The Extraordinary Life of Nammazhwar

nammarzhwar meets madhurkaviazhwar

Nammalvar (also written as Nammazhwar) is the 5th of all the 12 Alvars.

People remember him through various names like Maran and Sadagopan.

Moreover, people deem him to be an incarnation of Visvaksena (the commander and chief of Lord Sri Vishnu).

The Bhavishya Purana mentions that Lord Sri Vishnu’s Anshma (part and parcel) was born as Nammalvar.

He is highly regarded as a great mystic and saint, the topmost among the 12 alvars.

So, though being the 5th people consider him as the head of all the Alvars. 

Early Life of Nammazhwar

Nammalvar was born in 3059 BC, in a family of the Vellalar tribe in Thiru kurugoor.

On the auspicious Friday, under the star  Vishakha, during the Shukla Paksha, Chathurdashi, Nammalvar was born in the month of Vrishabha (May-June), in vasantha ruthu, in the year of Pramadhi in the Pandiyan dynasty.

Nammalvar was very special right from his birth.

He kept his eyes closed for several days in perfect health.

Additionally, he did not eat or drink anything, not even breast milk.

He never cried or spoke.

These symptoms of the newborn infant, worried the parents.

So, the tired parents of Nammalvar surrendered the baby at the shrine of Aadinathar, the deity of Kurugoor.

Thinking that the Lord is the ultimate saviour, the parents left the baby at the Will of God.

Nammalvar was completely different from all the other human beings put together.

He never let earthly ignorance touch him, let alone polluting his strong devotional character.

For 16 years at a stretch Nammalvar sat motionless.

He lived without food and water under the tamarind tree in the Adinathar temple.

He used to sit in padmasana in utter silence.

His vibrant persona would shine like a Sun, radiant and would become a point of attraction for the passers-by of the temple.

Madhurakavi Alwar meets Nammazhwar

During this same period lived an elderly Brahmin and learned scholar named Madhurakavi. (He is also one of the 12 alvars).

Madhurakavi Azhwar was on his pilgrimage to the north indian shrines of Ayodhya.

One day, when he was performing his daily rituals he saw an extraordinary light emanating from the southern direction.

So, he followed the light and ultimately reached Srirangam.

On reaching the spot of ultimate vibrance, he started searching for its source.

After a lot of searching he reached Kurugoor, where he saw beams of light emerging from a little boy.

Nammalvar was sitting blissfully under the tamarind tree, in padmasana.

In the past, Madhurakavi heard a lot of stories of Nammalvar, because of his extraordinary behaviour.

So, to know more about the little boy, Madhurakavi tried getting his attention.

He also knew that since birth, Nammalvar never spoke a single word.

But Madhurakavi still tried, therefore he spoke these words to Nammalvar:  If the small is born in a dead’s body (or stomach), what will it eat and where will it stay?.

As mentioned Madhurakavi was a very learned scholar.

He meant…

If the gross body embodies the subtle body, what are its actions and thoughts?

And surprisingly after long years of Meditation Nammalvar broke his silence and replied.

That it will eat, it will rest!.

Meaning that if the soul identifies with the body, it will be the body but if it serves the divine, it will stay in Vaikuntha and eat.

Eating in this context means constant remembrance of God.

Madhurakavi was wonder struck, he realized the divinity of this little boy.

After this incident Madhurakavi became a disciple of Nammalvar.

As a result, he learnt from him the essence of all the Shastras.

Greatness of Nammalvar

A seer of the Dravidian Vedas, Nallavar is a perfect example of a Jnani-Bhakta.

People believe that in Kaliyuga the doors of Vaikuntha ( the Divine abode of Sri Vishnu)  were first opened by Sri Vishnu, and Nammalvar’s disciples got easy access to the divine abode.

Madhurakavi had also composed 11 pasurams in the greatness of Sri Nammalvar.

Even today in the temple of Srirangam, the priests ad devotees recite the Pasurams of Nammalvar and the other alvars.

Nammalvar throughout his lifespan, contributed 1296 poems.

The works of the 12 Azhwar put together make it 4000 hymns and out of them, Nammalvar contributed 1296 poems, thus making him a great contributor.

So, of all the alvars, Nammalvar forms the pillar of devotional hymns and works.

Some works are:

Thiruvaymozhi, Thiruviruttam, Thiru Vaasiriam, Periya Thiruvanthadi, etc.

Madhurakavi Azhwar compiled these pure works.

Surprisingly, Nammalvar was not only a Bhakta,, but also a jnani.

His works reflect this fact.

All his works have a philosophical way of thinking.

If we look at Nammalvar’s pasurams in a philosophical point of view his poetry stands high in the tamil literature.

Garuda Sevai: In Honour of Nammalvar

Garuda Sevai is also known as “Vidaiyaatri Utsavam”.

On the auspicious event of Vaikuntha Ekadasi, the citizens of Thoothukudi region (in Srirangam) celebrate the Garuda Sevai festival in the remembrance of Nammalvar.

This festival falls in the month of Vaikasi (May-Jun) by the 9 famous Vishnu Temples of the South.

1) Mayakoothar Temple
2) Makara Nedunkuzhai Kannan Temple
3) Rettai Tirupathi – South Temple
4) Rettai Tirupathi North Temple
5) Vaithamanidhi Perumal Temple
6) Adinatha Perumal Temple
7) Thirukkurugur, Kaaisinavendhan Temple
8) Vijayaasana Perumal Temple
9) Sri Vaikuntanatha Temple

A deity of Nammalvar is brought in Anna Vahanam.

Then, the nine Gods of the nine temples (Nava Tirupathi), travel through the paddy fields in their area and reach Azhwarthirunagari .

There the devotees recite the verses dedicated to these 9 divyadesams.

They sing these pasuramas, with music in front of their respective deities.

After the recital, Nammalvar in the anna vahanam and the nine deities in the garuda vahanam travel to the Temple Street of Azhwarthirunagari.

Then the Perumals bid farewell to Nammalvar and head towards their respective temples.

The departure saddens Nammalvar, and waits until the next visit.

So, the Sad Alvar (Nammalvar) is sent to the temple by Azhwarthirunagari deity Polindhu Nindra.

Again, joy pervades when the same festival approaches the next year!

Thanks for reading!