periya thirumalai nambi

srImathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srImadh varavaramunayE nama:
srI vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

periya-thirumalai-nambiThirunakshathram: vaikAsi, swAthi

avathAra sthalam: thirumalai (thiruvEnkatam)

AchAryan: ALavandhAr

Sishyas: emperumAnAr (grantha kAlakshEpa sishya), malaikuniya ninRa perumAL, piLLai thirukkulamudaiyAr, bhattAriyaril satagOpadhAsar

thirumalai nambi, was born in thirumalai by the blessings of thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn and is one of the prime sishyas of ALavandhAr. He is also known as srIsaila pUrNar. He was honoured by thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn himself as “pithAmaha” for his great attachment towards emperumAn.

ALavandhAr instructs his 5 prime disciples to teach various aspects of our sampradhAyam to emperumAnAr. Of those, thirumalai nambi is given the responsibility of teaching the meanings of srI rAmAyaNam which is famously called as sharaNAgathi sAsthram in our sampradhAyam.

thirumalai nambi is the maternal uncle of rAmAnujar and the one who bestows the name “iLayAzhwAr” to him when he was born. He is highlighted as the foremost of srIvaishNavas hailing from thiruvEnkatam. He was a nithya kainkaryaparar (daily servitor) to thiruvEnkatamudaiyan (srInivAsar) and was engaged in bringing thIrtham (holy water) from AkAsa gangai (a water source on thirumalai) everyday.

emperumAnAr wanting to bring gOvindha perumAL (embAr) back in to our sampradhAyam (as he had become uLLangai koNarntha nAyanAr during his yAthrai to vAraNAsi and was serving a dhEvathAnthram in kALahasthi), sends a request to thirumalai nambi through a srIvaishNava to go and reform gOvindha perumAL.

thirumalai nambi, immediately goes to kALahasthi along with his sishyas and the srIvaishNava (who subsequently returns to srIrangam and narrates the whole incident to emperumAnAr) to see gOvindha perumAL. nambi was sitting with his sishyas under the shade of a tree on the route which gOvindha perumAL travels usually. gOvindha perumAL arrives at that place dressed as a siva bhaktha with rudhrAkha mAlai and thiryak puNdrams (ashes) all over his body singing the glories of rudhran. nambi starts singing the glories of emperumAn and gOvindha perumAL watches that with great curiosity. After some days, nambi returns to the same place at the same time and writes ALavandhAr’s sthOthra rathnam 11th slOkam (which establishes srIman nArAyaNan‘s natural supremacy and other dhEvathas dependency on emperumAn) on a palm leaf and slips it down. gOvindha perumAL picks it up while arriving, reads it and then drops it down. On his return, he looks out for the palm leaf and finds it. Contemplating deeply on the meanings of that slOkam, he approaches nambi and asks if it was belonging to him. A converstation happens at that time between gOvindha perumAL and thirumalai nambi where nambi clarifies all the doubts of gOvindha perumAL on srIman nArAyaNan‘s supremacy. Mostly convinced gOvindha perumAL leaves the place. Subsequently nambi arrives there at the same place. gOvindha perumAL was plucking flowers for rudhran this time on a tree. nambi, starts lecturing thiNNan vIdu padhigam (thiruvAimozhi 2.2) where AzhwAr talks about emperumAn’s supremacy. He beautifully lectures the 4th pAsuram, where nammAzhwAr establishes that flowers and prayers are fit to be offered to srIman nArAyaNan only. Hearing that gOvindha perumAL, immediately jumps off the tree and falls flat at the lotus feet of nambi, starts crying for his unnecessary association thus far and prays to accept him. nambi, at once lifts him up and consoles him. gOvindha perumAL gives up all relationship with kALahasthi and hands over the keys of the treasury to the local rudhra bhakthas. They mention that, rudhran appeared in their dream the night before and informed that emperumAnAr has appeared in this world to give true knowledge to everyone and gOvindha perumAL should not be stopped when he gives up his attachment to them – so they also happily sends him off.

After returning to thirumalai, nambi performs upanyana samskAram and pancha samskAram to gOvindha perumAL and teaches him AzhwArs’ dhivya prabhandhams.

emperumAnAr arrives at thiruppathi and emperumAnAr climbs up the thirumalai hill, nambi himself comes to welcome emperumAnAr at the entrance. nambi being most qualified, elder to emperumAnAr and also his AchAryan, asks him if he could not find some one who is less qualified to be sent to welcome him. nambi, out of great humility, replies that he looked around everywhere and could not find any one less qualified than him. emperumAnAr performs mangaLAsAsanam to thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn and leaves the divine hill.

ptm-ramayana-goshtiperiya thirumalai nambi’s srI rAmAyaNa kAlakshEpa gOshti

srI rAmAnujar arrives at thiruppathi to learn srI rAmAyaNam from thirumalai nambi. He stays there for one full year. At the end of the kAlakshEpam, thirumalai nambi asks emperumAnAr to accept something from him and emperumAnAr asks nambi to send gOvindha perumAL with him. nambi happily obliges and emperumAnAr leaves thiruppathi with gOvindha perumAL. But gOvindha perumAL is unable to bear the separation from his AchAryan, returns to thiruppathi after a while. But thirumalai nambi does not even want to speak to gOvindha perumAL saying he belongs to emperumAnAr and should immediately return to him. Such was his dedication. This incident is explained in Subsequently, gOvindha perumAL accepts sannyAsAshramam and become to be known as embAr.

nambi’s vaibhavam and his explanations are highlighted in many places in the vyAkyAnam. Let us see some here now:

  • thiruppAvai 14 – azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr – nambi’s explanation for “chengal podikkURai veNpal thavaththavar” is explained here. nambi explains that since we want to highlight auspicious occurrences in the early morning while waking up the gOpis, these people should be seen as good sannyAsis who wake up early in the morning and are going to the temple to worship emperumAn.
  • nAchiyAr thirumozhi 10.8 – periyavAchAn piLLai vyAkyAnam – It is identified that this pAsuram (mazhaiyE mazhaiyE) and the next pAsuram (kadalE kadalE) are very dear to nambi. In these pAsurams, ANdAL is sending the clouds as her messenger to thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn to inform about her feelings in separation. Every time he recites these pAsurams, he is overwhelmed with emotions and becomes speechless. Because of nambi’s attachment, our AchAryas also had great affiliation towards these pAsurams.
  • thiruviruththam 3 – nampiLLai vyAkyAnam – piLLai thirunaraiyUr nambi explains that periya thirumalai nambi revelas AzhwAr‘s heart where AzhwAr is wondering if his bhagavadh anubhavam will just be mAnasa sAkshAth kAram (divine internal vision) or if it will evolve in to external vision and anubhavam.
  • thiruvAsiriyam 1 – periyavAchAn piLLai vyAkyAnam – When explaining emperumAn’s beauty, AzhwAr says it looks like a “lush green hill is lying down and resting” – he uses the term “kaNvaLarvathu” instead of “thUnguvathu” for resting. While “kaNvaLarvathu” is a noble term for resting, “thUnguvathu” is coloqial. periya thiumalai nambi’s mastery of words in using noble terms is cited as an example here. nambi says “The one who cant wear ear-rings even if they are made with gold” while trying to identify some one to emperumAnAr. Here, the intent of nambi is to identify a person who will not listen to any one even if the best instructions are given. nambi, uses noble terms to explain that principle, showing that srIvaishNavas should always be very dignified in their expression of anything.
  • thiruvAimozhi 1.4.8 – nampiLLai vyAkyAnam – AzhwAr says in this pAsuram (in nAyikA bhAvam) to the bird (which is sent as a messenger to emperumAn to inform about her situation) that she lost all her bodily strength and beauty and became very weak because of the separation from emperumAn. She asks the bird to find its own food since AzhwAr cannot do that. In this nampiLLai identifies a charithram of periya thirumalai nambi. During his last days, nambi goes to his thiruvArAdhana perumAL – veNNaikkAdum piLLai (krishNan who dances for butter) and tells him that he has become very weak and emperumAn should find some one to take care of him.

thirumalai nambi establishing emperumAnAr‘s glories is also explained in the divine grantham named charamOpAya nirNayam and it can be viewed at

Thus, we have seen some glimpses of thirumalai nambi’s glories.

Let us bow down at the lotus feet of thirumalai nambi who had great attachment towards ALavandhAr and emperumAnAr.

Note: nambi’s thirunakshathram is identified as chithrai – swAthi in 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhAvam and periya thirumudi adaivu, but its identified as vaikAsi – swAthi in his vAzhi thirunAmam and is celebrated on that day.

thirumalai nambi’s thanian

pithAmahasyApi pithAmahAya prAchEthasAdhEchapalapradhAya
srIbhAshyakArOththama dhEchikAya srIchailapUrNAya namO nama: sthAth

பிதாமஹஸ்யாபி பிதாமஹாய ப்ராசேதஸாதேசபலப்ரதாய
ஸ்ரீபாஷ்யகாரோத்தம தேசிகாய ஸ்ரீசைலபூர்ணாய நமோ நம: ஸ்தாத்

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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Sources: 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhavam, periya thirumudi adaivu, vyAkyAnams, MAV swamy’s vAzhvum vAkkum for quick reference