Biography of the Bhakti Sage Periyalvar

life of periyalvar

Who is Periyalvar?

Periyalvar or Vishnuchittar is one of the 12 alvars. 

He is the foster parent of Andal (incarnation of Bhudevi. She is also one of the alvars)

People consider Periyalvar as the incarnation of Garuda the divine vehicle of Lord Sri Hari.

Somes sources say that he is the first alvar but somes sources say that he is the 8th.

It is a common belief in South India that Periyalvar lived with the loving feeling of being elder to the Lord.

Early life of Periyalvar

Periyalvar was born to Mukunda Bhattar and Padumavalli in Srivilliputhur near Madurai during the Pandiyan Rule

Vishnuchittar was his name, meaning the one who has Vishnu in the mind

This is because, in his childhood days he showed great interest and devotion towards Lord Sri Hari.

He wanted to serve his deity in the best possible way he could.

He had so much devotion to Lord Maha vishnu that he neglected many aspects of a common man’s life and   focused more on his devotion.

The Alvar had special attraction towards Lord Krishna, and would always want to do something that would please his deity.

He remembered the beautiful leela of Lord Krishna, when Lord Krishna had entered the city of Mathura, the demon Kamasa’s land.


The Lord visited the garland maker of Kamsa and wore his garlands

So keeping this in mind Vishnuchittar collected a variety of flowers.

He made a beautiful garland and offered it to Vatapatrasayi (the baby form of Lord Krishna which resides on a leaf) temple.

Pastimes with the Pandyan King

During the Era of the Pandyan kings, Vallabhadeva ruled at the time of Periyalvar.

He was a dharmic ruler at his time,  like any Tamil king should be.

He took random rounds around his kingdom.

One such day, while he took random rounds, he decided to take some rest near a temple.

There he heard a man, a renunciant, singing songs in praise of his Lord.

The King heard the devotional songs and was instantly influenced

When the king returned, his mind was still latched on to those devotional songs

Day and Night this thought disturbed him, so he consulted with his ministers.

The Pandian King holds a Competition

The ministers advised him to hold a competition among scholars to decide the   best way to get liberation.

The very next day, the competition was held and the king decided that the king’s attendants should tie a bag full of 1,00,000 gold coins to a large pillar.

If the Lord were to be happy with the one scholar’s anwer the bag would automatically fall down.

This will be the scholar’s reward.

Many scholars tried their best but to their dismay the bag full of coins did not fall.

During that time, Vishnuchittar   or Periyalvar was attending to his tulsi plant.

Suddenly he got a vision of Sri Hari.

Periyalvar Participates in the Competition.

Sri Hari asked him to participate in the competition.

But Vishnuchittar disheartenedly told Sri Hari that from his very childhood he had devoted his full time to Hari and had even neglected his studies.

Without thorough study of philosophy he cannot take part in the competition.

Sri Hari smilingly placed his conch on Vishnuchittar’s head and mouth.

After   this, automatically all the knowledge of the universe entered into Vishnuchittar and he started to quote the vedas like flowing water.

Periyalvar Wins his Title

Then Vishnuchittar entered the arena with a little fear and tension where all the scholars were trying their best.

After everyone failed, Vishnuchittar gathered some confidence and put forth his views and philosophies in front of the king with vedic proof.

After Vishnuchittar finished his say on the topic of liberation and the best way to get there, the bag full of gold coins fell on Vishnuchittar’s feet.

Looking at this the king became very happy and honored Vishnuchittar and gave him the title of Battarpiraan.

The king honored Vishnuchittar by making him sit on an elephant and taking him for a ride around the city.

As Vishnuchittar rode on the elephant he saw Lord Vishnu and Devi Laxmi on garuda, at that moment.

Vishnuchittar hailed the divine couple.

From that day onwards Vishnuchittar got the name Periyalvar.

He returned to Srivilliputhur and donated his awards to the temple and continued his seva of making garlands for the Lord.

The Adoption of Andal      

Periyalvar was such a devotee of the lord that he did not even concentrate on his education in his childhood.

He just devoted his time to the Lord and the Lord himself gave him all the knowledge.

Periyalvar was fortunate enough to nurture Bhudevi as she herself came to him as his foster daughter in the form of Andal.

Periyalvar adopted Andal when she was a baby.

He found her near a tulsi plant and named her Kothai, as he was childless.

He performed all the needed duties of a father by inculcating devotion for the Lord into her.

Periyalvar created a devotional environment and fully nurtured Kothai.

Later Andal was also counted as one of the Alvars and earned her position.

Periyalvar and his Love towards Krishna


Periyalvar was so much drowned into Krishna Bhakti that he considered his hometown Tirukkoshtiyur to be the holy land of Gokul.

He described the divine pastimes of Lord Krishna’s birth.

He sang the pastimes of the Lord as to how The Lord’s parents brought Him to Gokul at midnight.

Periyalvar described all this in a way as if he personally took part in the divine pastimes of the Lord.

He celebrated all the festivals of the Lord through his songs.

People say that Periyalvar used to imagine himself as Yashoda and rebuked Krishna for his mistakes.

Periyalvar’s last days and importance.

Periyalvar spent his last precious years in Thirumaliruncholai and at the age of 85 he reached the divine abode of Sriman Narayana.      

Periyalvar is the father-in-law of Sri  Vishnu.

People remember and know the Alvar for his Adoption of Andal.

But, Periyalvar on his own had contributed many divine works and teachings.

Periyalvar’s devotional songs are still sung in the Srirangam temple.

One more fact to note is that Periyalvar had adopted Andal as his daughter.

Then, Andal married Sriman Narayana in this way Periyalvar became the Father-in-law of Lord Vishnu.

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