CHENNAI: Religious traditions accord a lot of importance to the lineage of preceptors (Guruparampara) who were responsible for the transmission of the spiritual wisdom, philosophical doctrines and the religious practices. In the Srivaishnava tradition the Supreme Being along with His consort is revered as the first preceptor for it is He who reveals the Vedas at the time of creation and hence it is only by His grace that one can know Him.

In his discourse, Sri M.A.Venkatakrishnan said the Azhwars received spiritual wisdom directly from the Lord as they were mystics who revelled in His auspicious qualities (Kalyanaguna). Their hymns were spontaneous outpourings of their mystical experience and unalloyed love of God. Hence the Azhwars and their hymns in Tamil codified by Nathamuni in the Nalayira Divyaprabandham have a singular status in the tradition.

The lives of the Mudal Azhwars (first three) — Poygai Azhwar, Bhutatazhwar and Pey Azhwar — are intertwined. Though born in different places they met at Tirukkovilur by providence on a rainy night and experienced God in their midst, and sung His glory in ecstasy one after another (the first three Andadis). Tirumazhisai Azhwar was also contemporaneous to them as according to hagiographical accounts it was Peyazhwar who brought him into the Srivaishnava fold.

It can be deduced from anecdotes that the last three Azhwars — Tondaradippodi, Tiruppan and Tirumangai — must have been contemporaries though there are no internal evidences in their hymns. Tirumangai while constructing a wall near the temple tank at Srirangam is believed to have built it without affecting the garden which Tondaradippodi tended to offer flower garlands to the deity. Tondarippodi reciprocated his consideration by offering an instrument he used in making garlands, “Arulmari”, as a token of appreciation of his service to the Lord. In the Acharya Hrudayam, Azhagiya Perumal Nayanar interprets a verse of Tirumangai Azhwar’s on the Lord of Tirukkovilur as referring to the Mudal Azhwars: “He is the ambrosia for devotees who offer worship with tears in their eyes…”