Tamil Saints: Alwars ,Nayanmaars & Siddha's

Bakthi /Devotional Period in Tamil History
Sangam Age (that lasted till ca. 3rd century AD) is an important period for Tamil Literature. After this, during the next few centuries (Kalabhra Period) there was a lull in literary output. Then came a period of about four centuries (6- 10th C. AD) when a number of devotional or Bakthi literature appeared. There were many important saivaite and Vaishnavaite literature contributions. On a latter date, Nambi Andar Nambi and Nathamuni compiled respectively these saivaite and vaishnavaite literary works as "twelve thirumurais" and "naalayira divya prabhandam". Amongst many Tamil devotees who lived and contributed during this period, 63 saivaite ones (known as Nayanmaars) and 12 vaishnavaite ones (known as Alwars) stand out for their extreme devotion and dedication to God. Herein we list details of these Tamil Saints of this Bakthi period.


Alvar means one who is "immersed" in the experience of God, the omnipresent mysterious One. Tradition reckons 12 Alvars. They come from all walks of life and all strata of society and include in their ranks one woman. Between the fifth and ninth century, in the Tamil-speaking region of South India, these saints revitalized the Indian religious milieu, sparking a renewal of devotional worship throughout the subcontinent. Traveling from place to place, from temple to temple, from holy site to holy site, they composed exceedingly beautiful poetry to their Divine Beloved, Vishnu, as an expression of their love for Him. Anyone can see why their poetry was so attractive; at once both impassioned and philosophical, their words cut across all barriers of caste and class, attracting all to their faith. In doing so, they sculpted a new religious heritage of intensely emotional bhakti, or love of the Divine, whose impact is still felt today in the Indian religious life.


Naayanmaars (Saivaite Saints)
Nayanmar refer to the 63 devotees (and 9 general devotees) of Lord Shiva who lived before or during the life time of Sundaramurthy Nayanar. Sundarar praised them all in the thiruththoNdath thokai, he sang at thiruvArUr. "periya purANam" of Cekkizhar talks in detail the life of these 63 devotees. It is important to note that these devotess come from very different background (caste, economic background, main work for living), stages of life (single, married or sanyasi) and include both male and female ones. Some were learned scholars while others did not have any formal schooling. The unifying factor is their extreme devotion to Lord Shiva, through which the bliss of His grace.




The word "siddha" is derived from the word "chitta," a Siddha is essentially a perfected being. The chitta is the mind-stuff which lingers around the innermost self and percolates through the sheaths surrounding the self. Patanjali has stated in Raja Yoga Sutras that Yoga consists of cleansing the chitta. He is referring to the release of the unconscious memories, thought forms, sense of separateness from the inner divine self, and the erroneous conception that the being is actually the external ego and associated consciousness. These limited “memories” and inaccurate aspects of the mind-stuff have often been stored for lifetimes in the subtle space of self (akash).

18 Siddha's
63 Nayanmar's
12 Alwar's