108 Divya Desams
The Divya Desams (sacred places) are 108 temples that are regarded by Srivaishnavite Hindus as being of special holiness. These Divya Desams were praised by the 12 Alvars, the ultimate devotees of Lord Vishnu. Among these Divya Desams 84 Divya Desams are in Tamilnadu, 11 are in Kerala, 2 are in Andhra Pradesh, 7 are in North India, 1 is in Nepal and 1 is in Gujarat. The remaining two are believed to exist in the spiritual realm. They are the Tirupparkadal or Ksheera Sagaram (ocean of milk) and the Thiruparamapadham (Vaikuntam). Vaishnava Hindus, especially in South India, hope to visit the 106 divya desams that are in the Indian subcontinent, and hopefully reach god's feet in the rest 2 of the 108 divya desams, namely Thirupparkadal and Thiruparamapadham (at God's holy feet).
The Alvars (alvar means "one immersed in God") were twelve Vaishnava saints, who during the early medieval period of Tamil history (between the seventh and the tenth centuries CE) helped to revive devotional Hinduism (bhakti) through their hymns of worship to Vishnu and his incarnations. The twelve Alvars were Poigai Alvar, Bhoodath Alvar, Pei Alvar, Thirumazhisai Alvar, Thirumangai Alvar, Thondaradippodi Alvar, Thiruppaan Alvar, Periyalvar, Andal, Nammalvar, Madhurakavi Alvar and Kulasekara Alvar. They included a woman (Andal). The collection of their hymns are known as Nalaayira Divya Prabhandham. They established the basis of the Vishnu bhakti cult in South India. The Bhakti literature that sprang from these Alvars has contributed to the establishment and sustenance of a culture that broke away from the ritual-oriented Vedic religion and rooted itself in Devotion as the only path for salvation. In addition they helped to make the Tamil religious life independent of a knowledge of Sanskrit.
The twelve Alvars, the last of whom lived in the 9th century CE - were all inspired and ardent devotees who transmitted their divine infatuation to millions. They have left behind an imperishable legacy of devotional Tamil poetry - Naalaayira Divya Prabhandham (considered to be the essence of the Vedas, in Tamil, and all in praise of Lord Vishnu). These have been rarely equalled either in quantity or in quality ever after.
The one held in greatest esteem among the Alvars is Nammalvar. He lived during the seventh century CE. His contribution to the four thousand prabandhams is as many as 1352. His hymns are considered by the Vaishnavites to contain the essense of the Vedas. His works - Thiru Aasiriyam, Thiru Virudham, Periya Thiruvandhadhi corresspond to the Yajur, Rig and Atarvana veda respectively. His other work Periya Thirumozhi (Divine words) is the one of the key works of Vaishnavism.
For detailed information about 108 Divya Desams, 12 Alvars and Nalayiram Divya Prabandham please visit the following websites.
13 Divya Desams in ancient Kerala
There are 13 Divya Desams based on Malai nadu the ancient Kerala. But now 2 of them are in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Kerala has the largest no of divya desams (11) next to Tamil Nadu. Brief description about these 13 temples - Thirupatisaram, Thiruvattar, Thiruvananthapuram, Thiruvalla, Thiruvaranmula, Thrichitat, Thiruvanvandoor, Thiruppuliyoor, Thrikkodithanam, Thrikkakara, Thirumoozhikkalam, Thirumittakkode and Thirunavaya - are presented here.
The rabidly fanatic Tipu Sultan destroyed more than two thousand temples in the Malabar and Cochin region of Kerala to establish Islam. Thirunavaya, Thirumittakkode, Thirumoozhikkalam and Thrikkakara Divya Desams were destroyed as a result of Tipu Sultan's military operations. They were reconstructed by the kings of Calicut and Cochin after the defeat of Tipu Sultan in Sreerangapatanam and the Treaty of 1792 A.D.
Thrichitat, Thiruppuliyoor, Thiruvaranmula, Thiruvanvandoor and Thrikkodithanam temples were collectively called Pancha Pandava Temples and are believed to have been built by Dharmaputra, Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva respectively. It is believed that worship at all these five temples on the same day is especially meritorious.
- Thirupatisaram Kuralappa Perumal Temple
- Thiruvattar Sree Adikesava Perumal Temple
- Thiruvananthapuram Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
- Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Temple
- Thiruchitat Maha Vishnu Temple
- Thiruppuliyoor Maha Vishnu Temple
- Thiruvaranmula Sree Parthasaradhi Temple
- Thiruvanvandoor Maha Vishnu Temple
- Thrikkodithanam Maha Vishnu Temple
- Thrikkakara Vamana Moorthy Temple
- Thirumoozhikkalam Lakshmana Perumal Temple
- Thirumittakkod Anchumoorthy Mangalam Temple
- Thirunavaya Nava Mukunda Temple