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Nammāḻvār

(c. 880—930)


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’, c.880–930 ce)

Nammāḻvār was the most celebrated of the South Indian poet-saints, the Āḻvārs. A śūdra, he was said to have spent his life in fasting and meditation, relying on a brahmin disciple, Maturakavi (c.9th–10th century ce), to popularize his works. The majority of Nammāḻvār's songs are preserved in the Tiruvāymoli (‘Sacred Speech’), possibly the most significant section of the Āḻvār anthology, the Nālāyirappirapantam. In these songs he addresses Viṣṇu/Kṛṣṇa (by his Tamil name, Māyōṉ—‘The Dark One’) as both his king and—using the poetic convention of the passionate love of a girl for her beloved—his lover. All other gods and religious practices are considered useless, since salvation is entirely dependent upon Māyōṉ's grace. Śrī Vaiṣṇavas refer to the Tiruvāymoli as the ‘Tamil Veda’, regarding it as the equal of the Sanskrit Veda, with the added advantage of being accessible to all. See also Tiruviruttam.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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