism.   It consists of 1102 four lined verses or Paasurams in ten decads (Pattus).  It is also called Bhagavadvishayam. Considering that it may not be practical to recite this entire text, important decads (Dashakams) from this are taken and compiled as Koil Thiruvoimozhi (The decades are 1-1,1-2,2-10,3-3,4-1,4-10,5-8,6-10,7-2,8-10,9-10,10-9,10-10)

Nammaazhwaar has special praise for Thiruvengadam. (Reference Thiruvirutham1-8 and   Three decades of Thiruvvoimozhi 3-3,6-6 and 6-10) Krishna(Kannan) is his ishta deiva. (Pasuram 6-7-1).

At the very thought of the birth and beauty of Sri Krishna, the Azhwar used to go into deep trance for days together.

Nammaazhwaar knew no one other than Bhagavaan true to his Paasuram ' Unnum Shorum, Parugum Neerum, Thinnum Vetrilayum Ellaam Kannane'-

(The food we eat, the water we drink, the betel we chew (Figurative for pleasures of life) are all Kannan.
Since he was all the time absorbed in deep meditation, Nammaazhwaar could not go Divya- desams to sing his praise of the deities there.  All the deities of these Kshethras came and presented themselves in his yogic vision, and, Nammaazhwaar sang verses in praise of these deities.
People who have learnt Vedas are dear to the Lord.  To help those not eligible to learn Vedas, Nammaazhwaar rendered Vedas in Tamil. Hence, he is known as ‘Vedam tamizh seitha Maaran’.
For those, who cannot learn to recite even this Thiruivoimozhi he took the form of the Paadukas of the Lord. (Shataari).
Nammazhwaar looked for people with whom he could share the Lord’s gunaanubhavams. He was disappointed when he saw people  were after earthly pleasures and had no inclination towards Godhead.   He said ‘Sonnaal virodham idhu; aagilum solven, kenmin’ (If I tell you the truth, you will feel bad; but I will still tell;  Listen!)
Nammaazhywaar’s compositions are rated very high both from philosophical and literary angle.  Kamban has hailed Nammaazhwaar as the King of Verses.
The story goes that Tamil  Sangam poets were against praises being showered on Nammaazhwaar who was  not affiliated to the Sangam.  Madhurakavi felt very sad that his Acharya was not given due respect.  Nammaazhwaarer told Madhurakavi not to worry, and asked him to place a bark leaf with Nammaazhwaar’s  Kannan Kazhalinai........." written on it in the   boat in which the poets were sailing. The boat capsized. All the poets were thrown off but the leaf was unaffected. The poets were startled at this. Each of the poets who swam ashore composed a dedicational verse quoted below, acknowledging the greatness of Nammaazhwaar.  When these were published, it turned out that all of them were identical. The verse reads thus :

" Seman Kurugaiyo Seyyat Thirup Paarkadalo?
Thaamam Paraankusamo? Naaranamo?- Thaaman
Thulavo? Vagulamo? Thole Irando? Naangum
Ulavo Peruma Unakku ? "

Further, the Sangam published a verse (Quoted below) praising the superiority of Nammaazhwaar compared to other poets ( comparing flies to Garuda; fire flies in the presence of the Sun; dogs before the tiger; wolf before Narasimha; goblins  before nymph; In essence- all the works of all the other poets put together  can never match even  a single utterance of Nammaazhwaar

The Verse reads as follows :-

" Yee Aaduvatho Garudarku Edhirae? 
Iravikku Edhir Minmini Aaduvatho ?
Naay Aaduvatho Uru Vempuli Mun?
Nari Aaduvatho Nara Kesari Mun?/
Pey Aaduvatho Azhagu Oorvasi Mun?
Perumaan Vagulabharanan Arul Koorndhu
Ovaadhu Uraiyaa Biramaa Maraiyin
Oru Sol Perumo Ulagir Kaviye? ?

Madhurakavi was choked with emotion when he saw Nammaazhwaar merge into the Lord.
He was presented a gold idol of his Acharya.  He consecrated it at the tamarind tree.
He performed daily worship to his Acharya, even to the exclusion of the Lord.
Tirumangai Alwar commenced the Adhyayana utsava, at Srirangam, in honor of   Nammkaazhwaar.

The following thanians/slokas bear testimony to Nammalwar’s greatness:

Parashara bhattar

Vaan thigalum solai madhil arangar vaan pugal mey
Aanra thamil maraigal aayiramum- enra
Mudhal thai Satagopan moymbal valartha
Edhat thai eramanujan

(1000 verses of Thiruvoimoli are the vedas which declare the auspicious qualities of  Ranganatha. The natural mother is Shatakopan and the foster mother is Ramanuja, since he based his entire kalakshepams on Thiruvoimoli).

Mikka irainilaiyum meyyam uyir nilaiyum
Thakka neriyum thadaiyaagi -thokkiyalum
Oozh vinaiyum valvinaiyum odhum kurugaiyor kon
Yaalin isai vedaththiyal.

(The Tamil Vedam composed by  Nammaazhwaar contains the five realities namely:
1. the nature of the eternal paramatma
2. the nature of the eternal jeevatma
3. the means for the jeevatma to attain the goal of paramatma
4. the blocks and hurdles on the way and
5. the goal of life i.e moksha.

Tribvute by Alavandar

Maathaa pithaa yuvathayasthanayaa vibhoothi:
Sarvam yadheva niyamena madhanvayanam
Adhyasya na: kulapathervakulabhiramam
Srimatthanghri yugalam pranamami moordhnaa

Nammalwar is mother, father, progeny, spouse and all other wealth. At the thiruvadis of the emperor of our kulam Nammalwar adorned with the most fragrant divine vakula flower garland, I salute those holy feet with my head.

Tibute by ManavaalaMaamunigal

"Eraar vaigaasi visaagathin etrathai
paaror ariya pagargindren
seeraarum vedham thamizh seydha
meyyan ezhil kurugai naadhan avadharitha naal"
"undO vaigaasi visaagathuku opporu naal
undO sadagoparku opporuvar
undO thiruvaaimozhikoppu
then kurugaikundo orupaar thanil okkumoor"

Nammazhwaar’s   appearance was prophesied in Brahmanda Purana and Bhavishya Purana.

Bhavishya Purana says, “In the beginning of kali yuga, when the full moon conjoins with Vishaka star, Vishwaksena, the commander in chief of Lord Vishnu’s ganas, will personally incarnate (as Nammalwar) in order to revive and teach (the importance of) devotion to the Supreme Lord.”

The Brahmanda Purana says, “Hrishikesha (one who has conquered his senses) will himself be seen in a town called Thirunagari on the banks of Tamraparni river in the Pandya land.”

The Brahmanda Purana refers to Nammalwar as Hrishikesha because he had prevented Shata-vayu from affecting him and had controlled his senses completely.

According to popular belief Shata-vayu is a type of air that takes away God consciousness from a baby as soon as it is born and binds him in the dualities of material life. Even according to the scriptures, every child sees the Lord when he is in the womb of the mother and forgets Him as soon as he comes out of it due to the impact of material nature.  Nammalwar overcame the influence of Shata-vayu at the time of birth, and therefore could remember the Lord at all times. Therefore Nammaazhwaar is also called Shataari glorified  by the sataari placed on devotees. 

He is referred as “Krishna Trishna Thathvam”, meaning he is the very embodiment of Krishna Bhakti.  Swami Nammazhwar was the embodiment of all Alwars . If someone says "Kovil" it refers to Srirangam. If someone says "Jayanthi" it refers to "Krishna Jayanthi". If someone says "Perumal" it refers to "Namperumal". Likewise, if someone says "Azhwaar" it refers to Swami Nammaazhwaar
Azhwaar Thiruvadigale sharanam!
For various thoughts and material in this note, I owe grateful thanks to
HHThirukkudanthaiAndavan (Our Acharya)

                                                Madhurakavi Azhwaar

(Through courtesy B.R.G. Iyeng ar, Bengaluru, India)

Asmad Gurubhyo nama :
Srimathe Ramanujaya nama :
Meshe Chitraa samudbhutam
Pandyadeshe gadamshakam
Madhuram kavimaashrayee ||       
When we think of azhwaars Madhura Kavi azhwaar comes foremost to our mind.  But for him   “Naalaayira Divyaprabhandam” (NDP), a compilation of 12 great Vaishnava saints which is considered as Tamil Veda would have been lost to the Devotional school of India.  Madhurakavi, literally meaning sweet poet, was born in a SriVaishnava family at Tirukkolur on Friday, Sukla Paksha Chaturdasi day in Chittirai star in Chitrai month in the year Easwara(Dwapara 863879 (3222BC).

He once went on a pilgrimage to Divyakshetrams in North India. While staying in Ayodhya, he saw a bright light in the sky, coming from South. He started following the light beam. This led him to Alwarthirunagari. There, the light disappeared. He started asking the local people whether there was anything special happening in the village. The villagers said that a child had been sitting under a Tamarind tree for past sixteen years with closed eyes in a meditation posture, and, without taking any food or drink.
Madhurakavi went to the tree. He found the child in meditation.  He wanted to test if the child would react to any external entity.  He made noise by dropping a stone on the ground. The child slowly opened its eyes.   Madhurakavi put a cryptic question to the child:

“Sethathin Vayitril Siriyadhu Pirandhal; Eatthai Thindru Engae Kidakkum?”

(If the atomic sized Atma gets into the Achit body, what will it eat and where will it reside?)

The child gave the cryptic answer:

“Atthai Thindru Angae Kidakkum”

(It will follow the Happiness and Misery related to the body and reside there only)

Madurakavi immediately recognized that the child was no ordinary person-surely should be an amsham of the Lord (Called affectionately Nammaazhwaar by the Lord).

Madhurakavi fell at Nammalwar’s feet and became his disciple (Though he himself was older in age and belonged to a higher caste), and, learnt the Divyaprabandham.
Madhurakavi was totally devoted to Nammalwar and considered him as the ultimate-even higher than the Lord himself.  For him, Acharya Bhakthi (Guru Bhakti) was higher than Bhagavad bhakthi Devotion to the Lord). This is just like the Acharya Paramanishte (extereme devotion to Guru) displayed by Shatrughna, who considered Bharatha as the ultimate –even to the exclusion of SriRama.  Madhurakavi composed 'Kanninun Siruthambu' of eleven verses which occupy unique place in NDP.

Poets are classified as(a) Aashukavis- Instant poets (b)Chitra kavis-Artistic poets (c)Vistaara kavis - Elaborate poets (d) Madhurakavis- Sweet poets. Our Aazhwaar true to his name is a Madhurakavi.

Vedanthadesikar in Prabandhasaram says:

" Theriamaajnaanamudan Thirukkoluril
 Chittiraiyil Chittirainaal vandu thonri
Ariyanallanbudane Kuruhurnambikku
Anavarathamantharangavadimai sheydu
Maaranaiyallaalenru,marandum thevu
Mattrariyenenum Madhurakaviye nee mun
Kooriya Kanninunshirutthaambadanil paattu
Kulavupadinonrum enakkudavu neeye "

(Maadhura Kavi, born on Chitthirai maasa Chitthirai at Thirukkolur with  Jnaanam (Divine knowledge)  did antharanga  kainkaryam  (personal servie) for Nammalwar; With total devotion you said that you do not know of any god other than Nammaazhwaar. Please bless me now with that Jnaanam (knowledge) contained in “Kanninun Sirutthambu”  in  the same manner as you blessed the world earlier.)

Only the first verse in Madhurakavi's poem relates to Lord Krishna who was the Araadhya Daivam  (worship deity) of Nammazhwaar. The remaining verses are all devoted to his Guru (Acharya). Since NDP is a collection of poems totally dedicated to Bhagavaan, some questions were raised about the propriety of including " Kanninin Shirutthambu"in this, since it deals only with Acharya Guru) and not Bhagavan (God) exclusively.

Answer to this can be found in the following verse of Manavaala Maamunigal:

“Vaitha Thirumanthirathin maddhimam padham pol
Sheertha Madhurakavi sei kalaiyai- aartha pugazh
Aariyarkal thangal aruli cheyal naduve
Servithaar taathparyam therindhu “

But for Madhurakavi there would be no NDP. Hence it is appropriate that this poem is  not only taken as  part of Divyaprabandham NDP  but also  Madhurakavi to be  counted among 12 Aazhwaars. A fitting tribute indeed!

Kanninun Sirutthambu  is held in high esteem and included as part of Nityanusandhanam.Also, it forms the thodakkam(Invocatory) and shattrumurai part of Divyaprabandham recital.

After Nammalwar attained the lotus feet of the Lord, Madhurakavi installed an archa vigraha of Nammalwar in Tirukkurugur ,and ,arranged for special festivals.

He was impressed by Nammaazhwaar’s works so much that he wanted to stage Nammazhwaar's works in front of other scholars at his time. TheTamizh Sangam poets saddened by this protest. Nammazhwaar, appeared in Madhurakavi’s dream, as an old Brahmin and consoled him saying "Do not worry. You just write this Pasuram  " Kannan Kazhalinai nannum manamudaiyeer/ Ennum thirunamam thinnam Naraname "on a bark leaf and place it in the boat (Sanga-Palagai)  in which the Sangam scholars are travelling and, watch its power"
So saying, the Brahmin disappeared. Madhurakavi followed the instruction.
The boat capsiz ed throwing out all the jealous, haughty poets, while it retained only the leaves containing "Kannan kazhalinai paasuram. "

Each of the poets who swam ashore, then realiZed the greatness of Nammalwar and composed verse ( quoted below) in praise of Nammazhwaar.

When these were published, it turned out that all of them were identical.

" Seman Kurugaiyo seyyat Thiruppaarkadalo?
Thaamam Paraankusamo? Naaranamo?- thaaman
Thulavo? vagulamo? thole irando? naangum
Ulavo peruma unakku ?  "
" Yee aaduvatho Garudarku edhirae? 
Iravikku edhir minmini aaduvatho ?
Naay aaduvatho ooru vempuli mun?
Nari aaduvatho Narakesari mun?
Pey aaduvatho azhagu Urvasi mun?
Perumaan Vakulabharanan arul koorndhu
Ovaadhu uraiyaa biramaa maraiyin
Oru sol perumo ulagir kaviye? ? "

(comparing flies to Garuda; fire flies in the presence of the Sun; dogs before the tiger; wolf before Narasimha; goblins  before nymph ; In essence- all the works of all the other poets put together   can never match  even a single utterance of Nammalwar". No bounds to his happiness.

A fine tribute to Madhurakavi can be seen in Guruparamparaasaara of Rahasyathrayasaara of Vedantha Desikar.

The opening verse includes all other Aazhwaars while the second stanza(Given below) deals exclusively  with Madhurakavi Aazhwaar,

"Inbathil - irainjuthalil - iIsaiyum petril
Igazhaatha palluravil - iraagam maatril
Than patril -vinai vilakkil - thagavokkathil
Tattuvathai unarthuthathil - thanmaiyaakkil
Anbarke avatharikkum Maayan nirka
Arumaraigal tamizh seithaan thaale kondu
Thunbatra Madhuravi thonrak kaattum
Thol vazhiye nalvazhigal thunivaarkatke"

(i ) Inbattil -  granting bliss
(ii ) Irainjutalil -  be the refuge
(iii)Isaiyum petril  -  to be the final goal
(iv) Igazhaatha palluravil -   to provide all bandhutwa  
(v) Iragam maarril  -   to convert the mundane desires
(vi) Thun patril  -  into a desire for Him
(vii ) Vinai vilakkil -  remove all the sins
(viii) Thagavokkattil -  to shower krupaa
(ix)  Tattuvam unarthil - to reveal real truths
(x)Thanmai aakkil -  to bring saaroopya
(xi)Anbarke avatharikkum ayan nirka-incarnatinmg for the sake of devotees
(xii)Arumaraikal tamizh seithaan thaale kondu -render difficult- to- understand Vedas into tamil
(xiv)Madhurakavi-the Alwar
(xv)Thonrakattum-guiding by example
(xvi)Tolvaliye-the original path
(xvii)Thunivaarhalku-those keen on conquering earthly pleasures
(xviii)Nalvalihal-the noble paths of Bhakthi, Prapatti

(For those seeking release from the  Samsara, the path shown by the virtuous Madhurakavi is  THE path because while there is Sri Krishna incarnated  for the sake of his devotees  to confer bliss, to be their refuge, to be their final goal, to be considered as  mother, father, brother etc., to convert their desire for mundane things into desire for Himself, to remove all  sins, to show infinite Karunya, to reveal Sathya and Saaroopya Madhurakavi sought only the feet of the Nammaazhwaar.
Nathamunigal says:

Aviditha vishaya antharahasshatare  |
Upanishadam upagaana matra bhoga |
Api cha gunavasaath tad eka seshee |
Madhurakavir hridaye mamaavirastu  ||

(One who knew none other than Nammazhwaar; one whose life breath was Dravidopanishad Nammazhwar; one who treated Nammazhwar as his God—May that  Madhurakavi always be in my heart !)

Veronrum naan ariyen vedam tamizh seitha
Maaran Sadakopan vun Kurugur - yeru engal
Vaazhvaam ennethum Madhurakaviyaar emmai
Alwaar avare aran

(Madhurakavi- who proclaimed "I know none other than Nammalwar(Maran) of Tirukkurugur
who brought out in  Tamil the essence of the Vedas -is my master)

Manavala Mamunigal says in Upadesa Ratnamalai:

Arar Madurakavi ivvulagil vandudiththa
Sheerarum Chitiraiyil Chitirainal- paarulagil
Mattrulla aazhvargal vanduditha naalgalilum
Vuttrademakkenru nenje oor?

(This day-Chitiraiyil Chitirai, the day  Madurakavi incarnated in this earth to lead us to moksham is more than the avatar  days of  other Aazhwaara.  Meditate on him!)

Vaazhi Tirunamam

  Chittiraiyil chittirai naal shirakkavandaan  vaazhiye
  Thirukkolur avatharittha shelvanaar  vaazhiye
  UttharaGangaatheera thuyar thavatthon  vaazhiye
  Olikadiron therkudikka uhandu vandaan  vaazhiye
  Pattiyodu padinonnum paadinaan vaazhiye
  Paraankushane paranenru pattinaan vaazhiye
  Maddimaam padapporulai vaalvittaan vaazhiye
  Madhurakavi thiruvadigal vaazhi vaazhi vaazhiye    II

Madhurakavi’s Hitopadesa

      a. Do Nammaazhwaar japam to attain Bliss;

      b. Seek refuge under his feet;

      c. Ultimate goal is Nammaazhwaa;

      d. All my bandhus (close relative) are only Nammaazhwaar;

      e. Renounce worldly desires;

      f. Nammzhwaar himself graces me--

       Washing off all my sins

       Extending unlimited grace

       Teaching inner Truths of his work which contains the essence of Vedas

       Making the teachings well consolidated in me’--Madhurakavi

This note is not comprehensive. I crave indulgence of readers for any deficiencies/inaccuracies in this note and welcome additional inputs/corrections.

I owe grateful thanks to our Acharya, HH Thirukkudanthai Andavan,
U. Ve. Anna Sri Krishnapremi,
U. Ve. Velukkudi Krishnan, P. B.  Annagarachar, V.Shatagopan, Dr. N.S. Anantharangachar,
Bhoovarahan for their inputs.
Madhurakavi Alwar thiruvadigale sharanam!
Nammaazhwaar thiuvadigale saranam!

[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference above    as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further.  These  lectures are  posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures personally due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done. ]