CHENNAI: The Azhwars exemplify the essence of Jnana and Bhakti and the sentiments expressed in their hymns are capable of sensitising us with the spirit of seeking God for His own sake. While their contribution for the spiritual uplift of mankind is important, their contribution to the richness of Tamil literature is equally unique, pointed out Dr. Sudha Seshaiyan in a lecture. It is believed that these hymns were lost in course of time and, by divine grace, were retrieved due to the efforts of Acharya Nathamuni. Collectively known as the Nalayira Divya Prabandham, they comprise a remarkable versatility in terms of poetic imagery, verbal felicity, musical quality and lyrical beauty.

The Azhwars display tender feelings of love and devotion to the Supreme Lord. In their perspective the one Supreme Being is adored.

They have extensively alluded to the incarnations and relived the times from the perspective of a Yasodha or a Devaki. For instance, Periazhwar imagined himself as Yasodha and savoured the enchanting childhood of Lord Krishna, while Kulasekhara Azhwar has empathised with the plight of Devaki who did not have the good fortune to see her son grow up. In a similar strain, the agony of Dasaratha who had to part with Lord Rama is captured.

Vishnu Chithan, who brought up Andal, gained the encomium Periazwar because he displayed the protective Bhava of a parent (Vatslaya). It is said that once the Lord granted him a vision of His form and overwhelmed by the exquisite beauty, compassion, grandeur and greatness, this Azhwar spontaneously sang the hymn Tiruppallandu to protect the Lord from evil forces.

The Lord is beyond description, say the scriptures. Neither words nor thoughts can depict His greatness adequately. Yet even as the scriptures try to define His greatness by comparing Him to exquisite aspects of creation and then retreat saying He is all this and also more, Thirumazhisai Azhwar attempts to weave a word picture and finally gives up saying, “Who can describe you”? to signify that the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of the Lord are beyond human comprehension.