The three states of devotion of the mudal-alwars

By editor - 9.11 2017


Being exalted devotees, the mudal-alwars were very grateful to the Lord for revealing Himself to them, out of His causeless mercy. Having thus fulfilled the purpose of their lives, they had overcome the cravings for all sorts of material desires, prayed the Lord to bless them with unflinching devotion towards Him and refrained from seeking any boons. Having happily spent the night in the company of each other, the alwars set out to see the Lord in His deity form in Thirukovilur.

After having darshan of the Lord in His beautiful deity form as Trivikrama, the alwars, who were above all sorts of attachments, continued their wanderings to ensure that their devotional fervor remains intact and to ensure that the devotional service to the Supreme Lord remains the only purpose of their lives. The alwars never stayed in one place for long and started to spend their lives visiting various temples and singing the glories of the Lord.

The alwars came to Thirukovilur as recluses and returned as recluses even after seeing the Supreme Lord, who can grant everything that one could aspire for, in person. As the Lord revealed Himself to them when they were in each other’s company and as their devotional fervor increased manifold when they were together, the alwars realized the importance of the association of the Vaishnavas and decided to stay together under all circumstances. The mudal-alwars came to Thirukovilur as individuals but, returned from there as a team of god brothers and never parted ways after that. According to tradition, the mudal-alwars initiated Thirumazhisai-alwar, who was in a confused state, into the Vaishnava fold. Nothing much is known about the latter part of their lives.   

A lot of significance has been attached to the hymns that the mudal-alwars sang in praise of the Lord when they saw Him and they are chanted during some major festivals in the Sri Vaishnava temples across the globe. Besides ascribing various esoteric meanings to these hymns, the acharyas have interpreted them differently to highlight the spirit of these hymns. According to tradition, the three verses sung by these three alwars indicate the three different states of devotion in which the mudal-alwars were.

By co-relating the Lord with the earth, water and sun, Poigai-alwar has highlighted the omnipresence of the Lord, and that can be realized and visualized only in the state of para-bhakti.

By singing about his unflinching love for the Lord, Bhutat-alwar has revealed that he was in the state ofprema-bhakti.

By focusing all his mental faculties only on the vision of the Lord, Pey-alwar has revealed that he was in the state of parama-bhakti. 

All these three states of bhakti are very difficult to attain and it is believed that many great yogis could not attain these desired states of devotion in spite of practicing severe austerities for thousands of years. The mudal-alwars attained these states just by rendering unconditional devotional service to the Lord.

Each of the three alwars have composed and sung 100 hymns and the hymn that they sang in praise of the Lord, when He blessed them with His vision, constitutes the invocatory hymn of their works.

Poigai-alwar’s work is called mudhal-thuruvandadi
Bhutat-alwar’s work is called irandam-thiruvandadi
Pey-alwar’s work is called mundram-thiruvandadi.

The works of all the three alwars are included in the first thousand verses of Nalayira-divyaprabandham,which the Sri Vaishnavas consider as Tamil Vedas.

Due to this pastime of the alwars, Thirukovilur, which is in the Chengulpet district of Tamil Nadu, is included among the 108 divya-deshams. Nammalwar and Thirumangai-alwar have sung about the mudal-alwars in their hymns.