A Divya Desam is one of the 108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the works of the Tamil Azhvars (saints). Divya means "premium" and Desam indicates "place" (temple). Of the 108 temples, 105 are in India, one is in Nepal, and last two are outside the Earthly realms.The last two are Thiruparkadal and Paramapadam.Tiruparkaddal is the ocean of milk and paramapadam is the Srivaikuntam where lord Narayana presides. Only holy souls are blessed to worship these two divya desams after death and surrender under the lotus feet of Narayana.The Divya Desams are revered by the 12 Azhvars in the Divya Prabandha, a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses. While most Divya Desams follow Thenkalai mode of worship, some follow Vadakalai too among others.
The word azhwar means the one who dives deep into the ocean of the countless attributes of god. Azhwars are considered the twelve supreme devotees of Vishnu, who were instrumental in popularising Vaishnavism during the 5th-8th centuries A.D. The religious works of these saints in Tamil, songs of love and devotion, are compiled as Nalayira Divya Prabandham containing 4000 verses and the 108 temples revered in their songs are classified as Divya desam. The saints had different origins and belonged to different castes. As per tradition, the first three azhwars, Poigai, Bhutha and Pey were born miraculously. Tirumizhisai was the son of a sage, Thondaradi, Mathurakavi, Peria and Andal were from brahmin community, Kulasekhara from Kshatria community, Namm was from a cultivator family, Tirupana from panar community and Tirumangai from kazhwar community. Divya Suri Saritra by Garuda-Vahana Pandita (11th century AD)
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