Updated: April 10, 2013 14:49 IST

The Apostles of Vishnu

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The recital of Tiruppavai on the cusp of dawn is a pivotal feature of Margazhi. Let us go back a few centuries and take a peek into the divine world of the Azhvars.

*The Azhvars were a group of twelve Vaishnavite saints who lived in south India around the 7-9 centuries and composed ‘pashurams’ or hymns in praise of Lord Vishnu.

*The word ‘Azhvar’ or ‘alvar’ literally means ‘those who are immersed deep’ and indicates the intense devotion and dedication of these saints in the worship of Lord Vishnu.

*The saints hailed from various castes and established devotion to Vishnu as the only means to salvation. They played a key role in the Bhakti movement in Tamil Nadu.

*The Azhvars extolled Lord Vishnu in 108 Vaishnavite shrines known as the 108 Divya Desams. The recital of pashurams (‘arayar sevai’) is an established tradition in many of these temples till date.

*They were vaggeyakaras and used a variety of ragas and panns in their pashurams, which are known to be steeped in high musical as well as spiritual value.

*4,000 of these pashurams have been compiled into the well-known ‘Divya Prabandham’ by Nathamuni.

*Andal, the only female saint among the Azhvars, composed the Tiruppavai and the Nachiar Tirumozhi.

*The chanting of hymns from the Tiruppavai every morning assumes special significance during the month of Margazhi. It is believed that each day of Margazhi is named after one of the 30 verses in the Tiruppavai.

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