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The alwar or azhwars (Tamil: ஆழ்வார்கள், āzvārhaḷ [aːɻʋaːr], ‘those immersed in god’) were Tamil poet saints of south India who lived between the sixth and ninth centuries A.D. and espoused ‘emotional devotion’ or bhakti to Visnu-Krishna in their songs of longing, ecstasy and service. Sri Vaishnava orthodoxy posits the number of alvars as ten, though there are other references that include Andal and madhurakavi, making the number twelve. The devotional outpourings of Alvars, composed during the early medieval period of Tamil history, helped revive the bhakti movement, through their hymns of worship to Vishnu and his Avatars. They praised 108 of this deity's holy abodes in their hymns, known as the Divya Desams. Together with the contemporary sixty three Saiva Nayanars, they are accounted as South India's 75 Apostles of Bhakti because of their importance in the rise of the Hindu Bhakti movement. The collection of their hymns is known as Divya Prabandha.
The Bhakti literature that sprang from Alvars has contributed to the establishment and sustenance of a culture that broke away from the ritual-oriented Vedic religion and rooted itself in devotion as the only path for salvation. In addition they helped to make the Tamil religious life independent of a knowledge of Sanskrit.  As part of the legacy of the Alvars, five Vaishnava philosophical traditions (sampradayas) have developed at the later stages.
Alvars or 'Azhwars' literally means 'people who are immersed'. They are so called because they were immersed in their devotion and love to their Lord, Vishnu. . However recently S.Palaniappan has argued that what was originally Āļvār got changed through hyper correction and folk etymology to Āzhvār. Palaniappan cites inscriptional evidence for a gradual sound change from āļvār to āzhvār over a period of two centuries from the 9th century to the 11th century involving references to religious leaders in Vaishnavism, Shaivism and even Jainism and to political personalities. He states: "āzhvār is but a corrupt form of āļvār which has been used interchangeably with nāyanār in secular and religious contexts in the Tamil land" and "... Notwithstanding the Vaishnava claim of unbroken teacher-student tradition, the fact that Nathamuni has used the form āļvār but Piļļān [A disciple and younger cousin of Rāmānuja] ended up using the form āzhvār suggests that there has been an error in transmission somewhere along the teacher-student chain between the two teachers. This error was obviously due to the influence of the sound variation that has occurred in the Srirangam area and elsewhere"
The twelve Alvars were all inspired and ardent devotees who transmitted their divine infatuation to millions. They have left behind an imperishable legacy of devotional Tamil poetry - naalaayira Divya Prabhandham (considered to be the essence of the Vedas, in Tamil, and all in praise of Lord Vishnu). These have been rarely equalled either in quantity or in quality ever after.
The one held in greatest esteem among the Alvars is Nammalvar. He lived during the ninth century CE. His contribution to the four thousand prabandhams is as many as 1352. His hymns are considered by the Vaishnavites to contain the essence of the Vedas. His works - Thiruvasiriyam, Thiruviruttam, Periya Thiruvandhadhi correspond to the Yajur, Rig and Atharva Vedas respectively. His other work Thiruvaaimozhi (Divine words) is one of the key works of Vaishnavism.
Periyalvar delighted in worshipping Vishnu as mother, and composed 440 verses treating himself as Yashoda and Narayana as Krishna. He also talks about the beauty of the Lord Krishna right from his birth. Apart from these compositions, Sri Periyazhwar has also composed hymns on various divya desams. Andal, daughter of Periyalvar, has attributed the Tiruppaavai, a most beautiful collection of 30 verses giving expression to the purest love of God. It is considered to be equivalent to Vedas.
The last acharya of the Thenkalai Guruparampara, Sri Manavalamuni has composed " Upadesa Rathnamalai" a hymn of 72 verses where talks and praises the Azhwars about their birthstars, place of birth and also about their compositions.
For a detailed list of number of paasurams of all Alvars on each Divyadesam: Mangalasasanam by Divyadesam
The revered alvars came from all castes, a symbolic notion in Vaishnavism to show that devotion to God transcends above caste. Nammalvar, or Satakopan, belonged to the Vellala caste. Thirumangai Alvar belonged to the Kallara tribe. Thirumalisai Alvar was originally born to a Brahmin community but was raised by Peerambu vetiyan (one who makes use of bamboo for living) caste. Thiruppaan Alvar belonged to Panar caste, Kulashekhara was a King from Kerala. Vishnu Chittar, or Periyalvar, was a Brahmin.
The following tables shows the place, century and star of birth of each Alvar. The Traditional Datings of Alwars have been contested by the historians as in case of many Indian Works and the British trained historians place the dates as follows.Traditional datings take them to the age of Sukhaacharya(srimad Bhagvatam)who while delivering the work to parrekshit spake of Alvars as vaishnavaite saints and many are from dwapura yuga,while swami nammalwar belongs to the commencement of Kali yuga. Kalou Kalu Bhavishyanti narayana parayana. Kvachit Kvachin Mahabhago dramideshucha pureesha tamrabharani nadhi yatra kruta malaa payasvini kaavericha mahaabhago pradeeseecha mahaanadhi.(srimadh bhagvath purana). 
|Sl no||Alwar Saint||Period and Place||Composition||Month||Nakshatra||Avatar of|
|1||Poigai Alvar||7th C. AD, Kanchipuram||Mudhal Thiruvandhadhi, 100 verses.||Aiypassee||Thiruvonam (Sravana)||Panchajanya (Lord Shri Krishna's Conch)|
|2||Bhoothathalvar||7th C. AD, Thirukadalmallai (Mahabhalipuram)||Irandam Thiruvandhadhi, 100 verses.||Aiypassee||Avittam (Dhanishta)||Kaumodakee (Lord Vishnu's Mace/Club)|
|3||Peyalvar||7th C. AD, Mylapore||Moondram Thiruvandhadhi, 100 verses.||Aiypassee||Sadayam (Satabhishak)||Nandaka (Lord Vishnu's Sword)|
|4||Thirumalisai Alvar||7th C. AD, Thirumazhisai||Nanmugan Thiruvandhadhi, 96 verses; ThiruChanda Virutham, 120 verses.||Thai||Magam (Makha)||Sudarshanam (Name of Lord Vishnu's weapon discus)|
|5||Nammalvar||9th C. AD, Azhwar Thirunagari (Kurugur)||Thiruvaymozhi, 1102 verses; Thiruvasiriyam, 7 verses; Thiru Virutham, 100 verses; Periya Thiruvandhadhi, 87 verses.||Vaigaasi||Vishaakam (Vishaaka)||Vishvaksena (Lord Vishnu's Commander)|
|6||Madhurakavi Alvar||9th C. AD, Thirukollur||Kanninun Siruthambu, 11 verses.||Chitthirai||Chitthirai (Chithra)||Vainatheya (Lord Vishnu's eagle, Garuda)|
|7||King Kulasekhara Alvar||9th century AD, Thiruvanchikkulam, Later Chera kingdom||Perumal Thirumozhi, 105 verses.||Maasee||Punar Poosam (Punarvasu)||Kaustubha (Lord Vishnu's necklace)|
|8||Periyalvar||9th C. AD, Sri Villiputhur||Periyazhwar Thirumozhi, 473 verses.||Aani||Swathi (Swaathee)||Garuda (Lord Vishnu's eagle)|
|9||Andal||9th C. AD, Sri Villiputhur||Nachiyar Thirumozhi, 143 verses; Thiruppavai, 30 verses.||Aadi||Pooram (Poorva Phalguni)||Bhoodevi (Lord Vishnu's wife, Lakshmi, in her form as Bhudevi)|
|10||Thondaradippodi Alvar||8th C. AD, Thirumandangudi||Thirumaalai, 45 verses; Thirupalliezhuchi, 10 verses.||Maargazhi||Kettai (Jyeshta)||Vanamaalai (Lord Vishnu's garland)|
|11||Thiruppaan Alvar||8th C. AD, Uraiyur||Amalan Adi Piraan, 10 verses.||Kaarthigai||Rogini (Rohinee)||Srivatsa (An auspicious mark on Lord Vishnu's chest)|
|12||Thirumangai Alvar||8th C. AD, thirukurayalur||Periya Thirumozhi, 1084 verses; Thiru Vezhukootru irukkai, 1 verse; Thiru Kurun Thandagam, 20 verses; Thiru Nedun Thandagam, 30 verses.||Kaarthigai||KrithikaI (Kritthikaa)||Saranga (Lord Rama's bow)|
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