Simple Guide to SrivaishNavam - dhivya prabandham and dhivya dhESams

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SrIman nArAyaNan with SrI dhEvi (SrI mahAlakshmi), bhUdhEvi, nILA dhEvi and nithyasUris in paramapadham

In the previous article, we understood the glories of our guru paramaparai. Now, let us understand the importance of dhivya prabandhams and dhivya dhESams.

SrIman nArAyaNan is the supreme God who is filled with unlimited and wonderful auspicious qualities. Out of his divine and unconditional grace,  he blessed selected jIvAthmAs to become AzhwArs (great saints who preached pure and exclusive devotion towards SrIman nArAyaNan). Though He was the supremely independent master of the nithyasUris (eternally free souls) and mukthAthmAs (liberated souls), he wanted to rid himself of the one agony he had.

That agony is him suffering for the suffering of the bound souls in the material world. Him being the supreme father of every one, he was unable to bear the suffering of his children who are caught in the cycle of birth and death in the material world. One may question, if the supreme God will have any agony/sorrow - him being sathya kAma (one who can fulfill all his desires) and sathya sankalpa (one who can accomplish anything). Our AchAryas have explained that him feeling the pain for the suffering souls is also his auspicious quality. Just like an all-capable father who is happily living with his one child will still worry for his other child who is staying away from him on his own and struggling, bhagavAn, though being all-capable, he is feeling the pain looking at the plight of the jIvAthmAs in samsAram (material world) who are suffering since time-immemorial due to being covered by ignorance and lacking of true knowledge.

To facilitate the upliftment of such suffering jIvAthmAs, he gives body and senses for the jIvAthmAs during srushti (creation), reveals the sAsthram (scriptures), himself descends in to the material world as various incarnations like SrI rAma, krishNa, etc. Even after all of these, the jIvAthmAs are not really willing to learn the true knowledge and accept his supremacy. Just like a hunter will catch a deer using another trained deer, He decides to uplift jIvAthmAs through other jIvAthmAs who are already in the material world. So he chooses a select few of them, blesses them with divine knowledge and makes them AzhwArs. AzhwAr means one who is immersed in bhagavath vishayam (spiritual matters).  These AzhwArs appeared in various holy places in  the southern part of bhAratha dhEsam as foretold by vEdha vyAsa in SrI bhAgavatham. We have already seen about the AzhwArs in previous articles.


AzhwArs compiled many pAsurams (verses) in glorification of SrIman nArAyaNan. These pAsurams total up to 4000 verses approximately and are thus called 4000 dhivya prabandham. dhivya means divine and prabandham means literature (that which captures bhagavAn himself). The various kshEthrams (holy places) which host bhagavAn in his archA (deity) form that are glorified by AzhwArs became to be known as dhivya dhESams. dhivya dhESams are said to be 108 in total. 106 of those, exist in the various regions of bhAratha dhESam (including Nepal). kshIrAbdhi (milk ocean) is situated within the material realm yet too far for usto reach. parama padham is the spiritual realm which is reached after liberation. SrIrangam is considered as the primary dhivya dhESam and thirumalA, kAnchIpuram, thiruvallikkENi, AzhwAr thirunagari etc., are some important dhivya dhESams. bhagavAn is said to have five manifestations - supreme lord in paramapadham, vyUha form in kshIrAbdhi, antharyAmi (as the in-dwelling super soul), vibhava (incarnations such as SrI rAma, krishNa etc) and finally archA (deity) form. Among these forms, the deity form is considered as the most magnanimous form of bhagavAn which is approachable by every one at all times. Our pUrvAchArys held the dhivya dhESams as their life and dedicated their life in serving bhagavAn and bhAgavathas in such dhivya dhESams. For more information, please visit .

dhivya prabandham brought out the essence of vEdham/vEdhAntham in simple and chaste thamizh. The whole purpose of these dhivya prabandhams is to uplift the jIvAthmAs by transmitting true knowledge. Several hundreds of years after the time of AzhwArs, many AchAryas starting with nAthamunigaL, centered with SrI rAmAnuja and ending with mAmunigaL appeared and preached the divine message of AzhwArs. While less intelligent people considered AzhwArs pAsurams as simple thamizh songs, the most intelligent AchAryas established that these pAsurams bring out the ultimate philosophy of SrIman nArAyaNan being the means (to be uplifted from this material world) and the goal (to be situated in ones true nature of eternal service to SrIman nArAyaNan in paramapadham - spiritual world). Our pUrvAchAryas fully relished the dhivya prabandhams and centered their life around learning them, teaching them and living by those pAsurams.

nammAzhwAr with madhurakavi AzhwAr and nAthamunigaL in either side

There was a dark period in the history where the dhivya prabandhams were lost in time after the time of AzhwArs. Eventually, it was nAthamunigaL who took lots of hardships to locate AzhwAr thirunagari which is the birth place of nammAzhwAr and he learnt all the 4000 dhivya prabandham with their meanings by the divine grace of nammAzhwAr. nAthamunigaL classified the 4000 dhivya prabandhams into 4 parts as we see today, taught them to his sishyas and brought out the importance of these dhivya prabandhams. He added kaNNinuN chiRu thAmbu into 4000 dhivya prabandhams in honour of madhurakavi AzhwAr who showed unflinching devotion towards nammAzhwAr.


SrI rAmAnuja (emperumAnAr) who is considered as an incarnation of Adhi sEsha and who appeared a century later received the same through the guru paramparA by studying the same under various AchAryas per the desire of yAmunAchArya. He then spread the glories of AzhwArs and their works to all sections of the society and greatly facilitated the  propagation of this SrIvaishNava sampradhAyam. It is because of his great contribution, this sampradhAyam was declared to be known as SrI rAmAnuja dharsanam by SrI ranganAtha himself. Also, rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi which was sung in glorification of SrI rAmAnuja by thiruvarangaththu amudhanAr was added into 4000 dhivya prabandham by the AchAryas due to his greatness. This rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi is glorified as "prapanna gAyathri" - that which is to be recited compulsorily by all prapannas (ones who are surrendered) every day, just like how gAyathri manthram is to be recited by brAhmaNas everyday.

 nampiLLai kAlakshEpa (lecture) gOshti (assembly)

nampiLLai is an important AchArya (coming in the parampArA after emperumAnAr, embAr, bhattar and nanjIyar) who should be mentioned at this juncture. He was living in SrIrangam and was the leader of SrIvaishNava sampradhAyam during his times. It was during his period in SrIrangam, the meanings of 4000 dhivya prabandham were given great importance. He was engaged in giving lectures everyday close to the sanctum sanctorium of periya perumAL - SrI ranganAtha. It is explained that even periya perumAL would stand up and try to peek through the window to hear his lectures. nampiLLai's sishyas also greatly contributed to propagate the meanings of these dhivya prabandhams. periyavAchchAn piLLai who is a sishya of nampiLLai and also known as vyAkyAna chakkaravarthy (emperor among commentators) wrote commentaries for all dhivya prabandhams and his contribution is greatly hailed by our AchAryas. vadakku thiruvIdhi piLLai, who is another sishya of nampiLLai, documented the lectures given by nampiLLai on thiruvAimozhi and this document became to be known as eedu 36000 padi (the most cherished vyAkyAnam of thiruvAimozhi).

piLLai lOkAchAryar kAlakshEpa gOshti

After nampiLLai's time, piLLai lOkAchAryar leads the sath sampradhAyam and documents all the most confidential matters of dhivya prabandham in his rahasya granthams. These confidential matters were explained by various AchAryas at various times in various granthams. piLLai lOkAchAryar consolidated those and documented them in his 18 primary works. But towards the end of his life, tragedy struck SrIrangam in the form of mughal invaders who  destroyed everything there. piLLai lOkAchAryar arranged for the safe journey of namperumAL (SrI ranganAtha - uthsavar) and escaped from the invaders from there along with namperumAL. Shortly in to the journey, he ascended to paramapadham due to the difficult journey through forests at such advanced age.  Then came a lengthy period of suffering for the whole of SrIvaishNava community. After few decades, when peace prevailed and invaders were driven out, namperumAL eventually returned to SrIrangam.

mAmunigaL kAlakshEpa gOshti - "SrI SailESa dhayApAthram" thaniyan submission

Finally, maNavALa mAmunigaL who is considered as an incarnation of SrI rAmAnuja himself, appeared in AzhwAr thirunagari. He became a sishya of thiruvAimozhi piLLai and learns all the esoteric meanings of vEdham, vEdhAntham and dhivya prabandhams from his own father and thiruvAimozhi piLLai. Under the orders of thiruvAimozhi piLLai (his AchArya), he reached SrIrangam and spent the rest of his life in rejuvenating the sath sampradhAyam to its past glories. He personally searched for all the lost literature, studied them, recorded them in palm leaves with great difficulty and preserved them for future generations to come. Fittingly, in appreciating his great qualities and efforts, SrI ranganAtha himself listens to thiruvAimozhi kAlakshEpam from mAmunigaL for a whole year and at the end of the lecture series, he himself appears as a small boy and accepts mAmunigaL as his AchArya and submits him the most glorious "SrISailESa dhayApAthram..." thaniyan. Subsequently, many AchAryas who came in various lineages taught and lived by these dhivya prabandhams.

Thus, AzhwArs' dhivya prabandhams  which were focussed on the upliftment of jIvAthmAs which is to fulfill the desire of bhagavAn have been preserved by our pUrvAchAryas through the history. It is emphasised greatly that all SrIvaishNavas should learn the dhivya prabandhams, understand the meanings properly and live by them.

It would be very useful to understand the validity and glories of AzhwArs and their dhivya prabhandhams. Please read the following articles which go through them in detail:
Please visit our dhivya prabandham portal at for translations of various prabadhams in multiple languages.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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