The Azhvars are far superior to rishis. In fact, the difference between them may be said to be that between a mountain and a mole hill. The reason lies in the fact that in the case of the Azhvars, Lord Narayana Himself gave them gnana. They, therefore, had no doubt that they must serve the Divya Dampati. They were unwavering in this, said Devanar Vilagam S. Padmanabhan in a discourse.
Among the Azhvars, there is a yawning gap between Periazhvar and the rest, because the former sang a ‘pallandu’ to the Lord, who appeared before him. The reason for Periazhvar’s pallandu was his fear that evil eyes may harm the Lord. It may seem unbelievable that someone may even think on these lines. Isn’t God omnipotent? Isn’t He the Antaryami of everything? Isn’t He the One with no beginning or end? How can anyone or anything harm Him? It cannot be that Periazhvar was unaware of these truths, for after all he had just defeated the others who had doubted Narayana’s supremacy.
Periazhvar’s gnana had culminated in love for the Lord, which is as it should be. Gnana must be first acquired, but this is not the summum bonum of spiritual quest. The gnana must result in love for the Lord, love of the kind that Periazhvar had. Periazhvar’s ‘pallandu’ is the finest example of love for the Lord.
But when compared with his daughter Andal, even Periazhvar’s greatness recedes into the background. Andal shows us through her verses, the importance of Bhagavata Seshatva.
When asked to give a discourse on Thriuppavai, the Acharya Ramanuja is said to have remarked that it would be difficult to find someone fit to explain Thiruppavai. That is because Thiruppavai is the essence of the Vedas.
And it is always important to take the essence of any sastra, for isn’t that what the sastra is ultimately trying to say? When the ocean was churned many things came out of it, but the Lord only took the essence - namely Goddess Mahalakshmi. To take the essence of what is said is difficult. It was this difficult task that Andal accomplished through her Thiruppavai, which is but a preface to her Nachiar Thirumozhi.