The Āḻvārs are Vaiṣṇava saint-poets (ca. 6th to 10th c.), who, along with their Śaiva counterparts, the Nāyaṉmārs, spearheaded the bhakti movement in South India and beyond, through their work, now known as Nālāyirativiyappirapantam (also known as the Nālāyira Divya Prabandham, “the 4000 divine compositions”) . They are 12 in number (Poykaiyāḻvār, Pūtattāḻvār, Pēyāḻvār, Tirumaḻicai, Kulaśekhara, Periyāḻvār, Āṇṭāḷ, Toṇṭaraṭippoṭi, Tiruppāṇ, Nammāḻvār, Madhurakavi, and Tirumaṅkai), and they composed deeply emotional poetry in Tamil on the god whose Sanskrit names are Viṣṇu and Nārāyaṇa.
Tamil Vaiṣṇava bhakti
Viṣṇu and His incarnations like Kṛṣṇa and Rāma were known to pre-bhakti texts in Tamil, both to the secular classical poetry (1st c.–7th c. CE), known as Caṅkam poetry, and to the Paripāṭal(5th–6th c. CE), a poem that contains some of the oldest hymns in Tamil, with six extant songs dedicated to Tirumāl (Viṣṇu/Kṛṣṇa). Nevertheless, it was the poets who...
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