Thiruppaan Alvar

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Thiruppaan Alvar
Religion Hinduism
Philosophy Vaishnava Bhakti
Born 2760 BCE[1][2]
Literary works Amalaanathi Piraan
Honors Alvar saint

Thiruppaan Alvar or Thirupaanazhwar 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. Thirupaanazhwar is considered the eleventh in the line of the twelve azhwars.

As per Hindu legend, he descended from eternity and was found in a paddy field by a couple from the paanar community. Thirupaanazhwar is known for his affiliation to Ranganatha of the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple and is believed to have merged with the deity.

The ten verses of Thirupaanazhwar are called Amalanaathipiran, and his contributions amount to ten verses among the 4000 stanzas in the Nalayira Divya Prabandam. The works of Thirupaanazhwar 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.

In South-Indian Vishnu temples, Thirupaanazhwar has images and festivals associated with him. The Tirupaanazhwar Avathara Utsavam is celebrated in Srirangam and for ten days in Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Temple in Woraiyur/ The verses of Thirupaanazhwar and other azhwars are recited as a part of daily prayers and during festive occasions in most Vishnu temples in South India.


Main article: Alvars

Though the word azhwar has traditionally been etymologized as from Tamil. 'Azh' (ஆழ்), 'to immerse oneself' as one who dives deep into the ocean of the countless attributes of god, a seminal research[3] by the Indologist S. Palaniappan has established that this word is actually a corruption of the original inscriptionally attested pre-11th century 'ALvAr' ((ஆள்வார்) 'one who rules' or 'a great person' which should be compared with the epithet 'Āṇḍãḷ' ((ஆண்டாள்) for the female canonized Vaishnava saint Kōtai ((கோதை). Azhwars are considered the twelve supreme devotees of Vishnu, who were instrumental in popularising Vaishnavism during the 5th to 8th centuries AD. 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.[4][5] The saints had different origins and belonged to different castes. As per tradition, the first three azhwars, Poigai, Bhutha and Pei were born miraculously. Tirumizhisai was the son of a sage, Thondaradi, Mathurakavi, Peria and Andal were from brahmin community, Kulasekhara from Kshatria community, Namm was from a cultivator family, Tirupana from the ancient musical pāṇar community and Tirumangai from kaḷvar 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 Lokacharya, 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), Namm 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), Thiruppaan of Srivatsa (An auspicious mark on Vishnu's chest) and Thirumangai 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.[5][6]

According to traditional account by Manavala Mamunigal, the first three azhwars namely Poigai, Bhoothath and Pey belong to Dwapara Yuga (before 4200 BC). It is widely accepted by tradition and historians that the trio are the earliest among the twelve azhwars.[4][5][7][8][9] 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.[10] The azhwars were instrumental in spreading Vaishnavism throughout the region.[11] The verses of the various azhwars were compiled by Nathamuni (824-924 AD), a 10th-century Vaishnavite theologian, who called it the "Tamil Veda".[12][13]

Early life[edit]

Shrine of Thirupaan Azhwar in Sri Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Temple, believed to be his birthplace.

Thiruppaan is believed to have descended from eternity and he was found in a paddy field by a couple from the paanar community. The childless pair cherished the child and fed him with high quality food to avoid influence of deletrious food used by their community.[14] Thiruppaan Alvar was born in Purthurmadhi year, Kaarthigai(Nov-Dec) month, on a Wednesday in the Rohini Nakshatra(star) in a small village of Alagapuri near Srirangam in the 8th or 9th century C.E. Paanars are a community of musicians and traditional song makers who are capable of moving their audiences to states of ecstasy and bliss. The Paanar community were considered as outcastes. It is believed that he is the amsam (form) of the small mark on Vishnu's chest (legend has it that all alvars are avatars of some part of Vishnu), called as Srivatsam on the chest of Sriman Narayanan.

Being a divine child, his instincts were heavenly and he grew as a man leaving all glamour of the world. Having a veena(string instrument) in his hand, he was always to be seen singing the glories of Vishnu. He was soon famous in and around these Tamil lands of Southern India. His skills as a bhakti(divine) musician and his abilities to express and invoke bhakti amongst his listeners, drew audiences from afar. He was soon to be known as "Paanar perumal".[15] One of the strictures on outcastes was that they were not allowed to use some shores of Cauvery river, considered sacred and pure by the people of the region. Following this stricture, Paan Perumal did not come near the Kaveri river, but mostly stood alongside its banks facing the Srirangam temple and sang his praises to Ranganatha, the presiding deity of the temple. He believed that the conventions and spiritual sense specified by sastras lies in moral conduct.[14]

Reaching Srirangam[edit]

Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple

A sage by name Loka Saranga came to the river Kaveri for drawing water for the temple. Panar was in deep devotion and was unaware of his surroundings that he missed the voice of Saranga asking him to leave way. The sage threw a small stone in his direction to wake him, but the stone accidentally hit the forehead of Paanar and he started to bleed. Paanar realised the happening and quietly retired. Unaware of the injury caused to Panaar, the sage returned to the temple. He was taken aback on seeing blood oozing out from the forehead of the image of Ranganatha. That very night, Vishnu appeared in the dream of Loka Saaranga and commanded him to fetch Paanar to the temple the next morning in his shoulders. Accordingly, Lokasaranga requested Paanar to come to the temple. But, Paanar, referring to his lowly birth, declined to enter the holy place. When he was told of Vishnu's commandment, Paanar was beside himself and was lost in a deep trance. Loka Saaranga said that if that were his objection, he could carry him on his shoulders to the temple. When they reached the sanctum, Paanar experienced the bliss of Ranganatha and composed the Amalan Adhipiraan a poem describing the beauty from head to foot of Vishnu in ten verses and ultimately laid his life at the feet of the deity.[16] The poem is considered to be sweeter than even the sound of music of the Veena.[17][18][19]


The first pasuram(hymn) sung by Alvar is on Arangan's feet. On seeing the Thiruvadi (lotus feet) of Ranganathan he sang:

Neel madhil Arangathamman thrukkamalpadham vandhu en Kanninullana okkinrathe.

He then started to see the whole thirumeni (body) of Emperumaan and he sang a total of ten paasurams (hymns) which explain the beauty of Sri Ranganathar from his thiruvadi (foot) to thirumudi (head). He explains in his ten paasurams (hymns) about the clean saffron cloth which is worn on the body of Ranganathar, his jewels the thiru vayiru (stomach) from where Lord Brahma originated, the broad chest, the red lips and finally on explaining the beauty of the two broad eyes, he fell down. After some time, Thiruppaan Alwar was not found and he went in to the body of Thiruvaranganathan. Like Andal, whose thoughts were always on Aranganathan, and was enraptured by the love of the Perumal, Thiruppaan Alwar was also captured by this love and he became a part of the Lord along with his mortal sheath. He composed a total of ten paasurams, where he explains how a humans should lead their life. His principal purport in them is : "Perumal is the principal supreme entity and our aims and aspirations should be to attain Him through total surrender to him signified by our placing all of ourselves at his lotus feet".[20][21]

One of the verses reads

Commentary and Interpretations[edit]

Image of the granite and festival image of Thirupaan in Alwarthirunagari Temple

Thiruppaanaalvar's ten verses Amalannadhipiraan and the Alvar's Bhagavad Anubhavam (experiences of the divine) moved many Vaishnava Acharyas(gurus). The ten verses are compiled in the Sixth Prabhandam of the Mudalaaiyram of Divya Prabandha.[23] Vedanta Desikan was moved by the composition of the Alvar and wrote a commentary called Munivahana Bhogam in Sanskritized Tamil - Manipravalam. He also composed four verses in Tamil in his Prabhanda Saaram to elaborate on the significance of the contribution of the saint. He went on to compose a Stotram (divine text) in Sanskrit known as Sri Bhagavad Dhyana Sobhaanam. Vedanta Desikan was so moved by the ten verses of Amalanaadhipiraan that he paid multiple tributes to the saint. Desikan was so overwhelmed by the profoundity of the saint's bhagavad anubhavam that he declared the ten verse compendium to be the essence of countless Vedic texts.


The devotees of Srivaishnva sect of Hinduism pay respect to the azhwars in a similar vein to their worship of Vishnu. The verses of azhwars are recited as a part of daily prayers and during festive occasions in most Vishnu temples in South India. There are shrines dedicated to the azhwars in most of the Vishnu temples in South India.[24] In Srirangam Ranganthaswamy temple, a yearly birth festival of Tirupannazhwar is celebrated wit Viswaroopa darshan of Ranganatha at the sanctum on the occasion of his birthday. The festive idol of Tiupannazhwar is brought from his birth place in Sri Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Temple at modern day Woraiyur to Srirangam. Tiupana is accorded with grand honours called "Keezha Padi Honours". A Parivattam (silk turban) is tied on the Azhwar's head, adorned with garland, shawl is wrapped around his shoulders and sacred sandal paste is handed to him, all of which are believed to bring a smile on the face of the azhwar. An hour later, the image of the azhwar is taken to Nammazhwar shrine and then Thayar shrine, with the chanting of Nalayira Divya Prabandham with the verses of the azhwar's work Amalanaathipiraan. In the Azhagiya Manaval Perumal temple, a 10-day festival is celebrated that included Araiyar sevai, Veda Paaraayanam (reciting of Vedas), special thirumanjanam (ablution) and procession inside the temple.[17]


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