The Alwars (also spelled Azhwars) are a group of 12 ancient Vaishnava saints who lived in Tamil Nadu and are famous for their devotional poetry in praise of Vishnu. The collection of their 4000 poems, known as the Naalayira Divya Prabhandam, is considered by many to be the "Dravida Veda", or South Indian Veda. The Alwars are crucially important figures in the history of Vaishnavism; it's the beliefs and principles embodied in the Alwars' poems that ultimately gave rise to the Sri Vaishnava sect (of which I'm a member).

One of the Alwars was known as Thirumazhisai Alwar. He was the son of the sage Bhargava, but he was raised by tribal people and became a famous Shaivite poet, before ultimately converting to Vaishnavism. And as I discuss in this question, he is said to have been born in the Dwapara Yuga, almost a thousand years before the birth of Krishna! In any case, this article from the Hindu makes an interesting claim about Thirumazhisai Alwar:

This Azhwar is, perhaps, the most controversial in the hierarchy as he is supposed to have lived in the Dvapara Yuga. Tamil scholars have, however, placed him in the sixth or seventh century A.D. as the Azhwar was a contemporary of a Pallava ruler of Kanchipuram. After critically studying all systems of philosophy like Jainism, Buddhism, Mayavada and Saivism, he became a staunch follower of Vaishnavism. A renowned Sanskrit scholar has identified this Azhwar as Dramidacharya referred to by Ramanuja and has furnished convincing evidence for his conclusion.

My question, who is this "renowned Sanskrit scholar" who said that Dramidacharya is the same as Thirumazhisai Alwar? For those who don't know, Dramidacharya, aka Dravidacharya, was a famous pre-Shankara Vedantic philosopher whose works are now lost, but quotes from his works survive in other people's works. In Ramanujacharya's works he is reverentially spoken of as the Bhashyakara. He wrote a commentary on the Chandogya Upanishad, and probably a commentary on the Brahma Sutras as well. He may be the Bhashyakara spoken of in this quote from Yamunacharya's Atma Siddhi:

For the sake of this objective, the Sutras were written by Bhagavat Badarayana; they were then explained by the author of the bhashya, which expressed tersely their profound meaning; this was explained in detail by Bhagavat Srivatsankamishra who declared the truth profound as an ocean.

And he may be the same as the Bhashyakara referenced in my question here. And here is what Ramanujacharya says about him in this excerpt from his Vedartha Sangraha:

The philosophical approach herein is one that has been presented by the Vedas, whose import has been clearly revealed by the ancient commentaries on the Vedas and Vedanta and has been unanimously adopted by the great ones like Bhagavan Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardin and Bharuchi. By this, the extra-Vedic schools of thought like those of Charvaka, Shakya, Aulukya, Akshapada, Kshapanaka, Kapila and Patanjali along with the schools of some followers of the Vedas whose vision is been perverted, are refuted.

Dramidacharya is also quoted by Adi Shankaracharya in his commentary on the Chandogya Upanishad, and may be quoted in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya as well (as discussed in my question here.)

In any case, who is the Sanskrit scholar who identified Dramidacharya with Thirumazhisai Alwar, and what is the "convincing evidence" that he provided for it? One thing is that the name Dramida or Dravida meana "South Indian", so it would be a fitting name for a Tamil poet like Thirumazhisai Alwar. Another thing is that Dramidacharya discusses the steps of Bhakti Yoga, as I discuss in this answer. So that would be consistent with Thirumazhisai Alwar's Bhakti towards Vishnu.

I would try asking the author of the article, but he passed away ten years ago.


The "renowned Sanskrit scholar" alluded to in the article is Mahamahopadyaya Professor S. Kuppuswami Sastri. In his 1924 paper "Bodhayana and Dramidacharya", Kuppuswami Sastri presents three kinds of evidence to show that Dramidacharya is the same as Thirumazhisai Alwar:

  1. Biographical evidence: Many Vedantic philosophers illustraye the plight of the Jiva in Samsara using a story of a prince who is raised by hunters, but then realizes his true heritage. Here is how Adi Shankaracharya describes it in his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, for instance:

    Regarding this teachers of Vedānta narrate the following parable: A certain prince was discarded by his parents as soon as he was born, and brought up in a fowler’s home. Not knowing his princely descent, he thought himself to be a fowler and pursued the fowler’s duties, not those of a king, as he would if he knew himself to be such. When, however, a very compassionate man, who knew the prince’s fitness for attaining a kingdom, told him who he was—that he was not a fowler, but the son of such and such a king, and had by some chance come to live in a fowler’s home—he, thus informed, gave up the notion and the duties of a fowler and, knowing that he was a king, took to the ways of his ancestors. Similarly this individual self, which is of the same category as the Supreme Self, being separated from It like a spark of fire and so on, has penetrated this wilderness of the body, organs, etc., and, although really transcendent, takes on the attributes of the latter, which are relative, and thinks that it is this aggregate of the body and organs, that it is lean or stout, happy or miserable— for it does not know that it is the Supreme Self. But when the teacher enlightens it that it is not the body etc., but the transcendent Supreme Brahman, then it gives up the pursuit of the three kinds of desire and is convinced that it is Brahman.

    It's also described in this excerpt from Vedanta Desikan's Rahasyatraya Sara and numerous other works. But all these works ultimately borrow this story from the works of Dramidacharya. Now Kuppuswami Sastri notes that this story is strikingly similar to the life story of Thirumazhisai Alwar, who was originally the son of a Rishi but was raised by tribal people until eventually becoming a Sri Vaishnava. So Kuppuswami Sastri argues that the prince story is autobiographical.

  2. Textual Evidence: In this section of the Sri Bhashya, Ramanujacharya quotes Dramidacharya:

    It is the Veda which gives information as to good and evil deeds, the essence of which consists in their pleasing or displeasing the Supreme Person, and as to their results, viz. pleasure and pain, which depend on the grace or wrath of the Lord. In agreement herewith the Dramidâkârya says, 'From the wish of giving rise to fruits they seek to please the Self with works; he being pleased is able to bestow fruits, this is the purport of the Sâstra.' Thus Sruti also says, 'Sacrifices and pious works which are performed in many forms, all that he bears (i.e. he takes to himself); be the navel of the Universe' (Mahânâr. Up. I, 6).

    Kuppuswami Sastri argues that this conveys the same message as this verse by Thirumazhisai Alwar:

    illaram illEl turavaram illennum
    sollaram allanavum sollalla nallaram |
    Avanavum nAlvEda mAttavamum nAraNanE
    Avadu eedu anru enbAr Ar ||

    To say that pursuing the various Asramas, -householder, student, renunciate or forest-dweller, -alone is sufficient to give the fruits of life is not correct. Even the paths of right conduct and renunciation taught in the Vedas do but lead to Narayana as the supreme goal, who can deny this?

  3. Phonetic evidence: Kuppuswami Sastri argues that their names have a phonetic similarity, and they are both dated by Western Indologists as living in the same time period.

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