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History of Srivaishnavism

VAINAVAMUM AZHVARKALUM — Two volumes: T.N.C. Devarajan; Chenpaga Padhippagam, Old No. 24, Krishna Street, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 250 each.

IN THE work under review, the author who is a well-known exponent of Srivaishnavism (Srisampradaya), has presented its history and development. This he has accomplished in reader-friendly Tamil in two massive volumes containing 14 chapters and running to about 1800 pages.

The development of Srivaishnava religion and philosophy owes much to the mystic outpourings of 12 saints called Azhvars, whose composition in Tamil is collectively known as "Nalayira Divya Prabandham" (the Divine Composition of 4000). These songs, which glorify Lord Narayana, in His various incarnations, worshipped in age-old sacred places called Divyadesas, were, to start with, known to people only in parts and piecemeal.

The credit of collecting, arranging thematically, setting to music and incorporating them as an integral part of the Srivaishnava temple worship goes to Nathamuni, the first Srivaishnava Acharya of South India.

The Acharya-parampara (line of Acharyas) of the Srivaishnavites starts with Nathamuni. He was followed by his disciple, Pundarikaksha, Sriramamishra, and Yamuna (popularly known as Alavandar), grandson of Nathamuni. The next important teacher was Periyanambi and his disciple was the illustrious Ramanuja, celebrated as the "Bhashyakara" of the Visishtadvaita School.

The history of the growth of Srivaishnavism as a religion and its development as a metaphysical system at the hands of Acharyas like Nathamuni, Yamuna, Ramanuja, Parasara, Pillai Lokacharya, Vedanta Desika and Manavalamamuni is quite interesting and revealing. Srivaishnavism is not a mere dogma or creed but a way of life — a life of loving service to the Lord, who permeates the entire creation, and to His servants.

The first volume contains accounts of the origin of Vaishnavism, the 108 Divyadesas, the episodes narrated in the Nalayiram and then details about the life and compositions of the first three Azhvars (Bhootam, Pey and Poygai), Tirumazhisaiyazhvar, Nammazhvar, Madurakaviyazhvar and Kulasekhara Azhvar. Volume two contains detailed expositions of the compositions of Periyazhvar, Andal, Tondaradippodi Azhvar, Tiruppanazhvar and Tirumangaiyazhvar.

The author has also included in this volume the life accounts of the Acharyas starting from Nathamuni and ending with Manavalamamuni. The learned writer has also given the salient features of Visishtadvaita philosophy and a list of 144 technical terms used very often in the Srivaishnava tradition along with their connotation.

This publication is a beautiful blend of tradition and modernity, catering to the needs of those who want to have a complete, reliable picture of Srivaishnavism.


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