Before discussing the Bhakti Tradition of Ālvārs, it is essential to analyze the background in which this tradition developed.  This may be done in four parts.  They are: Bhakti, Vaissnavism and Śaivism, Buddhism and Jainism and historical background.  The reason for this consideration is that the Ālvārs represent a specific period of Vaishnavism.  Śaivism also underwent similar development.  Although there seemed to be friendliness between Vaishnavism and Śaivism, the response of Ālvārs towards Śaivism is similar to their response to Buddhism and Jainism, which are generally considered to be their main rivals. It is important to study the historical background because the degree of relation or enmity between religions wholly depended on the royal patronage religions suffered or enjoyed. 
            In the first part, the etymological meaning of the word bhakti and its implications may be discussed.  Since bhakti is different from prapatti, an attempt to distinguish the two is called for.  It is basic because essentially the Ālvārs were the advocates of prapatti mārga. It needs to be highlighted that the present form of bhakti as in practice, is the combination of the southern and northern sources.  That is the combination of Tamil and Samskrit traditions.  Mention of the specific aspects of bhakti may be of a great help in assessing the novelties found in prapatti.  The popularity of the bhakti movement among the people also is an inspiration to learn the significant contributions of bhakti movement and their impact at various levels.
Bhakti movement has manifested itself in many forms.  Among the many, Vaishnavism and Śaivism are discussed here.  The first will be treated more extensively, for the Ālvārs represent this sect.  In order to grasp the development of Vaishnavism, it is important to note the meaning of the word Vishnu, Vishnu’s place in the Vedas, Brahmanas, Epics and Puranas.  Certain features of Vaishnavism are unique because of their wider outlook. If these features are put into practice, they can create more positive results. Vaishnavism reached its culmination with the inclusion of Lord Krishna into it.  Similar developments took place in Śaivism too.
Combating Buddhism and Jainism was considered to be the main objective of bhakti movement.  Therefore, an evaluation of the reasons for the growth and decline of these two non-Vedic religions can shed further light to understand the then existent religious condition.
            As the Ālvārs lived in a specific historical time, it is crucial to note the many rulers, who could have had possible influence upon the general religious atmosphere.  The two factors – rulers and religions or sects have contributed either towards peaceful co-existence or harmful hatred between religions.  Hence, a discussion on the historical background of the Ālvārs is essential for a detailed study of their bhakti tradition and their response to religious pluralism.

1.1 Bhakti
Bhakti tradition of Ālvārs has its background in the general bhakti movement, except that the Ālvārs had a preferential option for prapatti.  It is, therefore, necessary to define the terms bhakti and prapatti and bring out their unique characteristics. The second aspect requiring clarification under bhakti movement is its origin.  The issue pertaining to the origin is whether it can be traced from northern or southern sources.  The significant aspects of bhakti need special mention. Fixing a specific date for the development of bhakti also calls for attention.  In spite of the sprout of many religions around the globe, especially in India, during the end of the first century B.C. and the beginning of the first century A.D., bhakti movement gained popularity. The reasons for such popularity require special consideration and they help understanding the impact of bhakti movement in a wider context.

1.1.1 Definition of Bhakti
The word bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit root bhaj, which means among other things, to serve, honor, revere, love, share, adore etc., and bhakti means attachment, devotion, fondness for, trust, homage, worship, piety, faith or love or devotion.[1]  According to Chhaganlal Lala, “etymologically, the word ‘Bhakti’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Bhaj’ with suffix ‘Ktim’.  It means service, devotion, attachment, loyalty, worship or homage.  It includes entire submission to the Lord in word, mind and body.”[2] According to Sāndilya, bhakti is parānuraktirïsvare, i.e., supreme attachment to God.[3]  For Devarishi Narada, bhakti is “the supreme love for God.”[4]  It is used in the religious sense, as loving devotion to a personal God.  The parallel English word for bhakti is (loving) devotion.  It can be defined as supreme love directed towards God.[5]  Other possible definitions are: serving and loving God with whole heartedness[6] and meditation with love.[7] 
On the basis of Bāghavad Gītā 18:64,65 and 11:41,42, Stephen Neill asserts that “this intimacy with the Supreme, this humble and reverent approach to a god known and understood as personal, is expounded by Krishna under the term bhakti.[8] A. Govindacharya suggested that, “Love is Bhakti in Sanskrit.”[9]
 Similar idea is reflected in the statement that the Tamil word for bhakti is Anbu.[10]   It is the love of the devotee directed towards the deity of one’s choice. Bhakti is defined in the Encyclopedia of Religion as “...the divine-human relationship as experienced from the human side.”[11] Here the emphasis is always towards God and the significance of sharing with fellow humanity is not adequately stressed.  According to R.N. Vyas, “devotion has been understood as supreme attachment for the Lord.  It involves a sense of detachment from the worldly objects.”[12]  This statement is in line with the view that “the Ālvārs were devotees who believed in the impermanence of worldly enjoyment and in the acquisition of freedom from births and deaths by union with Vishnu, through loving surrender to His will.”[13]
The devotee’s love towards God may be expressed in the form of worship and service to God on the one hand and respect for and service to creation as a whole on the other. It is often said that by serving humanity one can serve God and be dear to Him. Unfortunately, it is confined only to, some form of sharing or mutual participation among God’s devotees[14] i.e., within one’s own order/sect/religion/group etc. Crossing the border is essential for any genuine and dynamic religiosity.  The divine and human aspect of religiosity should be knit together in any form of religion.

1.1.2 Bhakti and Prapatti

Although A. K. Majumdar writes “prapatti means (1) act in consonance with the Lord’s will, (2) to give up whatever may be against His will, (3) to have faith that He will protect his devotee, (4) to pray to God, the protector, (5) to surrender self to Him and (6) to induce in self a sense of absolute humility.”[15]; its meaning can be better understood by comparing it with bhakti.  The differences are: bhakti is loving with all the energy of one’s own will, whereas prapatti is loving God with all the forces derived from God Himself when the aspirant has resigned his own will, and placed all his hope and confidence in the sweet will and dispensations of providence.[16]  While bhakti demands much individual efforts and prerequisites such as strictly adhering to prescribed models without any omission and being born in holy families, in prapatti the whole-hearted devotion of a soul unreservedly throws itself into the loving and caring hands of God.[17] 

Failure to complete the prescribed procedures leads to harmful effects in bhakti, whereas in prapatti the aspirant so unconditionally surrenders himself to God, and so confidently seeks shelter under his protecting wings, that even God, after giving him such protection, cannot cast him away.[18]   “In the former case (bhakti), God does not bind Himself to save, whereas in the latter (prapatti), He binds Himself to save.”[19]  In bhakti, individuals act according to their self will, but in prapatti there is a tendency to surrender to the complete operation of God’s will alone.[20]  While the success of bhakti depends purely on the efforts of individual, the success of prapatti is based upon the grace of God.[21] 
Only those who belonged to the three upper castes can practice bhakti. Prapatti or surrender to God can be practiced by all orders, including Súdras.[22]  While bhakti requires continuous meditation accompanied even by the yoga practices, prapatti limits itself to self-surrender -resolution to yield, the avoidance of opposition, a faith that God will protect, acceptance of Him as savior or praying him to save and sense of helplessness resulting in throwing one’s whole soul on Him.[23]  Much of these differences are the outcome of interpretations. Yet they are present in the works of Ālvārs and Ācāryas. 
In the writings of Ālvārs there is a mixture of both bhakti and prapatti.  At the same time, the reading of the works of the Ālvārs suggests beyond doubt a clear preference for prapatti.  Two examples can suffice this claim.  One is that the Ālvārs broke away from the traditional caste system,[24] which was part and parcel of bhakti tradition, and thus their list includes Ālvārs of different caste.  But it was a paradox that the Ācāryas, who followed the Ālvārs were confined to caste constrains.
The second example is that the Ālvārs were always conscious that they were iniquitous and unworthy people before God confronted them out of His sheer grace.  This confrontation caused them to surrender their whole lives to God and thus, motivating themselves to maintain intimate relationship with Him to the level where the mere separation of God from them was unbearable.  Here too, it was a personal and intense relation between Ālvārs and God. The impact of Ālvārs on social realm looks flimsy.  The reason for such stand is that they would have thought that being committed to God is precondition to effect any religious, moral and social transformation.

1.1.3 Origin of Bhakti
Whether Rigveda contains any trace of bhakti is a debatable question.  Stephen Neill argued “readers of the Rigveda have been struck by the almost total absence of anything that could be called a personal relationship between the worshipper and the object of his worship.”[25]  The reason for such conclusion was that in the Rigveda gods like Śiva and Vishnu were not attributed with qualities essential for theistic worship.  He writes, “of all the gods of the Veda, one only stands out as having something like personal characteristics.  That is Varna.”[26]  This goes against the predominant Hindu view that, what bhakti or Ālvārs promoted was nothing other than the truth already present in the Vedas.  According to Thirugnanasambandham, “the concept of bhakti is as ancient as Rig Veda.”[27]  This is the commonly accepted view of the Hindus.
 There is consensus to consider that Upanisads contain bhakti elements.  Bhandarkar maintained that theistic ideas were so scattered in the Upanisads.[28]  It is asserted that, to be more specific, “Svetāsvatara upanishad”[29] is the primal source for bhakti elements.  Although there may be traces of bhakti in the Vedas it is quite obvious only in the Upanisads.
Though Ramanuja was the brain behind bhakti philosophy, the real source of inspiration for bhakti was Bhāgavad Gītā. According to Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar “…from all appearances it is the earliest exposition of the Bhakti system or the Ekāntika Dharma.”[30]  Of course, it is the foundation for both bhakti and prapatti.
The purānic contribution to bhakti is unquestionable.  Along with the purānas, āgamas also played significant role.  The stories found therein are rich resources for bhakti.  It is said that the vital characteristic of āgamas is bhakti.[31]
The Encyclopedia of Religion derives the origin of bhakti from three different sources: 
From a modern historical standpoint the flowering of bhakti is the coming together of considerable earlier theistic tendencies in three major religious traditions of ancient India: (1) the sacrificial cult of the invading Aryans and the recitation by brāhmana priests that became the foundation of the Vedas;  (2) the practice of bodily mortification and spiritual withdrawal by individuals and groups known as   Śramanas, probably continuing traditions of earlier inhabitants of India but soon adopted and adapted by some  of  the Aryans; and (3) the pre-Aryan cults of spirits and village goddesses inhabiting   trees   and  rocks   and   protecting   special  places  or special groups.[32]

The conclusion looks vague and comprises of wider resources.  But the point it conveys is that bhakti or loving devotion to a personal god cannot be limited to narrow estimates and the phenomenon cannot be claimed as a monopoly of any single sect or religion.

1.1.4 South Indian Origin
There are valid resources to consider the south Indian origin of bhakti movement.  Without any notion of uncertainty, Pandurangan stated that bhakti movement originated in Tamil land.[33]  Mahajan maintained, “the beginning of the Bhakti cult was made in India.”[34]  In spite of its general tone, it also goes in the line to suggest, there is a tradition that the bhakti cult originated in the Dravida country (utpannā dravide bhaktih).[35]  The point is that even if the south Indian origin of bhakti is doubted, its Dravidian origin cannot be.
 Stephen Neill is of the opinion that there is hardly any preparation in the purely Aryan tradition[36] for the development of bhakti movement.  He indicated the possibility of southern origin of bhakti by saying that here again Dravidian influence has been at work.[37]  A. L. Basham contends that, “the final form of Hinduism was largely the result of influence from the Dravidian South.”[38]  The introduction of púja in the place of sacrifice too was attributed
to south India.  Stephen Neill opines, “it is at least possible that it was from the Dravidians that the Vedic Indians learned that there are other ways of approaching the divine than that associated with the life–blood of living things.”[39]  It is also highlighted that “Padma Purana conceived bhakti as a beautiful child born on the banks of Thambiraparani; grows on the banks of Kritamala, Vaikai and Kaveri and going all over the South India until she becomes matured in Gujarat.”[40]  There is strong opposition, particularly from the Hindu scholars, to the view that bhakti was borrowed from Christian scriptures.[41]  Such scholars firmly establish the indigenous origin of bhakti.
The south Indian origin of bhakti can be justified.  In the Cańkam literatures, the Tamils had the practice of dividing the land into five regions or Tinai.  Each region had its own god and the worship specific to that deity.  The religious life of the Cańkam literature can be looked from the point of personal devotion to personal gods.  Although bhakti as such may not be found as seen in the latter period, there are clear traces of bhakti elements in the religion of the Tamils.
During the infiltration of Aryans into the south, the religions of both had to be synthesized.  As a result, new gods and myths were introduced.  Hence, it is permissible to state that the present form of bhakti religion is the synthesis of northern (Aryan or Sanskrit) and southern (Dravidian or Tamil) elements. Even though the Ālvārs took the Tamil principal (Akam) as their foundational principle for developing their own form of religions, there are many evidences for the combined elements i.e., Aryan and Dravidian.

1.1.5 Aspects of Bhakti Tradition
The Characteristics of bhakti – devotion to God and receiving of God’s grace are understood in different forms. The major forms of bhakti are described by the Hindus themselves, not only by their special relation to particular form of deity, but also according to the various moods of the devotee i.e., bháva and rasa. “Each combination of bháva and rasa uses a particular human relationship: servant to master or child to parent (respectful subordination), friend to friend (joking familiarity), parent to child (maternal affection and concern), and beloved to lover (combining elements of the other three relationships in passionate love).”[42]  These modes of bhakti differ from person to person and context to context.  Hence, they cannot be simply classified as different types of bhakti.  It may be considered as different ways in which a devotee could conceive his relationship to God viz., ‘the attitude of servant towards master, “dasya-bhava”, attitude of equality, comradeship, “sakhya-bhava”, attitude of parent (god being the child) “vatsalya-bhava”, and attitude of woman in love (god being the lover), “madhura-bhava”’.[43]
Gītā (1x.34) mentions three features of bhakti-Yoga.  They are manana (unceasing meditation), Yajña (worship of God in all possible ways) and namana (divine service such as salutation).  Besides, the Bhāgavata purāna (vii.5.23) refers to nine modes of worships viz. Sravana, Kirtana, Smarana, Pādasevana, Arcana, Vandana, Dāsya, Sakhya and Atma-nivedana (surrendering oneself to God). The ultimate goal of bhakti is to maintain close communion with the deity.
     One classification distinguishes between four degree of communion:  (1) salokya, being in the same heaven with a continuous vision of the Lord; (2) sāmīpya residing close to the Lord; (3) sārūpya, having the same form, understood to be the privilege of the Lord’s intimate attendants, whose external appearance is similar to the Lord’s; and      (4) sāyujya, complete union through entering the body of the Lord.[44]

 These different grades depend upon the strength of one’s spiritual life.  Each devotee should tread through the first three stages in order to reach the final, which is the aim of all devotees.  Many of these elements are found in the bhakti tradition of Ālvārs, although there preference was for prapatti.  Another point is that the aim of Ālvārs was to strengthen the devotion to Tirumāl through their eulogies in the context of religious mobility, and not systematizing religion.

1.1.6 Date of Bhakti Tradition
There are diverse views regarding the date about the origin of bhakti.  One is that bhakti is traceable to the age of Buddhism and Jainism.[45]  Another view is that “the origin of Bhakti in India, the deification and worship of Vasudeva and his identification with Krishna are all pre-Christian or pre-Islamic conception.”[46]  A much later date suggested is sixth to the ninth century A.D.[47] 
These three dates, in fact convey the message that, bhakti emerged at a time when Buddhism and Jainism were flourishing.  The second point is that, bhakti is a south Indian or indigenous product and that it was not a copy from Christianity or Islam.  The third date conceals in it the bhakti revival that shattered Buddhism and Jainism through the works of Ālvārs and Nayanārs.  But Hindus would be happy to trace its way back to the Vedas.
The fact is that fixing a date so firmly and hurriedly endangers the unique aspect of the personal relationship between the devotee and deity, which is common and lifeblood of all personal religions.  Religions might portray their ultimate in varied forms.  But the relationship between those forms, whatever may be, and the devotee is constant everywhere and in every faith-tradition.  Its insistence in Hinduism is to popularize the religious values to the common mass.

1.1.7 Popularity of Bhakti Movement

There are a few reasons for the popularity of bhakti movement in south India.  The main reason cited by many scholars is that it curtailed the growth of Buddhism and Jainism and gave impetus for the renaissance of Hinduism in the form of bhakti saints.  One such view is that “bhakti seems to have been Hinduism’s method of defense against other religious systems which threatened to eliminate all that is most characteristic of Hinduism, and to deprive its votaries of those things in Hinduism which most bring comfort and consolation to ordinary men and women.”[48]  Stephen Neill states further that “the development of the bhakti religions appears to have been the answer of Hinduism to what was felt by many to be a threat to its very existence.”[49]

Another reason pointed out was that, the orthodoxy of Jains – vegetarianism, opposition to art, disrespect for women etc. created disinterest over this religion[50] and that was the right time bhakti movement prevailed over south India.  A step further, “the harsh rule of Buddhist and Jain sovereigns and their insistence on the strict ordinances of these religions may have been preparing the way for a reaction in the direction of more human values, such as would find its outlet in the bhakti form of religion.”[51]
Bhakti movement’s inclusion in its fold of the people of lower strata from   the society is another vital reason. According to V.P. Chavan “the lower classes to whom the ambiguities of Vedantism and the hair-splitting obscurities of the theologian and the philosopher, were too much, readily accepted a cult which opened an easy way of salvation by Bhakti or devotion.”[52]  P.T. Srinivasa Aiyangar opines that bhakti which neglects the Varna classification appealed to the democratic instincts, which got the upper hand after the decay of the fire-rite.[53]  It needs to be remembered that bhakti always insisted upon caste hierarchy.  It was only prapatti, which was predominant in the works of Ālvārs, was open to people of all castes.  Often prapatti is regarded as inferior to bhakti, saying that it is only for those who cannot practice bhakti yoga.  But it should not be forgotten that Ālvārs always had a predilection for prapatti.
The use of vernacular is another reason.  Vijay Mishra noted “…its radical fervor has to be located at the level of the kinds of discursive choices these poets made and especially in their radical use of the vernacular for self-expression.”[54] 
Both the Śaivaites and Vaishnavites were united in bhakti so as to enable them success[55] in their common task of annihilating Buddhism and Jainism.  Otherwise, each of the two strived to establish the superiority of their own deity.  The acceptance of God and the necessity of bhakti as a means to realize Him[56], as against the Jains and Buddhists was another reason.  A critical reason assigned is that the priestly caste had very quickly incorporated the new religion into its own ritual.[57]  It may be true to some extent. But the main reasons may be the acceptance of all caste people, making it easy for ordinary people by introducing personal gods, and making materials available in the local language. Bhakti could have been more effective had it abandoned caste discriminations completely and made it simpler for the common people to practice.

1.1.8 Impact of Bhakti Movement
The impact of bhakti was very much found in Jainism and Buddhism. According to V. Jeya, Śaivites and Vaishnavites joined together and attacked the Jains through torture, impalement, killing and rioting.[58]  The Buddhists were no exception to this unhappy attitude.  Generally it is said, “as a reaction to this overpowering, Hinduism liberalizing its outlook brought up its Bhakti cults and successfully resisted the onward march of these religious faiths.”[59]  Ironically, the rapid growth of bhakti had its effective cause in the emergence and spread of Jainism and Buddhism.
Another implicit impact is that “the bhakti ideology… helped in the transformation of Vedic brahmanism into the sectarian religions of Śaivism and Vaishnavism, both of which evolved out of older beliefs of popular worship and cult practices.”[60]  This is also a legitimate claim.  Because when the Aryan influence began to assert itself in the south, they were very alert to establish their own religions and myths over against the Dravidian ones.  When this was not possible, new myths were created to incorporate and subdue the Dravidian deities and myths into the Aryan ones.
Of course, the present form of Hinduism is the amalgam of the northern and southern traditions. That is, the combination of Sanskrit and Tamil religious elements.  It has developed into two major sects, besides the many minor ones, in India.  They are Vaishnavism and Śaivism.  The impact of these two sects on Buddhism and Jainism is important to understand the response of Ālvārs towards people of other faiths.

1.2 Vaisnavism and Śaivism
            The current of bhakti movement did flow into two major streams, besides the other important ones.  They are Vaishnavism and Śaivism. Of the two, the focus here is on Vaishnavism because the Ālvārs belonged to this particular tradition.  How did the Vedic deity, Vishnu, become an all-pervading God of Vaishnavism? It is worth discussing.  This involves an estimation of the place assigned to Vishnu in the Rig Veda, Brahmanas, Epics and Purānas, specially, Bhāgavada Purāna.  The inclusion of Krisna into Vaishnava bhakti is the height of this sect.  A note on the development of Śaivism adds additional knowledge for the better understanding of Vaishnavism and its later developments in the form of Ālvārs, the poet singers of Vaishnavism and their relation with the former. The Nāyanārs did to Śaivism what the Ālvārs did to Vaishnavism.

1.2.1 Vaishnavism
Vishnu is the supreme deity in Vaishnavism.  The word Vishnu is derived from the root ‘vis’ and it means to pervade.[61]  The literal meaning is to enter into.  N. Subbu Reddiar justifies this definition as well.  For him “the word ‘Vishnu’ suggests that the Supreme Being has unbounded powers to pervade anything and that nothing could prevent Him from using His own purposes.”[62]  The development of the powers of Vishnu, from a minor Vedic deity to the all-pervading Vishnu, who is the creator and protector of the world and other gods, is quite significant to understand the Ālvārs.  It is said, “the worship of Vishnu is claimed to be as old as the Vedas and passed through the two stages, Vedic and Puranic.”[63]  In the Rig Veda, Vishnu was a solar deity, a friend and companion to Indra.  In the puranās, he has ascended to be one of the triad and protector of the universe. Thus, according to Rabindra Kumar Siddhantashastree, Vaisnavism flourished in southern India in the sixth and seventh centuries A.D.[64] 
It does not mean that there was no Vishnu worship in south India prior to this period.  He was worshiped as Māyōn, Tirumāl etc., during the Cańkam age.  The name Vishnu was not found in the Tamil literature, but its equivalents.  Probably Vishnu is the outcome of northern influence over the southern Māyōn or Tirumāl of Mullai (forest and adjoining places) region. The change in the names of gods and their significance is clear indication for the
Aryan influence upon the Dravidians, the sons and daughters of the soil. It may be because of this over powering and monopoly the distance between religions widened, which is a great departure from the Tamil tradition.

1.2.2 Vishnu in Rig Veda
An understanding of the place of Vishnu in the Rig Veda is a necessary background to study Vaishnavism.  Scholars hold at least three positions in this regard, namely positive, neutral and negative.  Positively, “…Vishnu is described as a solar orb (I, 22,16,17) as striding through the seven worlds in three steps and enveloping the universe with his beams.”[65]  He is considered as one of the manifestations of the sun,[66] or at least endowed with the qualities of the sun.[67]  In Rig Veda the Sun-god Vishnu is considered as a visible form and agent of the supreme spirit.[68]  “The rituals being the life-force of the Vedic religion, Vishnu has been rightly described to have appeared in the form of ritual.”[69]  He is the protector of the Vedic religion.[70]    “Vishnu is called Mitra for the reason that He Saves His devotees from miti (sorrow) and thus becomes friendly to them.”[71]  Even the term Purusa is considered to be a form of the Lord Vishnu who is sometimes called Prajāpati.  It is also stated “the Vedic legends no doubt contributed largely to the development of the Vishnu mythology in later times.”[72]  Jadunath Sinha writes that, “the germs of this cult are found in the Vedic hymns and the Upanishads.  The Vedic hymns to Varuna, Savitr, and Usas are replete with sentiments of piety and devotion.”[73] Thus for many, Vishnu is a significant Vedic deity.
Those who hold the neutral view state, “Vishnu is a minor god in the Rv with only five whole hymns addressed to him.”[74]  Further, “he is not physically described but is said to be strong as a ferocious animal and to live in mountains (Rv 1:154:2).”[75]  They also say that, Vishnu has a subordinate position in the Rig Veda and “he is being celebrated in only five or six whole hymns, but his name occurs not more than hundred times in all.”[76]  Although He is inferior to Indra in the Rig Vdea “there is no doubting the fact that the Vedic legends served as the basis on which the superstructure of the Vishnu mythology of later times was built.”[77] 
            In the negative way it is said,  “Vishnu was not the Supreme Being in the Vedic cult, and the doctrine of His Avataras is foreign to the Vedic theology.”[78]  Even His identity is questioned as “although a hymn to Vishnu is to be found in the first book of the Rig-Veda, it is by no means certain that he is a genuine Vedic god.”[79] In the words of Dines Chandra Sircar, “in the Vedic texts, Visnu is associated more with sacrifice than with devotion and grace.”[80]
It may be safely said that the Vedic Vishnu when encountered with the southern Tirumāl had to undergo the process of remythologizing as found in the puranas.  It is true because, the simple three strides of Rigveda have become the center of focus in the latter stories. Allusion to this story abounds in the Ālvārs’ writings.

1.2.3 Visnu in the Brāhmanas
It is only in the Brāhmanas, Vishnu comes to limelight.  “One of the methods of emphasizing his role and importance was to identify him with the sacrifice.”[81]  That is to say that Vishnu is the sacrifice.  His elevation is affirmed as, “Vishnu, in spite of his comparatively subordinate position in the Rig-Veda, began to rise in importance in the time of the Brahmanas.”[82] Bhandarkar also writes that Vishnuu began to rise in importance in the time of the Brāhmanas.[83] 
There was a marked change between the time of Rig Veda and Brāhmanas.  “In the Brāhmanic period there is the mention of Agni as the lowest (avama) of the gods and Vishnu as the highest (parama).”[84]  Examples are AB.1: 1; SB xiv.1.1, 1.2.5.etc.[85]
A further development is found in the Upanishads.  N. Subbu Reddiar writes, “the Nārāyana Upanishad establishes the identity of Vishnu with Nārāyana and Purusa and that all the four Vedas extol Nārāyana as the Supreme Being.”[86]  This is a clear case for the establishment of the view that the reality is one.  This could have been too hard for ordinary people to digest.  Thus there was a necessity for developing further the Itihasas, Puranas and, especially, bhakti and prapatti.

1.2.4 Visnu in the Epics

Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata are the two great epics in Hinduism.  Their role in the development of Vaishnava bhakti is noteworthy for they represent many of the latter developments. In the words of N. Subbu Reddiar “it is clear that these two epics have been mainly responsible for the growth and development of Vaisnavism in the later periods.”[87]  The Rig Vedic understanding of Vishnu as sacrifice is almost forgotten.  His warrior qualities are minimized.  It is because of the influence of the epics the various incarnations, especially the later ones, became centers of cultic rituals.[88] 
The Vedic Vishnu reached supreme importance in the epics.  Haripriya Rangarajan argues that, “in the Mahābhārata, Nārāyana Parva, the same Vishnu is described as the supreme spirit called Nārāyana moving on the waters.”[89]
The epics identified Vāsudeva with Vishnu. This has been pointed out that “in the epic times, Vishnu is regarded as the supreme spirit, but the names of Nārāyana and Vāsudeva – Krishna apparently occur more frequently or are more prominent.”[90]  Certain characteristics attributed to Vishnu in the epics have become important themes for later Vaishnavism.  For example, in the Mahābhārata, Vishnu is a special friend of Arjuna.  “This quality of helpfulness of the Deity has been extolled in the writings of the Vaishnavites.”[91] 
The three strides had become an accepted myth and it was often related to Vishnu.  It came to the position of an object of worship.  To put it vividly “this tripādavikrama, as this feat of Vishnu is commonly known, is immortalized in the cult by the worship of his footprints in many forms.”[92] 
These are sufficient examples to indicate that the present form of Vaishnavism is the result of the culmination of a long process.  The Vedic deity was raised to prominence in the Brāhmanas as symbol of sacrifice.  In the epics, He is still further elevated with new attributes, so as to reach the position of one deserving worships because of His greatness and His availability for the devotees, who suffer from the troubles of the wicked.

1.2.5 Vishnu in the Purānas
Vishnu worship reached its zenith of popularity in the puranic period.  It is the convergence of different strands.  It may be said that “in the puränic times, however, the cult of Vāsudeva ceased to be militant, and three streams of religious thought, namely the one flowing from Vishnu, the Vedic god at its source, another from Nārāyana, the cosmic and philosophic god, and the third from Vāsudeva, the historical god, mingled together decisively and thus formed the later Vaishnavism.”[93]
The puranas describe the physical form of Vishnu like He has four arms and holding a symbol in each of them.  Besides, His auspicious marks are explained.  He is endowed with thousand names and the recitation of them is an important part of the daily worship of the Vaishnavas.[94]  The avatars, which are crucial to the puranas are interpreted as different forms of the lord to protect His people from the evils.  “These are: the Fish, the Tortoise, the Boar, the Man-lion, the Dwarf, Parashurāma, Rāmacañdra, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.”[95]
            In the Bhāgavata Purāna, 22 incarnations of Vishnu are listed.  These are: Kumāra or Sanatkumāra, the Eternal Youth; Varāha, the Boar; Nārada, the Sage; Nara and Nārāyana, the sages; Kapila, the sage; Dattātreya, the magician; Yajña, the sacrifice; Rsabhā morality; Prithu, the first ruler; Matsya, the Fish; Kūrma, the tortoise; Dhanwantri, the physician; Mohini, the Enchantress; Nrsimha, the Man-lion; Vāmana, the Dwarf; Parashurāma, the destroyer of the Kshatriyas; Vedavyāsa, the compiler of the Vedas; Rāmachandra, the emhodiment of righteousness; Balarāma, the embodiment of princely virtues; Krishna, the embodiment of love; Buddha, the embodiment of delusion; Kalki, the Fulfiller.[96]

Among the puranas, Bhāgavata was considered to be the chief one.  In 11.5.38,39, it is said “the devotees of Vishnu are born only in some places but they are found during the Kali age, mostly in the Southern regions called Drāvida desa where the rivers Tāmraparnī, Vaigai, Kāviri, Pālāru and Periyāru flow.”[97]  These were the regions where the Ālvārs were born and propagated their religiosity.  This would mean that Bhāgavatam is a work posterior to the age of the Ālvārs.  It is normally held that this chapter is a later interpolation.[98]
“In the Bhāgavatapurāna, Lord Vishnu or Bhagavad has been identified with Krshna Vasudeva and Vaisnava has been instructed to have infallible devotion to Him without seeking for any cause thereof, and not to withdraw such a devotion under any circumstances.”[99]  It is often held that this purāna advocates devotion conditioned by the varna system.  This may be refuted. According to Rabindra Kumar Siddhantashastree two important components of religiosity in Vaishnavism are respect to one and all irrespective of the person’s caste and creed and even of his good or bad merits,[100] and the importance of a spiritual guide to lead the devotee in the path of devotion.  The issue of caste is unclear. Still it needs to be noted that there is a strong insistence to promote caste free situation in Vaishnavism.  Regarding God, “the book announces in clear language that the real form of the Lord is beyond the range of anybody’s conception, it being non-manifest, and minutest of all forms having neither beginning, nor end nor even an adjective to qualify it.”[101]  It is interesting to observe that the Upanishadic philosophy continues to be at the background even in the later bhakti movements.  Each sect claims that the ultimate reality is one.
In the Vishnu purāna, Supreme Being is described as having two forms.  One is manifest (martta) and the other non-manifest (amurtta).  “Of these two the non-manifest form is eternal and unchangeable, the other being perishable and subject to changes.”[102]  The manifested form is the center for worship to the Vaishnavites.  In the Brahmavaivartta purāna, Krshna is portrayed as the supreme Lord, who alone existed before the creation.[103]  Such exclusive claim is common to all sects, if not, to all religions.
In the Bhāgavata-Purāna “the devotees of Vishnu, popularly called the Bhāgavatas, are held in such a high position that even the holy places are said to be purified by their sacred arrival, and that they secure so much holiness because of having Lord Gadābhrt (Vishnu) always in their mind.”[104]  The devotees are classified into three categories Uttama (the superior type), Madhyama (the ordinary type), and Adhama (the inferior type).  The devotee is often considered to be more sacred than holy place or than an image of any deity.  Thus the easiest way to secure salvation in Vaishnavism is to have contact with a true devotee of the Lord.
There are three views regarding the development of Vishnu cult.  One is that “the Vishnu cult was developed in South India by the Alwars, who sang his praises and spread his worship.”[105]  The second is that the inspiration for Vishnu bhakti, at any rate, came from the north.  A middle view is that “the school of Bhaktas in the Tamil land elaborated and worked it up with features characteristic of Tamil culture and sent it back in a more realistic reflex wave which swept over the whole land of India.”[106]  There are adequate evidences in the Tamil literature to suggest that even before northern influence, bhakti elements existed in the southern region.

1.2.6 Features of Vaishnavism
In contrast to Śaivism, Vaishgnavism spread far and wide and engulfed the entire India.  An interesting feature is that “it generated successive waves of bhakti poetry in various Indian languages.”[107]  Vaishnavism fought against the spiritual monism and maya or the world-illusion of Shankaracharya.  “The idea of “Bhakti” and “Prasad” – faith and divine grace – have been attributed to Vaishnavism.”[108]  It developed ‘sympathy for the lower castes and classes of Hindu society’ in the path of devotion. It is remarked that the idea underlying Vaishnavism is human and emotional.[109]  It was unfortunate that these ideals have not reached the common people and revolved only around the devotees at a higher realm.
Another characteristic of Vaishnava religion is serving the deity i.e. ‘Kaiñkarya or rendering service to the deity in a shrine’.  Vaishnavism bases itself upon the Upanishads for philosophical purposes and as a religion it reaches its roots into the Tantra. In the words of S.Krishnaswami Ayangar “its religious ritual therefore, is of the Agamic or Tantraic character in general.”[110] 

1.2.7 Krishna
The culmination of Vaishnava bhakti is found in the Krisna cult, which is a point where various cults converge.[111]  Some of the different streams converged may be identified as follows.  “The worship of Vāsudeva must be regarded to be as old as Pānini.”[112]  Here “the term Vāsudeva has been mentioned in the Astadhyāyī of Pānini (5th –6th century B.C.).”[113]  Long before the beginning of the Christian era, Krishna was identified with Vishnu, Nārāyana and Vāsudeva.[114]  In short the worship of Vedic god Vishnu and the cosmic god Nārāyana of the Brahmānas were linked and Vāsudeva-Krishna was identified with Vishnu and Narayana.[115]  “The earliest reference to Vāsudeva – Krsna is available in the Arthasāstra of Kautilya (C. 4th Cent. B.C.) and in the Mahābhäsya of Patañjali (C. 2nd Cent. B.C.).”[116]  There is reference to Krishna in the Upanishads also.  “The CU mentions Krishna, Son of Devaki, a Brahmin student.  This perhaps is the earliest reference to Krishna.”[117]  The idea that Rādhā was the favorite gopi of Krishna has its origin very late, and it was peripheral.  “Although after the Gupta period the Purānas, specially the Bhāgavata and the Vishnu speak of the lord’s early life in the mortal frame, it was only in the later books like the Brahmavaivarta Purāna (c. 12th Cent. A.D.), which mentioned about his amorous sport with the gopïs, the chief of whom was Rādhā.”[118]
Rādhā is not mentioned in the Purānas. A. Sarkar states further that there is no specific name in the Vishnu Purāna about Radha.  It only refers to one gopi who had special attachment for Krishna.  Bhagavada Purāna also indicates that, he fled with one of his favorite gopis.[119] 
“The Vāsudeva – Krishna cult seems to have originated among pastoral folk, and his amorous career has a typical flavor of pastoral love–poetry.”[120]  This has its resemblance in the Tamil literature where there is reference for Kannan, the pastoral deity, of Mullai region.  It is also suggested that the Tamil deity Kannan was given the names and attributes of northern god Krishna.
“Emotional Krishna bhakti manifested itself in the South from about the seventh century onward, with Nammālvār and other Ālvārs.”[121]  But as stated above even before the time of Ālvārs, there were traces of the Tamil version of Krishna called Kannan, in the earlier Tamil literatures. Friedhelm Hardy writes, “its various antecedents, however, can be traced much further back, through earlier Ālvārs and the so-called Cańkam literature, to the first few centuries AD.”[122]  He calls the southern Krishna bhakti  ‘emotional’ and names it ‘Viraha-bhakti’ i.e. devotion in which the sentiment of ‘separation’ is cultivated.[123]  This is not always the case, there are other sentiments as well.  He further argued that “popular segments of Tamil society had evolved a typically Southern Krishnaism by the sixth century or so, with peculiar myths and religious attitudes, and that this form of Krishnaism stood in contrast not only to the spirit of the Tirumāl hymns in the Paripātal but also to the treatment of Māyōn in the formulated akattinai conventions (and projected on folk Krishnaism by the renaissance literati).”[124]  This is a clear evidence for the northern religious influence over the southern religious elements.  The Ālvārs have made excessive use of Kannan stories in their poems.
Hardy was convinced that “the blue print of the mythology underlying emotional Krishna bhakti was developed in North India.”[125]  Of course, later they were tuned according to the rhythm of Tamil culture reflected in the Tamil classics.  In a way he alludes to the intertwining of Sanskrit and Tamil religious fervors.
The concept of avatara is central to Vaishnavism.  Of course, it is not a Vedic concept.  The development of this concept is well advanced in the puranas.  “The Avatars of Vishnu are dealt with in the Vaishnava Puranas, namely the Vishnu, Naradiya, Bhagavata, Garuda, Padma and Varsha Puranas which are distinguished by their goodness and purity.”[126]  From the point of history it is suggested, “the Avatars of Lord Vishnu were crystallized during the period of the Guptas in the fourth and fifth Centuries A.D.”[127]  Ten avatars are considered to be important.  But there is a note that apart from the major ten avatars, there are about twenty-three[128] minor ones, according to Tamil tradition.  These avatars-stories had become the main substance of the works of Ālvārs.

1.2.8 Śaivism
Another sect developed along with Vaisnavism was Śaivism.  Here the myths, worship etc., revolved around Śiva, whose origin could be traced to the Vedic times.  Sukumari Bhattacharji says, “the central god of the lunar group is Rudra, later known as Siva -a minor god in the RV with only two and a half hymns to him-yet one of the triad in the later pantheon.”[129]
In spite of the fewer hymns devoted to Śiva, there is no reference to the worship of linga or phallic in the Vedas.  This development is pointed out as, “Vedic literature is silent about phallic worship and seems to abjure and curse it in a few passages.  It is in the epics that we hear of it for the first time.”[130]  It is brought to maturity, latter, in the purānas.
As there are evidences for the confluence of Aryan and Dravidian elements in Vaishnavism, there are evidences in Śaivism as well.  One such example is, “… Kārttikeya enjoyed an independent cult in which he was the supreme god; his relationship with Śiva therefore, would not be tolerated by this sect until for various reasons the cults coalesced when he became Śiva’s son.”[131]
Looking at the then existed religious condition, it may be said that Buddhism and Jainism seemed to be a grave threat to Hinduism.  Hence, the new sects took up the challenge of reducing them to any level they could. The outcome of the process is that  “it was about the twelfth century that Shaivism attained its high water mark all over India.”[132]  The reason for the delay was that both Buddhism and Janism affected the progress of Śaivism for some time.  It seems that Śaivism attempted to curb the growth of rival religions.  This attitude prevailed since the beginning of Aryan influence over the Tamils. M.S. Purnalingam Pillai writes, “the Tamils under the new mesmeric influence, shook hands with the Vedic Aryas and combated against the Jains.”[133]   At the same time it needs to be remembered, that except combating these two religions, the attitude between Śaivism and Vaisnavism was not free from an uneasy relationship.  This is reflected in the eulogies of the Ālvārs.
Often the antiquity of Śaivism is traced even back to Indus valley civilization.  The ancient origin of Śaivism is stated as “in the religious world, the Saiva system is the heir to all that is most ancient in South India; it is the religion of the Tamil people, by the side of which every other form is comparatively foreign and recent origin.”[134]  There is an allegation, and at times strength to Śaivism, that it strictly adheres to Vedic norms.  In other words in the religious realm, Śaivism makes one tread in the scientific and philosophic currents[135] as against the human and emotional elements in Vaisnavism.  The same idea is again represented as “Saivaism, accepting the Vedic rule, became metamorphosed into Vedic or Vaidika Saivaism.”[136]
In spite of Śaivism’s strict observances of Vedic principles, it could not escape the development of different sects, of which some did not attribute any special regard for Vedas.  One example is that from about the ninth century A.D. a special form of Śaivism flourished in the Kashmir region, which was called Kashmir Śaivism, a main sect of Śaivism.  It does not believe in the authority of Vedas nor in the caste system’.  Siva is considered to be the self of all beings.  “He is both immanent and transcendent, material as well as the efficient cause of the world.”[137]  In the compositions of the Ālvārs, Vishnu is the self of all.
Another example is Lingāyata.  Lingāyata or Vïrasaiva is a militant form of Śaivism that flourished in the Karnataka region about the twelfth century A.D.  Its followers do not accept caste and insisted upon the equality of men and women. They did not compromise with the Aryans. It is said "the Saivas who did not accept the compromise were known as Vira Saivas, whose distinctive characteristic is a linga dharana or wearing the linga on the head (or on the body).”[138]  They considered Śiva as Brahmen and He is both material and efficient cause of the world.
Another famous system was Śaiva Siddhanta.  “The whole credit of formulating Saiva Siddhanta philosophy is due to Meikanda Deva.”[139]  It explains the evolution of the world in terms of ‘thirty-six principles’.  “In the practical aspects of religion the followers of the Śaiva Siddhānta school believe in absolute devotion to be achieved through Caryä (practice), Kriyā (action), Yoga (concentration) and jñāna (knowledge).”[140]  The fundamental principal of this sect is pati-pasu-pasam, which are permanent or real entities.[141]
 It is generally held that there was no antagonism between Śavism and Vaisnavism.  It may not be true in their struggle for supremacy of their own deity.  At the same time their common enemy was Jainism. In the words of V.P. Chavan “both the sects had a common basis to work up, i.e., to uproot the prevalent Jainism from that part of the land [Tamilnadu].”[142]  In other words for both the main aim was to destroy Jainism from the south.[143]  When this task was completed, differences between them became visible.  They drew more and more followers and each found it profitable to invent myths in which the god of the rival sect paid homage to its own.[144]
In spite of many differences between them, “…they were most potent allies, both making a popular religious appeal through the use of the vernaculars, both insisting on an exclusive devotion to one god, and emphasizing his grace, on the one hand, and the privilege of man’s loving devotion, on the other.”[145]  The reason for their closeness is the conviction that, on ultimate analysis, both are equally right.[146] This is the strength of Hinduism, which finds adequate expression in the hymns of Ālvārs. Both the sects have contributed enormously to the development of devotional literature.

1.3 Buddhism and Jainism
It is often held that the bhakti movement originated to counter the rapid growth of Buddhism and Jainism.  Therefore, a note on the reasons for the decline of these two non-Vedic religions can provide more insights about the religious situation when Ālvārs began to exhibit their influences.  It also can help understanding the real causes for the unfriendly relationship between Vaishnavism and non-Vedic religions.

1.3.1 Buddhism
D.S. Sarma graphically states the context in which Buddhism sprang up.  He writes “we are told that there were as many as sixty-two theories about the world and the soul at the time of Buddha’s enlightenment.  Some of them were based on the Vedic traditions and some were independent of it.”[147]  This statement informs the reasons for the emergence of Buddhism. Within a short span of time, Buddhism attracted good number of people including many rulers.  Its rapid growth threatened the existence of Hinduism.  Yet, its fast decline needs explanation.
The reasons for its decline will illustrate the general religious context and the situation in Tamil Nadu then. A. C. Bouquet gives three reasons.  They are the animosity of the vested interest of the Brahmin caste, the tendency of the Buddhists to use the laity less, and the Muslim invasions -the destruction of the Buddhist monasteries and the massacre of their inmates left practically none to carry on the dissemination of Buddhist teaching.[148]  This is an inoffensive view, which shares the responsibility among three religions including Buddhism.
For Radakrishnan, “Buddhism died a natural death in India.”[149]  He states: “the vital reason for the disappearance of Buddhism from India is the fact that it became ultimately indistinguishable from the other flourishing forms of Hinduism, Vaishnavism, Śaivism and Tantrik belief.”[150]  H. Hackmann expresses the same view as well.  He writes, Buddhism “…rather appeared as a side-branch of the Brahmanistic system of thought.”[151]
Another reason for its decline in north India was that Buddha was included among the avatars of Vishnu during Gupta Period (4th or 5th C. A. D). C. Retnadas pointed out that “the inclusion of Buddha as an Avatar of the Vishnu cult was one of the reasons for the decline of Buddhism in North India.”[152]   Its impact was enormous and it is an example for the assimilative character of Hinduism.
  A direct and specific reason for the decline of Buddhism in Tamil Nadu is the rapid development of bhakti movement. It is said that the bhakti cult shattered Buddhism and Jainism in Tamilnadu and finally caused the extinction of Buddhism in Tamilnadu.[153]
Two more reasons are, the popularity of Ālvārs and Nayanars and the loss of royal support.  These are stated as “there is no doubt that Buddhism had lost its former vigor, vitality and grace for manifold reasons of which the revivalist movement was doubtlessly one.  The absence of royal patronage comes next.”[154]
Another peculiar reason for the decline of Buddhism was the gulf between the pontiffs and laity. It is remarked that the learned ācāryas were preoccupied with philosophical debates, and the monks congregated in great scholastic enclaves such as Nālanda.  The contact with the laity was very less.[155]  There may be other reasons such as more emphasis on reason and almost atheistic attitude towards the idea of God, which is sentimental to India.  It, therefore, will be appropriate to view that the Hindu revival in the form of Ālvārs and Nāyanārs is not the only reason for the disappearance of Buddhism from the South.

1.3.2 Jainism
Jainism penetrated south India by the close of the fourth century B.C.  In the early days the Mauryas and Kushans patronized Jainism.  “From the fifth century many royal dynasties of the South, such as, the Gangas, the Kadambas, the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas, patronized Jainism.”[156]
In the writings of Hiuen Tsang (C.A. D. 640), there is no allusion to hostility to the Jains.  But later, there was marked change.  The Pandiyan king Nedumaran was a Jain.  His wife converted him to Saivism through Tirugnãna Sambandamûrti. After conversion, king Nedumaran is reported to have forced his former fellow-religionists, the Jains that they also should apostatize.  When they refused no less than eight thousand were put to death by impalement.[157]  Here the reason for such a great massacre was more personal than any specific religious motive.
Soon after the establishment of Vijayanagar, Jains complained to king Bukkarāya of persecution by the Vaishnavas.  “The monarch interceded (1368) and decreed that both parties should practice their respective religions with equal freedom and without mutual interference.”[158]  It is an evidence for the religious tolerance of the rulers.
Among the main reasons for the decline of Jainism, the chief one is counterreformation in favor of orthodox Hinduism.[159]  The reason for such counterreformation is the predominance of Buddhism and Jainism in the Tamil land and the frequent conversions of Śaivas and Vaishnavas to them.[160]
As stated above, there are many reasons for the decline of Buddhism and Jainism in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.  One of the various reasons is the emergence or bhakti movement in the form of Ālvārs and Nāyanārs, because accepting religions that do not believe in the existence of God is not an easy practice for the natives.  The crucial reason seems to be the royal patronage.  As Tamilnadu also was succumbed to various invasions, often the rulers decided the fate of religions. Any religion accepted and patronized by the ruler was in the privileged position, in spite of their neutral attitude in this regard.
A great lesson relevant for further discussion is the fear that the Hindus were losing their number.  It was there and still continues to provide adequate nurture for the religious fundamentalists, who adopt fanatic methods under the guise of religion to achieve their selfish aims-politics, power, etc.

1.4 Historical Background
The background study cannot be complete unless it is substantiated with historical data.  These data are provided to view how different emperors practiced diverse religions and how they reacted to the sects or religions to which they did not belong.  This can help determining the role of rules and religions / sects in promoting conflict or friendship among different religious groups. This also illustrates as to why bhakti movement was rejuvenated. The major milestones are the Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka, the Kalabhras, Pāndya-Pallava rule, Cholas and Vijayanagar rulers.

1.4.1 Mauryas
The Vindhya range was the recognized southern limit of the Aryan land.  Further, long and wide rivers like Narmatha intervened the penetration of northern influence upon the south in all aspects.  There was less interaction between north and south in both religious and secular matters.  It is evident from the fact that “until about 600 B.C., works composed in the North exhibit little knowledge of India South of the Vindhyas, but acquaintance increased with the progress of the centuries.”[161] 
Coming to the south, the three great rules – the Cēra, Cōla and Pantiya were dated between 3rd century B.C. and the 3rd century A.D.  During this period, the Tamils had preference for secular things rather than religious matters.[162]  Therefore, there was a rare chance for religious controversies.  At the same time, religious matters were not altogether left unnoticed.  The earliest Tamil literatures bear testimony to the deep religiosity of people who worshiped deities, known to them in their given context.  There could have been interchange of worship patterns etc., as social mobility increased.  But there was no aggressive religious attitude. 
Emperor Alexander who died in 323 B.C. at Babylon could not cross the Indus to continue his invasions.  But one of his generals Seleucus crossed the Indus with a fresh army only to be defeated by Chandragupta Maurya, the powerful king[163] and patron of Jainism.  He overthrew Magadha, Nanda and Kushan rulers.
During the time of Mahāvira, Rājagrha the capital of king Śrenika of Magadha became the major center of his assembly.  His son Ajātaśatru, who was a pro-Buddhist, usurped Śrenika’s throne.  During this time Jaina influence suffered a temporary decline.[164]
Ajātasatru was soon replaced by the pro-Jaina Nanda dynasty, which reigned until around 324 B.C.[165]  Candragupta Maurya threw this dynasty.  He is said to have become a disciple of the famous Jaina pontiff Bhadrabāhu and to have accompanied him on the southward migration.[166]
Another rule that gave up to Chandragupta was the Kushans.  Their famous king was Kanishka.  In spite of being a convert, he was a staunch supporter of Buddhism.  During his reign there occurred the great schism that divided the Buddhists into two groups.[167]  The Hunnish Mongols, before the Muslim invasions, temporarily interrupted the Maurya sway for a brief time.[168]
No doubt, the Jains flourished under the rule of Chandragupta.  At the same time there is no evidence of any religious intolerance or persecution, except the fact that the emperor’s religion always thrived well.  This takes the burden away from bhakti movement that it alone was responsible for the decline of Buddhism and Jainism in India.  Of course, the growth of non-Vedic religions could have been a strong thread to the influence of Hinduism.

1.4.2 Asoka
Now the course of history had taken a new direction. “The grandson of Chandragupta, Asoka was a great patron of early Buddhism.”[169]  Padmanabh S. Jaini states, “…in any case, the period of Jaina ascendancy was fast drawing to a close, for the throne was soon to be occupied by Candragupta’s grandson Asoka, perhaps India’s greatest ancient king and ardent patron of Buddhism.”[170]  He died in 232 BC.[171]
It is said ‘the great royal patron of Buddhism’ ruled India between 273-232BC.  “He ruled over the whole of India except the extreme Southern kingdoms of the Cholars and the Pandyas.”[172]  Yet, the influence of Buddhism was there in these Kingdoms.  “It is worth-noting that some of the Cañkam poems also make reference to Mauriyas (Mõriyar), the dynasty to which king Asoka belonged.”[173] 
Whether Asoka came to the Tamil country is still an unsettled question.  Nevertheless “regarding the introduction of Buddhism into the Tamil country, one can trace it to the third century B.C. when Emperor Asoka’s Dhamma Vijaya occurred.”[174]  Even if Asoka did not come, at least members of his mission band would have come to Tamil country, either on their way to Srilanka or on their return from Srilanka.  It is evident that there was no static religion in the early phase of Indian history.  Religions changed as new rulers replaced the former ones.  This is evident from the swift changes that had taken place between the time of Chandragupta and Asoka.
The challenge for the Maurya rule came from the Shunga dynasty.  “The last of the Maurya dynasty was killed by Pushyamita, the founder of the Shunga dynasty in 185 BC.”[175]  Again the advent of the Śunga dynasty brought with it brahmanical resurgence and hard times for all non-Vedic groups in and around Magadha.[176]  This is the first time a reference is made to a possible rivalry between Vedic sects and non-Vedic sects.  This is an indication to the point that, as northern influence began to prevail, the tension between religious sects increased.  Another significant aspect to be noted is that the influence of Jainism and Buddhism faded and the new Braminic influence began to shine forth.  This could have been the under current that paved the way for the latter development of bhakti movement in India, particularly in south India.

1.4.3 Kalabhras
“The period after the 4th century A.D. to the 6th century in the Tamil century is sometimes called the dark age.”[177]  The reason is that, the Kalabhras, who are supposed to have hailed from Karnātaka, had occupied the Tamil country in this period.  “Sometime about A.D.300 or a little later the whole country was upset by the predatory activities of the Kalabhras, who are described as evil rulers…”[178]  ‘They were the supporters of Buddhism and Jainism’.  “It seems that Buddhism in the Tamil country had flourished through the patronage of the Kalabhras and the business community since the 4th century A.D.”[179] The Kalabhras, were friendly to the Buddhists.  So under their influence Buddhist monasteries were built and Buddhist writers enjoyed the patronage of the royal courts.  Thus, with their powerful support Buddhism and Jainism progressed, at the expense of orthodox Hinduism.[180]  This period witnessed political uncertainty and slag in literary development.  The bramnic influence, which slowly crept in during the reign of the Śungas witnessed a temporary set back during the time of Kalabhras.  And it had to wait for another opportune time for its glory in the form of bhakti.

1.4.4. The Guptas
“The early development of theism took place during the politically unstable Post-Mauryan period, a time of foreign rulers and small Indian Kingdoms.”[181]  “This period ended in A.D. 320 when a new line of kings, the Guptas, began to reunite northern India.”[182]  “The imperial Guptas for the first time gave strong and continuing dynastic support to the new theistic gods, especially Vishnu.”[183]  “Under the patronage of the Imperial Guptas, Vaisnavism became a great force in the religious life of both northern and southern India.”[184]  “The Gupta emperor Chandra Gupta II [380 A.D.] was a devout follower of the Bhāgavata religion, one of many names by which Vaisnavism was known.”[185]  “Chandragupta I is usually regarded as the founder of the Gupta era, which commenced on 26 February 320 A.D…”[186]  “Samudragupta was chosen from among his brothers by Chandragupta I as the most deserving ruler to succeed him.”[187]  “Samudragupta was succeeded by his son Chandragupta II, surnamed Vikramaditya, who ruled from C.A.D. 380 to 413.”[188]  “The last known date of Chandragupta II is 412-413 A.D. and three years later his son Kumaragupta was on the throne.”[189]  “The aged Kumaragupta died when Skandagupta was interlocked in a grim fight with the Pushyamitras.”[190]  “Soon after his accession Skandagupta had to face the all-powerful Huns who had already proved themselves to be a terror to both Europe and Asia.”[191]
From the point of religion, Hindu revival, which unsuccessfully appeared in the period of Śungas got its way through during the time of Guptas.  It is significant to note that the Guptas followed Bhagavatha religion, which is the ancient form of Vaisnavism from which the Ālvār movement developed.

1.4.5 Pāndya – Pallava Rule
“With the overthrow of the Kalabhras opens the new era of Pāndya-Pallava achievements from the close of the sixth century A.D.”[192]  “The age of the Pallavas in south India extended roughly from the third century A.D. to the end of the ninth.”[193]  Two important monarchs, the Pallava Simhavishnu and the Pāndya Kadungōn with their capitals at Kānchi and Madura respectively were responsible for the beginning of the end of Kalabhras.
Among them Simhavishnu “…was a worshipper of Vishnu and had the title Avanisimha (lion of the earth).”[194]  Mahendravarman 1 (590-630) who was called Vicitra-citta, ‘wonderful-mind’ followed him.  “He professed Jainism, for a time but discarded it in favor of Saivism, possibly under the influence of Appar.”[195]  Although Buddhism and Jainism had made considerable progress, “in his time there arose a strong reaction against the growing influence of Jainism and Buddhism, which found expression in a widespread bhakti movement among the worshippers of Siva and Vishnu…”[196]  Here, again the conflict was caused probably by the rulers because of their preference for particular sects.  Another point is that, as soon as they accepted a new faith, they stood against the previous.  Thus, whether the religious groups themselves were responsible for tension between them needs further clarification.
In general “the Pallavas fostered religion without any bias.  All the cults and sects received their patronage.”[197]  Even the non-Vedic sects grew fast.  In the time of Pallava rulers the religious influence of Jains and Buddhists was in the ascendant.  Their Tamil compositions testify that they never attacked the ancient, unadulterated Saivism but were friendly to it.[198]  There was no religious persecution.
Further, the Pallava rulers were neutral in matters of religion. “In the capital towns there flourished Buddhist shrines and Jain monasteries side by side with Siva and Vishnu temples, and the kings made liberal grants to all of them.”[199] 
The other opinion is that, during Pallavas period, “…both Vaishnavism and Saivism flourished; Vaishnavas and Saivas on the one side wrangling and disputing against the Buddhas and Jainas: but so far the evidence of any systematic persecution is, at the very best, very slender.”[200]  It may be suggested with caution that, the difficulties could have risen at the end of their rule or after them. The down fall of Buddhism is stated as follows:  “during a thousand years Hinduism was influenced by Buddhism, until Hinduism adopted all that had made Buddhism popular, and thence Buddhism declined.”[201]  There are evidences to argue that during the Chola period there was religious intolerance, specifically from the Śaivas.  It is crucial to note that there was religious tolerance among people of different religious traditions at the time of Pallavas.

1.4.6 Cholas
The next vital period in the history of south India, from the point of religion was that of Cholas.  They displaced the Pallava power. “The age of the imperial Cholas (850-1200) was the golden age of Tamil culture, and it was naturally marked by the widespread practice and patronage of literature.”[202]  From religious point of view “this was the silver age of the religious revival which had begun under the Pallavas;… the Tamil hymns, Śaiva and Vaishnava, of the last epoch, were gathered together and grouped into canonical books…”[203]  The influence of Jains and Buddhists declined.  There are evidences to prove that both Śaivism and Vaishnavism competed for success.  It is said “under the Colas Śaiva centers proliferated beyond the Kāveri region, at times even at the expense of Vaishnavism.”[204]
Although, mostly composed in Sanskrit “a quantum of Vaishnava devotional literature and commentaries on the canon also came into existence.”[205]  From the available evidences, it can be said that, during Chola period, both Vaishnavism and Śaivism were well established.  But there are reasons to hold that Śaivism adopted more aggressive and intolerant attitude towards Vaishnavism and other non-Vedic sects.[206]
After the powerful Cholas, there were four Hindu kingdoms in the thirteenth century.  K. A. Nilakanta Sastri writes, “the Pāndyas and Hoysalas in the South, and Yādavas and Kākatiyas in the north are the chief powers, and as usual a number of local feudatory dynasties flourished under the suzerainty of each.”[207]
These four kingdoms were divided within themselves.  Thus it became easy for the Muslim invaders.  “They all fell an easy prey to the raids of Malik Kafur and other Muslim generals…”[208] Of course, the Moghul Empire founded by Baber in 1526 A.D. and consolidated by Akbar reached its zenith in Shahjahan’s time and began to decline under Aurangazib.[209]  Aurangazib died in 1707 A.D.
The salient aspect of this epoch was the struggle between the Śaivas and Vaishnavites for their supremacy on the one hand and their united tussle against Buddhism and Jainism on the other.  This context is very well reflected in the works of Ālvārs.

1.4.7 Vijayanagar
In the middle of the fourteenth century and before the coming of the British, “…as a result of a series of rebellions against the mad tyranny of Muhammad Tughlak, two great kingdoms, one Muslim and another Hindu, established themselves in South India- the Bahmani kingdom with Gulbarga as its capital and the kingdom of Vijayanagar with the city of Vijayanagar as its capital.”[210]  The latter rule was Hindu by nature. D.S. Sarma writes that “the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar, established in 1336 A.D. soon extended its sway over the whole of South India from the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra to Cape Comorin and remained the citadel of Hinduism for more then two centuries, till it fell in the famous battle of Talikota in 1565 A.D.”[211]
The impact of the period on Jainism is stated thus: “in the age of Vijayanagar (1336 – 1650) the Jains were being steadily pushed out by the rising influence of Śaivas of different schools and Vaishnavas…”[212] At the same time the struggle between the Vaishnavites and Śaivites for supremacy continued.


 To sum up, bhakti can be understood as loving relation to a deity and intact continuation of the same communion at all times.  Bhakti insists upon service to the devotees, and struggles to cross the boundary to serve humanity as a whole.  Bhakti demands strict regulations from devotees, while prapatti insists upon God’s grace and complete surrender to God.  Prapatti has crossed the caste border and it was this type of devotion the Ālvārs intended to promote.  As to the question of the origin of bhakti, it is the confluence of southern and northern sources irrespective of the difficulty to decide which one precedes the other or which one is predominant.  The several aspects of bhakti convey the message that it is closely interlinked with human relations.  It is because human beings can understand the relationship with what is beyond, only through the relationships known to them here on earth.  The popular appeal received from the people authenticates the significant contributions and impacts of bhakti movement. The salient outcome of the bhakti movement is seen now in the form of Vaishnavism and Śaivism, which together constitutes much of Hinduism besides other sects.
Bhakti stresses the loving relation of a devotee to a personal God.  It has not prescribed how such relation can be actualized in the society. The advocates of prapatti carried it into the level of devotees of a particular sect.  A step further is the need of the hour.  The significant aspect of bhakti is the intertwining of two traditions, namely the southern and the northern.  The specific features of bhakti are examples of its mechanical and orthodox nature.  The multifaceted contributions of bhakti movement clearly indicate its popularity and need among the people.  The impacts of bhakti may prompt readers to think that the northern influence over the south has promoted intolerant attitude among religions.
The continuous force of bhakti is manifested in Vaishnavism.  Vishnu, a solar deity of the Rig Veda was identified with the sacrifice in the Brahmanas.  The epics provided the sufficient platform for Vishnu to be raised to the level of supreme deity in the Puranas.  Vaisnavism always insisted upon down-to-earth aspect of bhakti, although restricted to the devotees only.  The merger of southern Kannan and northern Krishna was the climax of the development of Vaishnavism.  Śaivism also rose to similar glory, but always Vedic in observances.
Visnu worship was very ancient.  Its germination can be traced to the Vedas.  The Tamil classical literature also bears testimony to this fact.  The position of Visnu, in the Vedas is reflected in three different perspectives.  Few held that he was the visible form of the supreme spirit.  Others held that he was a minor deity requiring adequate recognition.  Still others refused to consider him as god.
This ambiguous status was refined in the Brāhmanas.  Here Vishnu is considered as sacrifice, and greater qualities are attributed to him.  The real nurturing of Vishnu to the level of a deity, who comes to the aid of the affected, took place in the epics.  The final consolidation of Vishnu with multiple Avatars and the idea of he being the creator and protector of the world and gods reached culmination in the puranas.
The characteristics of Vaishnavism are appealing, except that it did not reach the common mass.  This lacuna was completed later by the Ālvārs.  The incorporation of southern Kannan and northern Krishna added sufficient flavor to Vaishnavism. Similar developments took place in Śaivism also.  The Śaivas had stronger inclination to adhere to the Vedic demands.  Thus they were more technical in nature.
Among the many reasons that were responsible for the decline of Buddhism and Jainism in India, particularly south India, the crucial one was the bhakti movement.  It seems as if the Śaivates were more aggressive than the Vaishnavites in this regard.
History abounds with materials to suggest that either the growth or decline of any religion depends upon the patronage it enjoyed from the rulers.  It is also clear that Buddhism and Jainism enjoyed privileges under their respective rulers, who are mostly neutral in their attitude towards other religions.  It was during the end of Pallava rule or the beginning of Chola reign, there were traces of preference for Hinduism.  This attitude continued with the Vijayanar rulers.
The paramount issue here is the struggle between the Śaivas and Vaishnavites for their supremacy on the one hand and their united tussle against Buddhism and Jainism on the other.  This context is very well reflected in the works of Ālvārs, whose study becomes significantly relevant.

[1]M. Monier Williams, A Sanskrit English Dictionary, New Edition, New Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, PVT. LTD., 1997, p. 743.
[2]Chhaganlal Lala, Bhakti in Religions of the World, New Delhi, B. R. Publishing Corporation, 1986, p.148.
            [3]Dines Chandra Sircar, “Early History of Vaisnavism”, Cultural Heritage of
              India Vol. IV, ed. by H. Bhattacharya, Calcutta, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of
             Culture, 1957-62, p.112.
[4]Swami Chinmayananda, Narada Bhakti Sutra, Bombay, Central Chinmaya Mission
Trust, 1982, p.8.
[5]Hanumanprasad Poddar, The Philosophy of Love, (Bhakti Sutras of Devarshi Narada), Gorakpur(India), Ghanshyamdas Jalan, 1940, p.20.
[6]Stephen Neill, Bhakti: Hindu and Christian, Madras, CLS,1974, p.97.
[7]C. Ratnadas, Incarnation and Contextual Communication, Sadhu Sundersingh Perspective, Tiruvalla, Christian Sahitya Samithy, 2000, p.94.
[8]Stephen Neill, Bhakti : Hindu and Christian, Op. Cit., p.22.
[9]Alkondavilli Govindacharya, The Divine Wisdom of the Dravida Saints, ed. by T. D. Muralidharan, Mumbai, Archish Publications, 1998, p. II.
[10]S. Ramani “Some Important Characteristics of the Saiva and the Vaisnava Bhakti Movements of Tamilnadu and Karnataka – A Comparative Estimate”, Journal of Tamil Studies, (no number), June 1985, pp. 93-103.
[11]The Encyclopedia of Religion, Volume II, ed. by Mircea Eliade [Editor in Chief], New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987, pp 130-133.
[12]R. N. Vyas, Melody of Bhakti and Enlightenment, New Delhi, Cosmo
Publication, 1983, p.7.
[13]V. Rangacharya, “Historical Evolution of Sri-Vaisnavism in South India”, Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. IV, Op. Cit., p.169.
14The Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. II, ed. by Mircea Eliade [Editor in Chief], Op. Cit., pp. 130-133.
[15] A. K. Majumdar, Bhakti Renaissance, Second Edition, Bombay, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1979, pp. 37-38.
[16]Alkondavilli Govindacharya, The Divine Wisdom of the Dravida Saints, ed. by T.D. Muralidharan, Op. Cit., p.242.
[21]Ibid., p.243.
[22]Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems, Madras, Asia Educational Service, 1995, p. 76.
[23]Ibid., p.77.
[24] Cf., John Braisted Carman, The Theology of Ramanuja: An Essay in Interreligious Understanding, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1974, p.25.
[25]Stephen Neill, Bhakti: Hindu and Christian, Madras, CLS, 1974, p.18.
[27]P. Thirugnanasambandham, The Concept of Bhakti, Second Edition, Madras, University of Madras, 1973, p.3.
[28]Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems, Op. Cit., p. 41.
[29]Stephen Neill, Bhakti: Hindu and Christian, Op. Cit., p.20.
[30]Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious SystemsOp. Cit., p. 19.
[31]P. T. Srinivasa Aiyangar, Pre-Aryan Tamil Culture, New Delhi, Asian Educational Service, 1985, p.21.
32The Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. II, ed. by Mircea Eliade [Editor in Chief],
Op. Cit., pp. 130-133.
[33]A. Pandurangan, “Bhakti Literature and Human Values”. Journal of Tamil
Studies, 43&44, June & December 1993,p.171.
[34]V. D. Mahajan, Ancient India, Thirteenth Edition, New Delhi, S. Chand & Company Ltd., 1999, p. 823.
[35]Rabindra Kumar Siddhantashastree, Vaisnavism Through the Ages, New Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1985, p.130.
[36]Stephen Neill, Bhakti: Hindu and Christian, Op. Cit., p.24.
[37]Ibid., p.15.
[38]A. L. Basham, The Wonder that was India, Third Revised Edition, Thirty-third Impression, New Delhi, Rupa &Co, 1999, p. 298.
[39]Stephen Neill, Bhakti: Hindu and Christian, Op. Cit., p.15.
[40]Pandurangan, “Bhakti Literature and Human Values”.  Journal of Tamil Studies,
Op. Cit., p.171.
[41]Alkondavilli Govindacharya, The Divine Wisdom of the Dravida Saints,
Op. Cit., p. XXI.
[42]The Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. II. ed. by Mircea Eliade [Editor in Chief],
Op. Cit.,  pp. 130-133.
[43]Pandurangan, “Bhakti Literature and Human Values.”  Journal of Tamil Studies,
Op. Cit., p. 171.
44The Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. II. ed. by Mircea Eliade [Editor in Chief],
Op. Cit., pp. 130-133.
 [45]S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar, Early History of Vaishnavism in South India, Madras, The Oxford University Press, 1920, p.3.
[46]Swami Tattwananda, The Vaisnava Sects, The Saiva Sects, Mother Worship, Calcutta, Niramalender Bikashsen Gupta, 49G, Russa Road, No Date, p.1.
[47]K.  K .A. Venkatachari in S. Satyamurthi Ayyangar, Tiruvāymōli, English Glossary, Volume II, Bombay, Ananthacharya Indological Research Institute, 1981, p. VII.
[48]Stephen Neill, Bhakti: Hindu and Christian, Op. Cit., p.53.
[49]Ibid., p.54.
[50]V. Jeya, Bhakti Ilakkiya Uruvakkam,Viluppuram (Tamil Nadu), Muthu
Patippakam, 1994, p. 21.
[51]Stephen Neill, Bhakti: Hindu and Christian, Op. Cit., p.66.
[52]V. P. Chavan, Vaishnavism of the Gowd Saraswat Brahmins and a few Konkani Folklore Tales, Madras, Asian Educational Services, 1991, p.7.
[53]P. T. Srinivasa Aiyangar, Pre-Aryan Tamil Culture, New Delhi, Asian Educational Service, 1985, p.21.
[54]Vijay Mishra, Devotional Poetics and the Indian Sublime, New Delhi, D. K. Print world (P) Ltd., 2000, p.41.
[55]V. Jeya, Bhakti Ilakkiya Uruvakkam, Op. Cit., p. 50.
[56]J. Rangaswami “Mysticism of Śrīvaisnavism an Outlook”.  Journal of Tamil
Studies 47&48, June & December 1995, p.215.
[57]Vijay Mishra, Devotional Poetics and the Indian Sublime, Op. Cit., pp. 38-39.
[58]V. Jeya, Bhakti Ilakiya Uruvakkam, Op. Cit., p. 48.
[59]Ramani “Some Important Characteristics of the Saiva and the Vaisnava Bhakti Moments of Tamilnadu and Karnataka- A Comparative Estimate”.  Journal of Tamil Studies, Op. Cit., p.93.
[60]R. Champakalashmi “Religion and Social Change in Tamil Nadu (C.AD 600-300)”, Medieval Bhakti Movements in India, [Srī Caitanya Quincetenary Commemoration Volume], ed. by N. N. Bhattacharyya, New Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1999, p.165.
[61]Haripriya Rangarajan, Ramánuja Sampradáya in Gujarat, A Historical perspective, Bombay, Somaiya Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1996, p.3.
[62]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammālvār,  Sri Venkateshwara University, 1977, pp.32-33.
[63]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Revised and Enlarged, New Delhi / Madras, Asian Educational Services, 1994, p. 181.
[64]Rabindra Kumar Siddhantashastree, Vaisnavism Through the Ages, Op. Cit.,
[65]Haripriya Rangarajan, Ramánuja Sampradáya in Gujarat, A Historical Perspective,
Op. Cit., p.3.
[66]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammālvār. Op. Cit., p. 28.
[67]Ibid., p.29.
[68]Rabindra Kumar Siddhantashastree, Vaisnavism Through the Ages, Op. Cit.,
[69]Ibid., P.4.
[70]Ibid., P.7.
[71] Ibid., P9.
[72]Dines Chandra Sircar, “Early History Vaisnavism”, Cultural Heritage of India Vol. IV, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, Calcutta, The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 1958, p. 110.
[73]Jadunath Sinha “Bhāgavata Religion: The Cult of Bhakti”, Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. IV, Ibid., p.146.
[74]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva, New Delhi, Penguin Books, 2000, p.284.
[75]Ibid., p.284.
[76]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammālvār, Op. Cit., p.26.

[77]Ibid., p.28.
[78]P. T. Srinivasa Iyangar, History of the Tamils form the Earliest Times to 600 A.D., Madras, C. Coomarasamy Naidu & Sons, 1929, p.45.
[79]A. C. Bouquet, Hinduism, London, Hutchinson’s University Library, Date Not
Found, p.91.
[80]Dines Chandra Sircar, “Early History Vaisnavism”, Cultural Heritage of India,
 Vol. IV, Op. Cit., p. 112.
[81]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p.291.
[82]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammalvar, Op. Cit., p.29.
[83]Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems, Op. Cit., p. 47.
[84]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammalvar. Op. Cit., p. 29.
[85]Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems Op. Cit., p. 47.
[86]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammālvār, Op. Cit., p. 36.
[87]Ibid., p.40.
[88]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p.297.
[89]Haripriya Rangarajan, Ramánuja Sampradáya in Gujarat, A Historical perspective,
Op. Cit., p.3.
[90]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p.4.
[91]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammālvār. Op. Cit., p. 47.
[92]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p. 286.
[93]Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems,
Op. Cit., p. 49.
[94]Haripriya Rangarajan, Ramánuja Sampradáya in Gujarat, A Historical perspective,
Op. Cit., p.4.
[95]Shakti M. Gupta, Vishnu and his Incarnations, Bombay, Somaiya Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1974, p. 11.
[96]Ibid., p.12.
[97]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammālvār. Op. Cit., p. 74.
[98]Krishnaswami Aiyangar, Early History of Vaishnavism in South India, Op. Cit., p.9.
[99]Rabindra Kumar Siddhantashastree, Vaisnavism Through the Ages, Op. Cit., 
[100]Ibid., p.112.
[101]Ibid., p.109.
[102]Ibid., p.117.
[103]Ibid., p.120.
[104]Ibid., p.113.
[105]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Revised and Enlarged, Op. Cit., p.181.
[106]S. Krishnaswami Ayangar, Early History of Vaisnavism in South India,
Op. Cit., p.12.
[107]Pandurangan  “Bhakti Literature and Human Values”. Journal of Tamil Studies,
Op. Cit., p.172.
[108]V. P. Chavan, Vaishnavism of Gowd Saraswat Brahmins and a Few Konkani Folklore Tales, Op. Cit., p. 5.
[109]Ibid., p.11.
[110]S. Krishnaswami Ayangar, Early History of Vaisnavism in South India, Op. 
[111]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p.301.
[112]Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Śaivism and Minor Religious Systems, Op. Cit., p. 4.
[113]A. Sarkar, KRSNA and KRSNAISM, Calcutta, Sadhana Prakashani, 1997, p.5.
[114]N. Subbu Reddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammālvār. Op. Cit., p. 163.
[115]C. Retnadas, Incarnation and Contextual Communication, Sadhu Sundersingh Perspective, Tiruvalla, Christian Sahitya Samithy, 2000, p.72.
[116]A. Sarkar, KRSNA and KRSNAISM, Op. Cit., p.72.
[117]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p.301.
[118]A. Sarkar, KRSNA and KRSNAISM, Op. Cit., p.72.
[119]Ibid., p.75.
[120]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p.309.
[121]Friedhelm Hardy, The Religious Culture of India: Power, Love and Wisdom,
First South Asian Edition, New Delhi, Foundation Books, 1995, p.121.
[122]Ibid., p.121.
[123]Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha – Bhakti, The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp.9-10.
[124]Ibid., pp.169-170.
[125]Ibid., p.51.
[126]C. Retnadas, Incarnation and Contextual Communication, Op. Cit., p.58.
[127]Ibid., p.73.
[128]Ibid., p.58.
[129]Sukumari Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony: Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p.109.
[130]Ibid., p.178.
[132]V. P. Chavan, Vaishnavism of Gowd Saraswat Brahmins and a Few Konkani Folklore Tales, Op. Cit., p.4.
[133]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Revised and Enlarged, Op. Cit., p.155.
[134]Ibid., p.243.
[135]V. P. Chavan, Vaishnavism of Gowd Saraswat Brahmins and a Few Konkani Folklore Tales, Op. Cit., p.11.
[136]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Revised and Enlarged, Op. Cit., p.155.
[137]N. N. Bhattacharyya, ed., Medieval Bhakti Movements in India, Op. Cit., p. XV.
[138]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Revised and Enlarged, Op. Cit., p.155.
[139]Ibid., p.244.
[140]N. N. Bhattacharyya, ed., Medieval Bhakti Movements in India, Op. Cit., p. XVI.
[141]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Revised and Enlarged, Op. Cit., p.243.
[142]V. P. Chavan, Vaishnavism of Gowd Saraswat Brahmins and a Few Konkani Folklore Tales, Op. Cit., p.5.
[143]Ibid., p.12.
[144]Sukumari  Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony : Brahma, Visnu and Śiva,
Op. Cit., p.298.
[145]J. S. M. Hooper, Hymns of the ĀLVĀRS, Oxford University Press, 1929, p. 9.
[146]A. L. Basham, The Wonder that was India, Third Revised Edition, Thirty-third Impression, New Delhi, Rupa & Co., 1999, p.309.
[147]D. S. Sarma, Hinduism Through the Ages, Bombay, Bharatiya Vidya
Bhavan, 1967, p.10.
[148]A. C. Bouquet, Hinduism, Op. Cit., p.17.
[149]Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Volume I, Reprinted in India, Bombay,
Blackie & Son Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1985, p. 607.
[150]Ibid., p.605.
[151]H. Hackmann, Buddhism as a Religion, Reproduced, New Delhi, Low Price Publications, 1993, p. 36.
[152]C. Ratnadas, Incarnation and Contextual Communication, Op. Cit., p.55.
[153]Ibid., P.56.
[154]Srimati Aparna Banerji, Traces of Buddhism in South India (C.700 – 1600 AD.), Calcutta, Scientific Book Agency, 1970, p.26.

[155]Padmanabh S.Jaini, The Jaine Path of Purification, New Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Reprinted, 1990, pp.285-286.
[156]B. N. Luniya, Evolution of Indian Culture, Agra, Lakshm Narain Agarwal Educational Publishers, Tenth Edition, 1987, p.101.
[157]Stephen Neill, Bhakti: Hindu and Christian, Op. Cit., p.67.
[158]K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, Second Edition, Madras, Oxford University Press, 1958, p.427.
[159]B. N. Luniya, Evolution of Indian Culture, Op. Cit., p.102.

[160]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Op. Cit., p.154.

[161]K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, Op. Cit., p.65.
[162]Shu Hikosaka, Buddhism in Tamilnadu A New Perspective, Madras, Institute of Asian Studies, 1989, p.16.
[163] A. C. Bouquet, Hinduism, Op. Cit., p.77.
[164]Padmanabh S. Jaini, The Jaina Path of Purification, Op. Cit., p.276.
[165]Ibid., p.277.
[167]A. C. Bouquet, Hinduism, Op. Cit., p.79.
[169]Ibid., p.77.
[170] Padmanabh S. Jaini, The Jaina Path of Purification, Op. Cit., p.277.

[171]A. C. Bouquet, Hinduism, Op. Cit., p.77.
[172]D. S. Sarma, Hinduism Through the Ages, Op. Cit., p.8.
[173]Shu Hikosaka, Buddhism in Tamilnadu A New Perspective, Op. Cit., pp. 6-7.
[174]Ibid., p.4.
[175]D. S. Sarma, Hinduism Through the Ages, Op. Cit., p.8.

[176]Padmanabh S. Jaini, The Jaina Path of Purification, Op. Cit., p.278.
[177]Shu Hikosaka, Buddhism in Tamilnadu A New Perspective, Op. Cit., p. 21.
[178]K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, Op. Cit., p.3.
[179]Shu Hikosaka, Buddhism in Tamilnadu A New Perspective, Op. Cit., p.21.
[180]A. J. Appasamy, The Theology of Hindu Bhakti, Madras, CLS. 1970,  p. 37.
[181]Hopkins, The Hindu Religious Tradition, Inc, [USA], Dickenson Publishing Company, 1971, p. 108.
[184]Chhaganlāl Lālā, Philosophy of Bhakti, New Delhi, B. R. Publishing
Corporation, 1989, p.11.
[185]Ibid., p.43.
[186]Sailendra Nath Sen, Ancient Indian History and Civilization, Second Edition, New Delhi, New Age International [p] Limited Publishers, 1999, p.208.
[187]Ibid., p.209.
[188]Ibid., p.213.
[189]Ibid., p.215.
[190]Ibid., p.217.
[191]Ibid., p.218.
[192]Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India, Fourth Edition, Madras, Oxford University Press 1975,p.3.
[193]Silendranath Sen, Ancient Indian History and Civilization, Second Edition, New Delhi, New Age International [p] Limited, Publishers, 1999, p.444.
[194]Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India, Fourth Edition, Madras,
Op. Cit., pp. 149-150.
[195]Ibid., p.150.
[196]K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, Op. Cit., p.5.
[197]N. Subbu Raddiar, Religion and Philosophy of Nālāyira Divya Prabandham with Special Reference to Nammālvār, Op. Cit., p.199.
[198]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Op. Cit., p.112.
[199]Ibid., p.113.
[200]S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar, Early History of Vaishnavism in South India,
Op. Cit., P. 95.
[201]M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, Tamil Literature, Op. Cit., p.113.
[202]Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India, Op. Cit., p.375.
[203]K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, Op. Cit., p.6.
[204]N. N. Bhattacharyya ed., Medieval Bhakti Movements in India, Op. Cit., p. 166.
[205]Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India, Op. Cit., p.375.
[206]Cf., Eric J. Lot, God and the Universe in the Vedantic Theology of Ramanuja, Madras, Ramanuja Research Society, 1976, p. 15.
[207] K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, Op. Cit., p.6.
[208] D.S. Sarma, Hinduism Through the Ages, Op. Cit., p.40.
[209]Ibid., p.47.
[210]Ibid., p.40.
[211]Ibid., pp. 40-41.
[212]Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India, Op. Cit., p.398.


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