Abodes of Vishnu
108 Divya Desams
1000 Names of Vishnu
Vishnu & His Avatars
Worship of Lord Vishnu
Festivals of Vishnu
Vishnu Sahasranamam Stotra Lyrics
Home Page



History of patronage: These shrines have been held in reverence for centuries. In Tamilnadu where 84 of these shrines are situated,  the Pallava rulers (as in Mahabalipuram, Nandipuravinnagaram), and the Chola emperors (10th through the 13th centuries) provided for the construction (in stone),  expansion and upkeep of these shrines through generous endowments. The Pandyas who followed continued this tradition. It was under the rule of the Vijayanagar emperors that shrines such as Srirangam, Tirukkachhi and Tirupati received the greatest extent of royal patronage. The Nayaka rulers of Madurai continued this glorious tradition after the Vijayanagar rulers.

The shrines: 47 of the 108 Divya Desams have been addressed only by Tirumangaialwar and 18 only by Nammalwar. While 2 are addressed only by Tirumazhisaialwar, 1 by Kulasekharalwar and 1 by Perialwar, the remaining 39 are addressed by hymns composed by more than one of the saints. In combination with the other saints, Tirumangaialwar has addressed 83 of the 108 Divya Desams and Nammalwar 35.  While 247 verses are addressed to Srirangam - 202 are addressed to Tirupati,  128 to Azhagar Koyil and only 7 to Kanchipuram (Tirukkachhi Attigiri). The celestial abodes Tirupparkadal (The Milky Ocean) and Paramapadam (Vaikuntham) get 51 and 36 verses each.

Geographic distribution: 40 of the shrines are located in the fertile Chola kingdom and 22 are in Tondainaadu - around Kanchipuram and Chennai. 2 are in Nadu Naadu (Tiruvahindrapuram and Tirukkovilur) and 18 are in Pandyanaadu. 13 of the shrines are in Malainaadu, of which 11 are in Kerala and 2 are in Kanyakumari district; therefore the total number of Divya Desams in Tamilnadu is 84. 11 Divyadesams are in Vada Naadu, or the northern lands - of which two, Tirupati and Ahobilam are in Andhra Pradesh. 7 of these 11 are in Uttar Pradesh (such as MathuraAyodhya, Badrinath etc.)., 1 in Nepal and 1 in Gujarat. Two of the Divyadesams - Ksheerasaagaram and Vaikuntham are celestial abodes.

Thus, 106 temples have been addressed by the Tamil Alwars, who were pillars of the Sri Vaishnava tradition that was to evolve in Tamilnadu. The contrast in the nature of these temples is stunning, given the diversity in the Indian subcontinent. Even a virtual visit  to these 106 shrines across the nation, is quite an experience, and is illustrative of this contrast, given the difference in the nature of temples in the various regions such as the Kaveri basin,  Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, the Tirunelveli region, the Gangetic plains and the Himalayas.

State of these temples: Some of the Divya Desam shrines are grand monuments such as the Ranganathar Temple at Srirangam, Naachiyaar temple at Srivilliputtur, the Padmanabhaswamy temple at Tiruvanandapuram and the Varadaraja Perumaal temple at Kanchipuram, visited by thousands.   Badrinath, the northernmost of the Divyadesams is a shrine venerated throughout India. Tirupati (Tirumala) is the most visited of these 108 Divya Desams, and is held in great regard by pilgrims all over the country. Tiruvallikkeni a well visited shrine and a prominent landmarks in the modern city of Chennai, attracts thousands of devotees during the Vaikuntha Ekadasi festival in the month of Margazhi.

Some of the Divya Desams in Tamilnadu, stand as grand monuments gracefully located away from the beaten track (Tirukkovilur, Sri Vaikuntham for example). Three of the Divya Desams are sub shrines in the prakarams of other Divya Desams. The Tiruoorakam (Ulagalanda Perumaal Koyil) houses the Divyadesams Oorakam, Neerakam, Kaarakam and Kaarvaanam. Two of the Divyadesams are subshrines in other temples. Nilattingal Tundam is a shrine to Vishnu in the inner prakaram of the grand Ekambreswarar temple at Kanchipuram, while Kalvanoor is a shrine to Vishnu in the Kamakshiamman temple at Kanchipuram.Tiruchitrakootam, is located within the grand  Nataraja temple complex at Chidambaram.

Iconography: While in Saivite shrines, it is the Shivalingam or the   non-anthropomorphic form that is enshrined in the innermost sanctum, it is the iconic form of Vishnu that is center of reverence in the 106 Divya Desams. Vishnu is represented usually in one of  three postures - reclining (Sayanam or kidanda kolam) as in Kumbhakonam, seated posture (irunda kolam) as in Tirupperai, or standing (ninra kolam) as in Tirupati (Tirumala).

Worship protocol: While in all of the Divya Desams in Tamilnadu (with the exception of Nilattingal TundamKalvanoor, Tiruvaattaru and Tiruvanpatisaaram) the Vaishnava Agamic (Pancharatra or Vaikanasa) protocol of worship is followed, the Kerala Tantram is followed in the Divyadesams in Malainadu. Worship services at Badrinath follow a protocol established during the period of Adi Sankaracharya.

Festivals: Most of the Divya Desams in Tamilnadu follow an elaborate tradition of festivals. The Margazhi festival, involving the recital of the Alwar hymns - and the climax of the festival on the day of Vaikuntha Ekadasi are traditions which have sustained for several centuries, enriching the cultural life of the tamil region. The annual festival at the Kallazhagar temple in the month of Chittirai, coinciding with the Bhramotsavam at the Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple imparts a festive look to the entire region, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the state.

The Saivite Nayanmars lived roughly during the same period as the Alwars. While Karaikkal Ammaiyaar and Tirumoolar lived in the first half of the first millennium CE (the first of the Alwars are said to belong to the same period), Appar and Sambandar the foremost of the Tevaram saints lived in the 7th century. (Tirumangaialwar belonged to the 9th century  while ) Sundaramurthy Nayanar lived in the 9th century CE.  The Tevaram hymns were rescued from obscurity and set to music by Nambiandar Nambi during the rule of Rajaraja Chola I, roughly during the same period in which the Alwar Paasurams were compiled by Nadamuni. 275 Shiva temples in the Indian subcontinent have been glorified with at least a decad of 10 Tevaram verses (patikam) each of the Nayanmars (275 Tevara Paadal Petra Stalams), while 249 (others) have been addressed (referred to) by the Tevaram (249 Tevara Vaipputtalams).

Templenet is proud to feature the 108 shrines and celestial Abodes of Vishnu revered by the tamil hymns of the Alwar saints.

108   Divya Desams

<<Previous Page