We have been enumerating about all the Alvars in these past articles. In this article, we are going to learn about the last two Alvars ie ., the history of Namalvar.
Many of our readers have voiced many a question as to why is it that all the Alvars are from the southern region of India and why are all the “Pashurams” in Tamil language?
Normally they are in the Sanskrit language (Deva’s language). There is an amazing reason for the same. Let me tell you all what that is.
Once there was a verbal duel between Agastya mahamuni and Vishwakarma. As their duel reaches a very heated state, Agastya mahamuni then curses Vishwakarma. As we know Vishwakama is the Architect who designed the entire creation of the Universe. This makes Vishwakarma angry and in turn curses Agastya mahamuni , saying ” the language you like the most (Tamil) , will from now on become very remote and unheard of, to the people of South India (Tamilnadu)”. This makes Agasya mahamuni vey sad, repents for his actions and sits in penance and prays to Lord Vishnu.
Lord Vishnu appears before him and says, ” Agastya, I know what is troubling you” and grants a boon to him. “Henceforth all the sevas (kainkaryalu) will be recited in Tamil from now on”. This makes Agastya mahamuni very happy and satisfied.
However, we know that all archanas for Lord Vishnu are done through Veda matras, which are in Sanskrit. Now how can one do this impossible task of translating these Vedas into Tamil? These mantras are from the God directly, so now how can one recite them in Tamil?
So, If this has to be accomplished, a person of immense knowledge should be born. So Lord Vishnu sends to Earth his army chief ” Vishwakshena ” to take up this divine task. So far, all the Alvars were born from Lord VIshnu’s weapons , but now he sends the head of all this weaponry to Earth and also a part of Narayana (himself) too, combined. This Alvar is ” Nammalvar ” .
His parents on Earth had been praying for a progeny for many years. Lord Vishnu appears in their dream and tells them that they will beget a son, who will be like no other ie., with his Aamsam (his divine powers). However, the time when Nammalvar was born on the Earth, Kali yugam had already started and (47th day ) , Kali gets worried. He thinks that if Lord Vishnu himself comes onto Earth and translates all the Vedas into Tamil, his power would diminish. Thus thinking Kali uses a maya called “Shatham” , he appears to the newly born infant to harm him. The second the divine infant’s angry gaze (rays) falls on Shatham, Kali and Shatham run away. That is the reason he is called “Shatha Kopulu” – Shatari.This is why they insist in temples, to keep the Shatha Kopam on or heads. This is in the form of a small crown with two small feet on top of it.
Then the infant just closes his eyes and does not move, drink milk, smile, cry and just remains like a doll with a life. His parents get worried and do their best to make the baby see and cry and move. They take himt to many doctors and temples , in vain . Finally they reach a temple called “Alwarthirunagari” in Thirunelvelli a very holy and famous temple like Srirangam and Tirupathi. There they pray to Lord Vishnu and besiege him to help them. They lament saying he is just a doll with life (pranam) and they return the infant to Lord Vishnu.
Kali yugam sees many such untoward things happening , even an infant of Lord Vishnu’s Amsam is lying on the bare temple floor abandoned by his parents !!!! Lord Adi Sesha (Vishnu) who witnesses this from above, immediately takes the form of a tamarind tree and appears on Earth. You can still see this tree if you go to that temple even today. The infant, slowly crawls into the burrow of the trunk of the huge tamarind tree. He stays in intense Samadhi state till he becomes a youth of 16 years.
The god and goddess were also happy as they would always call him “Namma” in tamil means, “ours” and hence came to be known as “Nammalvar”!
Everyone would just come and touch him and see if he were real or a doll and would go their way. Lord Vishnu now contemplates as to how to get Nammalvar out of this Samadhi state.
How will the divine power bloom in him and how will he give direction and spread the word of this divine task? This budding and blooming are synonymous to the blooming of a Lotus flower. So, for his purpose , Lord Vishnu also now sends to Earth another Alvar, named “Madhurakavi Alvar”. That is why these two Alvars stories looks like one story. He comes and unites with Nammalvar and together they accomplish this divine task.
This is similar to the “Ramana Maharishi ” who was awakened and brought forward to the entire world by Kavykanta Ganapathi. Madhurakavi Alvar’s story is also an interesting one. He is by age elder to Nammalvar. He is actually an Amsam of the Lotus ( Padmam-kumudham ) in Lord Vishnu’s hand.
He too at a very young age renounces the world and goes on a pilgrimage to the northern side of India. Once, when he was sleeping in Ayodhya, one night he sees a huge fire (light) at a far off place. He wakes up the people next to him and says to them, let us go and see the source of this fire, however all of them claim that they don’t see any such thing.
Same thing happens when he sleeps in another town during his pilgrimage. Then he realizes that this light is visible only to him and to no one else. He then thinks, probably this is his guru’s light which is shining and follows the light.
He thus travels all the way to South India from Ayodhya with a burning desire to meet his guru. Just like a goat’s calf immediately runs to its mother when untied !! When he finally reaches Alwarthirunagari and comes up to the burrow of the tree, he understands everything.
He sees Nammalvar and touches him to see if he is real. He calls out at Nammalvar with no response. Then he lifts a huge rock and puts it down with a huge thud, then Nammalvar finally opens his eyes after 16 years.
Now to test if he can talk, he asks in Tamil “Satathin vayatiley shreya, ethu tinnum engey kidakum ?” meaning, the Atma in your body, where is it and what does it eat?
Nammalvar gives a smile and replies saying ” Attaya thinnu, angayey kidakum” meaning “it will eat the same and remain there itself.”
Profound meaning is hidden in this answer. Due to our past karmas and punyam we are born again with this body. The soul resides and eats( experiences) the same karma and punyas and leaves the physical body.
Then Madhurakavi Alvar bows down to Nammalvar and requests him to expound all these spiritual teachings , so that he can record the same. Then on, he starts recording all that Nammalvar says. That being his sole purpose of being sent here !!!
The moment Nammalvar opens his eyes and starts talking, all the other ten alvars appear and bow with folded hands in front of him !!
Normally they say in our being (body) there are 5 Karmendriyas and 5 Gyanedriyas – these are the other 10 Alvars, whereas the body as a whole is a representation of Nammalvar !!
Then he said and expounded all the Vedas in the Dravida language (Tamil) . He said the Rig Veda in 100 poems, known as “Thiruvirutham”. The Yajur Veda as “Thiruvarshiyam”. The most difficult of the Vedas , Sama Veda as “Thiruvaimozhi” in 1000 poems (pashuras). This is most holy text which is followed by the Vaishnavites to this day. Even to this day if a Vaishnavite passes away, they conduct a ceremony on the 13th day, called “Tozhakam” , they recite all the 1000 pashuras , the belief being that the soul will reach the Lord’s feet.
By the age of 32 years of age, Nammalvar had said and expounded all the Vedas into the Tamil language. Now that the sole purpose of his birth being fulfilled, he prepares to leave his physical body. Hearing this Madhurakavi Alvar becomes very sad and asks Nammalvar as to who will protect and continue this Vaishnava sampradayam (way of living ) in future. Nammalvar asks him to fetch water from Thamirabarani river and boil the same in a vessel, when they do so, an idol comes up from it. Nammalvar says that this is the idol of “Bhavishyat Acharya”. He asks them to hide the statue in a secret place and that many thousands of years later, in Kali yugam, Vaishana sampradaym will fall into bad days. Then this Acharya will come into being and will restore the the lost glory of the Viashnava sampradayam again. He is none other than “Ramanuja Acharya”. Even to this day this statue is present in “Ramanuja Chaturvedi Mangalam Bhavishyat Acharya ” temple in Alwarthirunagari since the past 5000 years.
Nammalvar took Samadhi at the age of 32 , just like Sankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda left the world after they completed the purpose they came for, upon Earth .
When Madhurakavi Alvar and other Vaishnavites cry copiously, when Nammalvar leaves his body. Then, Lord Vishnu in Alwarthirunagari temple appears and asks him to get Nammalvar’s body. Hoping that the Lord will revive Nammalvar, he gets the body, however Lord Vishnu just merges Nammalvar into his holy feet. If you notice an idol of Lord Vishnu which has an Alvar at his feet, it is Nammalvar! When Madurakavi Alvar pleads with Lord Vishnu, the Lord gives an idol which he takes from his own body and gives it to him. Lord Vishnu says “This idol is Nammalvar and the idol will protect all of them ” This idol is still present in Alwarthirunagari.
Then Madhurakavi Alvar recites 10 poems (pashurams) “Kanninin Sirutambu”. He says to all “whoever recites these 10 pashurams 11000 times, Nammalvar will speak and answer their prayers!
Now we will think and also doubt if this will really happen, but, YES, it has, Nammalvar did appear and talk to Naadhamuni in unusual and amazing circumstances. We shall look into that later.
For now, I request you all to go have darshan of the idol in Alwarthirunagari and also Lord Vishnu in the form of the tamarind tree and the burrow where Nammalvar was in deep Samadhi state for 16 years. The devotees there have been taking very good care of the tree and they call it the ” tree which never sleeps” . The leaves normally fold in during night time, but this particular tree, the leaves do not fold in at anytime !!