The Sri Vaishnava tradition owes a lot to Nathamuni, because it was he who rediscovered the four thousand verses of the Azhvars, known collectively as the Divya Prabandham. He learnt them from Nammazhvar, in a trance. He also set them to tune, and tutored his nephews to sing the verses.

Alavandar was Nathamuni’s grandson. Once a court poet challenged Alavandar’s guru to prove his competence. The guru was unable to go to court, but Alavandar, although he was but a young boy, chose to go in place of his guru. He defeated the poet through his skilful answers to the questions posed to him, and as a reward, he won half the kingdom. Thus Alavandar became a ruler. When Alavandar visited Srirangam, he forgot all about his kingdom, and remained behind in Srirangam.

Alavandar wrote many works like Chatusloki and Stotra Ratna, elaborated M.K. Srinivasan, in a discourse. The Chatusloki is similar to Brahma Sutra, for it talks of Tattva, Hita and Purushartha, just as Brahma Sutra does. The Stotra Ratna gives the essence of the three most important mantras- Ashtakshara, Dvaya mantra and Charama sloka. One of the verses in Stotra Ratna is about the importance of doing an anjali to the Lord. Before talking about the importance of anjali, Alavandar describes all the auspicious qualities of the Lord in eleven verses. The Chatusloki begins with a reference to the Divine Mother-Goddess Mahalakshmi. In the Stotra Ratna he says that the Lord is the abode of Mahalakshmi.

Alavandar was anxious that Ramanuja must carry on the tradition which had been fostered by others before him. But he shed his mortal coils, before Ramanuja could meet him. However, three of Alavandar’s fingers remained clenched, even after his death. The reason was because he had three tasks for Ramanuja. Ramanuja promised to carry out all three wishes of Alavandar, and the fingers straightened out. The first of the three wishes was that Ramanuja should write a commentary on Brahmasutra. The second was that he should honour sages Parasara and Vyasa. The third was that he should also write a commentary on Nammazhvar’s Thiruvaimozhi.

More In: Faith | Friday Review