About Alwar Periyazhwar

  • By R Ramdas Thampuran
  • January 18, 2022
  • Know about the learned Alwar, Periyazhwar and his worship of Lord Vishnu.

Periyazhwar, by virtue of being the father of Andal, is one of the most celebrated among the 12 Alwars. It is surmised that he lived during the middle of the 9th century C.E. His original name was Vishnuchitta and he was born in the month of Ani under the asterism of Swathy, in a Brahmin family at Srivilliputhur.


Intensely devoted to Lord Vishnu, he began to serve the Lord by stringing garlands. In this he was guided by the Puranic episode in Bhagavatham wherein on the way to Mathura, Krishna and Balarama requested garlands from a wayside flower vendor. Thus, knowing the liking of the Lord for flower garlands, Vishnuchitta thought that there would be no service better than offering garlands to the Lord every day. He built a Nandavanam of the choicest of flowers and tended it like the apple of his eye.


The king of Pandya Desa was Vallabhadevan at that time. One day, he was roaming in the city incognito, when he met a wandering Brahmin on the way. When questioned, the Brahmin replied that he was returning after a dip in the Ganges. The king requested him to compose a poem. Immediately the Brahmin broke into a song pregnant with Vedic wisdom, emphasising the need to generate ‘punya’ in this birth as a foundation for after-life. The king was impressed by this statement and he held a discussion pertaining to it with Vedic scholars and also religious leaders from other faiths like Buddhism, Saivism and Jainism. 


First published in Journal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.


During this time, Lord Narayana came in the dream of Periyazhwar and directed him to proceed to Madura to take part in the conference. Alwar was diffident because of his lack of scholarship. However, the Lord assured him of his guidance. Periyazhwar proceeded to Madura, where he was welcomed by the king. However, the ministers and other courtiers looked askance and wondered how this simple Brahmin was fit to address the august gathering.


Armed with the grace of Lord Vishnu, whom the Alwar used to worship as Vadapathrasayee (reclining on the peepal leaf), he shone like ‘Brahaspati’ and left the audience spellbound. The king offered him a bag of gold and took him on a procession atop an elephant. While Periyazhwar was riding on the elephant, he had a vision of Lord Narayana with Goddess Lakshmi. Overcome with devotion, he composed a ‘Divya Prabandam’ known as Thirupallandu.


Alwar paid rich tribute to Vallabharaja and opined that the king would be remembered as one of the foremost devotees of Lord Vishnu. Periyazhwar forthwith returned to Srivilliputhur and utilising the money (which he kept at the feet of the Lord) for building the temple gopuram, he went back to his old vocation of stringing flower garlands. Simultaneously he pursued his literary work and composed a treatise based on Krishnavatara. This is known as Periyazhwar Thirumozhi.


Also read

1. Album of Srivilliputhur Mandir


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, 15 December 2021 issue. This article is courtesy and copyright Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.


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