|Titles/honours||Alvar saint, regarded avatar of Nandaka|
|Literary works||Moondraam Thiruvandaadhi|
Pey Azhwar (also spelt Peialvar or Peyalvar or Pei Azhwar) is one of the twelve azhwar saints of South India, who are known for their affiliation to Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. The verses of azhwars are compiled as Nalayira Divya Prabandham and the 108 temples revered are classified as Divya desam. Pey is considered third in the list of the three principal azhwars, with the other two being Poigai Azhwar and Bhoothathazhwar, collectively called Muthalamazhwargal who are known to be born out of divinity. Pey composed hundred verses that are classified as Moondram Tiruvandadhi and his composition is set in the Andhadhi style in which the ending syllable is the starting one for the next verse.
As per Hindu legend, Pey Azhwar was found in the lily flower in the pond of the Adi Kesava Perumal Temple in Mylapore. In Tamil, pey refers to one who is possessed and since the saint was madly attracted to Hindu god Vishnu, he got the name.
As per legend, the three azhwars were once were confined in a small dark enclosure during a rain in Thirukovilur and they experienced a fourth individual among them. They found out that it was god Vishnu and Poigai wished to see his face continuously but could view only from the simmering light of the lightening. With a view to maintain the continuity of light, Poigai instantly composed hundred songs wishing light to emerge. Pey and Bhoothath continued composing hundred songs each on Vishnu. The works of these earliest saints contributed to the philosophical and theological ideas of Vaishnavism. Along with the three Saiva nayanmars, they influenced the ruling Pallava kings of the South Indian region, resulting in changing the religious geography from Buddhism and Jainism to the two sects of Hinduism.
The word azhwar means the one who dives deep into the ocean of the countless attributes of god. Azhwars are considered the twelve supreme devotees of Vishnu, who were instrumental in popularising Vaishnavism during the 5th-8th centuries A.D. The religious works of these saints in Tamil, songs of love and devotion, are compiled as Nalayira Divya Prabandham containing 4000 verses and the 108 temples revered in their songs are classified as Divya desam. The saints had different origins and belonged to different castes. As per tradition, the first three azhwars, Poigai, Bhutha and Pey were born miraculously. Tirumazhisai was the son of a sage, Thondaradi, Mathurakavi, Periyazhwar and Andal were from brahmin community, Kulasekhara from Kshatria community, Nammazhwar was from a cultivator family, Tirupanazhwar from panar community and Tirumangaiyazhwar from kallar community. Divya Suri Saritra by Garuda-Vahana Pandita (11th century AD), Guruparamparaprabavam by Pinbaragiya Perumal Jiyar, Periya tiru mudi adaivu by Anbillai Kandadiappan, Yatindra Pranava Prabavam by Pillai Lokam Jiyar, commentaries on Divya Prabandam, Guru Parampara (lineage of Gurus) texts, temple records and inscriptions give a detailed account of the azhwars and their works. According to these texts, the saints were considered incarnations of some form of Vishnu. Poigai is considered an incarnation of Panchajanya (Krishna's conch), Bhoothath of Kaumodakee (Vishnu's Mace/Club), Pey of Nandaka (Vishnu's sword), Thirumalisai of Sudarshanam (Vishnu's discus), Nammazhwar of Vishvaksena (Vishnu's commander), Madhurakavi of Vainatheya (Vishnu's eagle, Garuda), Kulasekhara of Kaustubha (Vishnu's necklace), Periy of Garuda (Vishnu's eagle), Andal of Bhoodevi (Vishnu's wife, Lakshmi, in her form as Bhudevi), Thondaradippodi of Vanamaalai (Vishnu's garland), Thiruppaanazhwar of Srivatsa (An auspicious mark on Vishnu's chest) and Thirumangaiyazhwar of Saranga (Rama's bow). The songs of Prabandam are regularly sung in all the Vishnu temples of South India daily and also during festivals.
According to traditional account by Manavala Mamunigal, the first three azhwars namely Poigai, Bhoothath and Pey Azhwar belong to Dwapara Yuga (before 4200 BC), as per the details, all Alvars lived around 4200 - 2700 BCE. Some modern scholars suggest that they lived during 5th - 8th century, although such estimates lack evidence. But it is widely accepted by tradition and historians that the trio are the earliest among the twelve azhwars. Along with the three Saiva nayanmars, they influenced the ruling Pallava kings, creating a Bhakti movement that resulted in changing the religious geography from Buddhism and Jainism to these two sects of Hinduism in the region. The azhwars were also instrumental in promoting the Bhagavatha cult and the two epics of India, namely, Ramayana and Mahabaratha. The azhwars were instrumental in spreading Vaishnavism throughout the region. The verses of the various azhwars were compiled by Nathamuni (824-924 AD), a 10th-century Vaishnavite theologian, who called it the "Tamil Veda".
In Tamil, pey refers to one who is possessed and since the saint was madly attracted to Hindu god Vishnu, he got the name. As per Hindu legend, Pey Azhwar was found in the lily flower in the pond of the Adi Kesava Perumal Temple in Mylapore (historically called Manikaivaram), a suburb in Chennai. He is also called Mahadahvaya and Mylapuradapadhi.
As per Hindu legend, Vishnu appeared to the muthalam azhwars (first three azhwars) at Thirukkoilur. It was day time, but it darkened and started raining heavily. The wandering Poigai found out a small hide out, which has a space for one person to lie down. Boodath arrived there looking for a hiding place and Poigai accommodated him, with both sitting together. In the meanwhile, Pey Azhwar also came to the same place as all the three preferred to stand because of lack of space. The darkness became dense and inside the small room, they were not able to see each other. In the meanwhile, they felt a fourth person also forced his way among them. The three azhwars realised from the light of the lightning that the fourth one had a charming face that was sublime and divine. The trio could immediately realize that it was Vishnu who was huddling among them. Poigai wished to see Vishnu's face continuously but could view only from the simmering light of the lightening. With a view to maintain the continuity of light, he instantly composed hundred songs wishing the earth to be a big pot full of ghee like an ocean where the Sun could be the burning wick.
திருக்கண்டேன் பொன் மேனி கண்டேன் திகழும்
அருக்கனணி நிறமும் கண்டேன் - செருக்கிளரும்
பொன்னாழி கண்டேன் புரி சங்கம் கைக்கண்டேன்
என்னாழி வண்ணன் பால் இன்று
Tiruk Kanden Pon Meni Kanden- Thigazhum
Arukkan Ani Niramum Kanden-Seruk Kilarum
Pon Aazhi Kanden Puri Sangam Kai Kanden
En Aazhi Vannan Paal Inru
“ I found the glorious, golden form of the Lord ”
Bhoothathazhwar also sang 100 songs imagining to light the lamp constantly through ardent love for Him. Peyazhwar sang another 100 songs where he described the enchanting charm of the divine face and the association of Narayana equipped with chakra and sankha, and his divine consort goddess Lakshmi.
Pey Azhwar composed hundred verses that are classified as Moondram Tiruvandadhi. Pey Azhwar’s composition was set in the Andhadhi style. The word Andha means end and Adi means beginning. Andhadhi style has ending word or the syllable of each verse as the beginning word of the succeeding verse and the last word of the hundredth verse becomes the beginning of the first verse, making the hundred verses a true garland of verses. The works of these earliest saints contributed to the philosophical and theological ideas of Vaishnavism. The verses of the trio speak of Narayana (another name for Vishnu) as the supreme deity and they refer frequently to Trivikrama and Krishna, the avatars of Vishnu.
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