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12.12: TWELVE VAISHNAVA ALVARS
Orthodox opinion places the earliest of the Alvars, the Poygai Alvar, Bhudattalvar, and Peyalvar in the third millenium B.C.E. The one held in greatest esteem is however, the fifth in the chronology, Nammalvar (GO TO 12.12.1) (Shatagopar, being another name). The collection of devotional poetry composed by these twelve is considered to be the cream of Vaishnava philosophy.
Besides these four just named, the others include
· Perialvar who delighted in worshipping the Lord as mother, nurse, devotee and lady love;
· Andal, the divine gift to Perialvar in the form of a daughter, who sang the Tiruppavai, a most beautiful string of 30 verses giving expression to the purest love of God, on whom she set her heart, like the gopis of yore, and ultimately merged in him;
· Tirumangai-Alvar, lured away by the Lord Himself from his lucrative profession of a highway robber, who later spent sixty years of his life building the vast and lofty temple complex of Shri Ranganatha in Shrirangam and who travelled through the length and breadth of India, contributing to 1100 Prabandhams out of the 4000;
· Tirumazhisai Alvar also called BhaktisArar, whose works Tiruchandaviruttam and Nanmugan Tiruvandadi (consisting of 120 and 90 songs respectively) passed the test of miraculously floating against the waters of the Cauvery at Kumbakonam and were thus accepted by the scholars as uniqueluy eligible for devotional use;
· Tondar-adippodi-alvar, who had earlier been infatuated with a temple danseuse and then, by Lord Ranganatha’s Grace, was redeemed to a spiritual life of devotion
· Madhurakavi Alvar, who discovered his Guru in Nammalvar and showed that his bhakti of the Bhagavata (Nammalvar) was greater than his bhakti of the Bhagavan Himself.