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Important Historical Figures From Tamil NAdu


Thiruvalluvar, a Tamil poet and philosopher, is best known for his work, Tirukkural. ‘Tirukkural’ etymologically means the ‘holy couplets,’ i.e. a text having two lines with seven words each in the Tamil poetic ‘venba’ metre. It has 1330 couplets with 133 chapters each containing 10 couplets.

Tirukkural is a moral compendium which has been classified under three major headings; aram (righteousness), porul (wealth), ibam (enjoyment). The ideological implication of these titles is that one must earn wealth through righteous means and enjoyment becomes imminent through that which leads to enlightenment. This view is similar to the Sanskrit tradition of dharma, artha, kama and moksa.

In Arathupal of Thirukkural, Valluvar was a great enunciator of morals; In Inbathupal, he has become a poet and in Porutpal, he is known to be a political philosopher.

In porutpal, Valluvar mentioned about nature of a king in detailed. The King must possess the leadership qualities such as, Education, Listening Ability, Wisdom, Fending off Faults, Seeking the company of great men, Avoiding mean–minded, Rationality, Priority for time for action, Assessing and Assigning tasks, Embracing the Kin, Doing duty without forgetting, Justice, Knowing the right place, Refraining from Terrifying Deeds, Compassion, Espionage, Spirit, To avoid laziness, Perseverance and Determination which should be the requisites of a king. These above-mentioned qualities may also be possessed by good people.

Valluvar lived in the period of monarchy. However, his ideas and ideals are also applicable for the present leaders of democracy. He also indicated the nature of state and government in the king’s rule. The words of Valluvar regarding government and state is applicable and suitable to all over the period as well as every organization in the world.

Tiruvalluvar’s philosophy is that of common man and hence he developed his ideals in such a manner that man ought to live as a true human being and cherish all the human values, promote earthly virtues, establish social harmony, engage in domestic life, follow political ideologies, develop mutual assistance, adhere to the life of renunciation, enjoy all kinds of pleasures, contemplate deeply on a few metaphysical issues etc.

Tiruvalluvar’s moral philosophy is anthropo-centric exclusively since its focus is on life on this earth rather than aspiring for heavenly abode. Tiruvalluvar is more concerned with the problems of life and ideal solutions of for sociopolitical and moral issues. He was totally opposed to absolutizing and idealizing the problems and making it a other worldy affairs.

Kavichakravati Kamban

Kamban is one of the greatest Tamil ports sand his name is widely known among Tamils. It is generally accepted that he was born in Therezhundur in the heart of Tamil Nadu and that he secured the patronage of Sadayappa, a nobleman of the time.

The Ramavatra (the descent of Rama) is the most work of Kamban. Kamban chose Rama’s life as the theme of his epic and got the details of the story from Valmiki’s Sanskrit epic, the Ramyana. But the whole story was recreated by him in Tamil and his long epic of some 42,000 lines enshrines all that is significant in Tamil tradition and culture.

Kamban has distilled into his poem all that is great in the literature prior to him in Tamil and has exploited to the full, his heritage of Vaishanva thought and philosophy, the simplicity, directness and ethical learnings of the earliest Tamil poets and the mystical symbolism and lyrical identity of the Alwars and Nayanmars.

With a remarkable knowledge of human nature, an unfailing sense of dramatic, a keen mind reaching out towards profound truths with ease and precision, and a diction rich and multitoned, Kamban has created a spacious poem and while expressing through it the highest achievements of the Tamil people, has at the same time tried to probe and present the mystery of human life.

Agastya Muni

Aagstya Muni is one of the Saptarishis who went into long periods of Samadhi states to assimilate this science and knowing, and to integrate that into the human form.

Agastya Muni lived an extraordinary life. It is believed that he also lived an extraordinary span of life. The legend says that he lived for 4000 years.

The legend says that he went into his sadhana in a subterranean space and stayed there in a mode of hibernation for a long period of time. When he came out, he had completely integrated the knowledge as a part of himself, carrying it not as intellectual property but as a reverberating process of his own human system. He decided to fulfill his mission of going south, and of all the seven disciples, he became the most prominent because of the vigor with which he spread this across the southern part of the subcontinent.

Yoga came in a particular format to Southern India through Agastya. In many ways, Agastya is the father of Southern Indian mysticism.

Kalaripayattu is probably the oldest martial art form on the planet. It was essentially taught by Agastya Muni to start with because martial arts are not just about kicking, punching or stabbing. It is about learning to use the body in every possible way. It not only involves exercise and other aspects of agility, it also involves understanding the energy system. There is Kalari chikitsa and Kalari marma which involves knowing the secrets of the body and healing the body quickly to keep the body in a regenerative mode.

In the Indian traditions, he is a noted recluse and an influential scholar in diverse languages of the Indian subcontinent. He and his wife Lopamudra are the celebrated authors of hymns 1.165 to 1.191 in the Sanskrit text Rigveda and other Vedic literature. Agastya appears in numerous itihasas and Puranas including the major Ramayana and Mahabharata. He is one of the seven or eight most revered Rishis in the Vedic texts.

In the Ramayana, Agastya and Lopamudra are described as living in Dandaka forest, on the southern slopes of Vindhya mountains. Rama praises Agastya as the one who can do what gods find impossible. He is described by Rama as the sage who asked Vindhya mountains to lower themselves so that Sun, Moon and living beings could easily pass over it. He is also described as the sage who used his Dharma powers to kill demons Vatapi and Ilwala after they had jointly misled and destroyed 9,000 men.

Agastya is traditionally attributed to be the author of many Sanskrit texts such as the Agastya Gita found in Varaha Purana, Agastya Samhita found embedded in Skanda Purana, and the Dvaidha-Nirnaya Tantra text.

Siddha vaidya is an evolution from the Yogic science and was essentially formulated by Agastya Muni. They say Adiyogi himself practiced it and Agastya brought it to the Southern part of India. It is elemental in nature, which needs less study but more internal mastery for the person who practices it. Essentially it is elemental in nature. It comes more from the Yogic science because the fundamental of Yogic science is in Bhuta Shuddhi or cleansing of one’s elements.


Avvaiyyar was a female poet of the ninth century, who lived in the southern parts of India. She is known, not only for her extraordinary poetry, but also, as a noble and revered saint. The term ‘Avvaiyyar’ means ‘ respected old woman’ or ‘Grandmother’.

As per the legends surrounding Avaiyyar Biography, she was born to a Brahman called Bhagavan and his untouchable wife called Adi. Since Bhagavan was on a spiritual journey at the time of her birth, both of them decided to abandon the child. A poet passing from there noticed the abandoned child and took her under his care. Right from childhood, Avvaiyyar showed a deep interest in poetry. At the tender age of four, she was able to complete a complicated verse that even the most distinguished poets of the land could not.

Avvaiyar was extremely devoted to Lord Ganesha since childhood. She always asked Him for three gifts, the gifts of poetry, music and drama. As she grew, her talents also grew to the highest

levels. At the same time, she also started getting marriage proposals. Fed up with the proposal and being constantly pressurized to get marries, Avaiyyar asked Lord Ganesha to remove her beauty and turn her into an old woman. The Lord obliged and in acknowledgment of His generosity, she sang a great paean of Praise for Him, regarded as the equivalent of the Vedas. After this incident, she began her journey as a wanderer. The life gave her the much desires education and inspiration and this social conscience started to reflect in her poetry also. The love Avvaiyar had for the common man, her contempt towards pretensions of the rich, etc, all were beautifully brought forward in her poems. During her lifetime, Avvaiyar also came across Skanda, brother of Ganesha. Her last public service was the prevention of the war between King Adiyaman and King Thondiaman.


Ramanuja (1017 – 1137 C.E.) was a south Indian philosopher who helped to consolidate the Visistadvaita Vedanta (qualified non-dualism) School of Hindu philosophy and is renowned as a saint by the Sri Vaisnava branch of Hinduism. Whereas previous Hindu philosophers, such as Shankara, had focused on introspective wisdom (jnana) at the expense of devotion (bhakti), Ramanuja’s philosophical writings bolstered the intellectual rationale for devotional practice within Hinduism, and realigned Hindu philosophy with the type of theism practiced by the majority of Hindus. Ramanuja can be credited with spreading the doctrine of Vaishnavism (worship of Vishnu) and making it more popular. During his travels, it is said that he also started 74 Visistadvaita centers throughout India.

Both Ramanuja and Shankara’s systems of Vedanta were predicated on their respective interpretations of the Upanishads and Brahmasutra Bhasya. Since the heterogeneous Upanishads presented inconsistent views on God, containing contradictory passages about the unity and diversity of Brahman, it is not surprising that Ramanuja and Shankara developed different perspectives on Brahman.

Whereas Shankara attempted to reconcile the conflicting Upanishadic passages by positing two levels of reality (nirguna and saguna Brahman), Ramanuja, in contrast, postulated three interrelated theories to account for the unity and diversity of Brahman: (1) the “Body of God” doctrine, (2) co-ordinate predication (samanadhikaranya), and (3) the body-inner-controller relationship (sarira-sariri bhava). Each of these theories will be briefly explained below.

Ramanuja boldly stated in his Vedarthasamgraha text, “The scriptures declare the glory of Brahman by saying that Brahman has the whole universe as its body” (Verse 81). According to Ramanuja, the universe is made up of souls (jiva), matter (jagat), and Brahman. He asserted that souls and matter are entirely dependent on Brahman, and qualify Brahman’s existence. Thus, the whole universe is the body of God, which consists of two modes: finite souls and matter. The relationship between these two modes is inseparability (aprathaksiddi). Consequently, Ramanuja’s system of thought is called Visistadvaita (qualified non-dualism), because Brahman is allegedly qualified (visesya) by souls (cit) and matter (acit). Such qualities (visesanas) are distinct from God yet constitute interrelated modes of God’s body.

Nine writings h ave been authoritatively attributed to Ramanuja. His most famous work, the Sribhasya, is a commentary on the Brahma-sutra from the perspective of a bhakti practitioner. He also wrote several works that describe his own philosophy in detail (Vedantasara, Vedantapida, and Vedarthasamgraha), a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (Gitabhasya), a manual of daily worship (Nityagrantha), and several hymns (Saranagatigadya, Vaikunthagadya, and Srirangagadya).

The Alvars

As torchbearers of the Sri Vaishnava tradition of South India from the sixth through ninth centuries, the 12 Alvars of Tamil Nadu spread the message of fervent love, devotion and spiritual surrender unto the Divine. Alvar means one who is “immersed deeply in” the love of God. These poet-saints, all great devotees of Maha Vishnu, came from diverse communities in the Tamil South. They traveled to temples far and wide, collectively composing 4,000 hymns (pasurams) in praise of Vishnu and Krishna. In the 10th century, theologian Nathamuni compiled their works as the Nalayira Divya Prabandham (Divine Collection of 4,000 Hymns) and set them to music for singing in temples. The Divya Prabandham is hailed as the “Vedas of the Dravidians,” as they convey the message of the Vedas and Upanishads in accessible Tamil. The Alvars propound a

personal and emotional approach as they dote on and chide Perumal/Vishnu through their passionate bhakti poetry, which devotees memorize, recite, sing, listen and dance to. The songs of the Prabandham are regularly sung in South Indian Vishnu temples and homes, especially during festivals.


Traditional accounts portray each Alvar as an incarnation of a divine aspect of the Supreme Maha Vishnu, as follows:

• Poigai Alvar: Panchajanya (Vishnu’s conch)

• Bhoothath Alvar: Kaumodaki (Vishnu’s mace)

• Pey Alvar: Nandaka (Vishnu’s sword)

• Thirumazhisai Alvar: Sudarshana Chakra (Vishnu’s discus)

• Nammalvar: Vishvaksena (Vishnu’s army commander)

• Madhurakavi Alvar: Vainatheya (Vishnu’s eagle Garuda)

• Kulasekhara Alvar: Kaustubha (Vishnu’s divine gem)

• Periyalvar: Garuda (Vishnu’s vahana/vehicle)

• Sri Andal: Bhudevi (Vishnu’s wife, Lakshmi)

• Thondaradippodi Alvar: Vanamalai (Vishnu’s garland)

• Thiruppan Alvar: Srivatsa (auspicious mark on Vishnu’s chest)

• Thirumangai Alvar: Saranga (Vishnu’s bow)

Poigai Alvar, Bhoothath Alvar, and Pey Alvar, three contemporaries, are considered the Mudal Alvars (first Alvars).


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