The birth of Periya-alwar

Saint Periya-alwar and his foster daughter, Andal, are eighth and ninth among the twelve alwars in the chronological order. Periya-alwar was born in a family of aristocratic Brahmins at Sri-Villiputtur on the eleventh day of the waxing moon in Ani month when Swati asterism was prevailing in the year Krodhana, which is said to be the 46th year of the Kali-yuga. According to the English calendar, Periya-alwar was born in 3056 B.C. He is considered to be a part manifestation of Garuda, the Lord’s carrier. Being very good devotees of the Lord, Periya-alwar’s parents - Mukunda and Padma-devi – named him as Vishnu-Chitta, which means one who has enshrined the Lord in his mind or focused his mind on the Lord. As Vishnu-Chitta belonged to the highly respected Veyar sect of Brahmins, it was customary for him to study Vedas and other allied literature. As Sri Villiputtur was filled with highly learned Brahmanas, Vishnu-Chitta’s parents did not send him to distant places to pursue his education. Though Vishnu-Chitta did not evince keen interest in studying the ritualistic section of the Vedas, he was very devoted to the Lord, and was keen on doing devotional service.

Vishnu-Chitta resolved to supply floral wreaths to Lord Vatapatra-Sayi, one of the deity forms in which Lord Krishna is seen reclining on the Banyan leaf in the form of a baby, who was the presiding deity of Sri-Villiputtur, regularly. Vishnu-Chitta raised a special flower garden that had a lot of Tulasi plants for the Lord. Vishnu-Chitta used to wake up very early in the morning and pluck the budding flower even before the sun’s rays touched them and would prepare floral wreaths for the Lord with devotion. As Vishnu-Chitta was very devoted to the Lord and dedicated in his service, the Brahmin community of Sri-Villiputtur looked up to him as their leader. Therefore, he was called Bhatta-Natha. Thus having intuitively realized the purpose of his life, Vishnu-Chitta was leading a contended life.

King Vallabha Deva of the Pandya dynasty ruled Sri Villiputtur and its surrounding areas from Kudal, i.e., Madurai in those days. Being a very righteous king, Vallabha Deva used to frequently roam within his kingdom in disguise to find if there are any administrative lapses or if he could do anything for the wellbeing of his subjects. During the course of such wanderings, Vallabha Deva once noticed a Brahmin sleeping in a Dharma-Chatra, a place where travelers used to take rest in those days. The king woke up the Brahmin and respectfully asked him about his whereabouts. The Brahmin told the king that he was returning from a pilgrimage to Ganges. The King requested the Brahmin to advise him about the things that would lead to his wellbeing.

To that, the Brahmin said, “If you have to sleep peacefully in the night you will have to work hard in the day, if you have to see the rainy season through without any anxieties you will have to work hard for the rest of the year and save something and if you have to spend your old age peacefully you will have to save some wealth by working hard during your youth. Similarly, if you have to attain eternal bliss after you die, you have to worship the cause of all the causes with devotion during your lifetime and that is the purpose of human life.

Saying so, the Brahmin continued his journey the following day. Having realized the importance of life after death the king started to ponder over the Brahmin’s advice. The king, who had everything that wealth and power could fetch, decided to find out the Supreme Power that is the cause of all causes and to worship him with devotion to attain liberation. 

Let us know more about the king’s quest for truth in the next post.