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The Alwars (also spelled Azhwars) are a group of 12 ancient Vaishnava saints who lived in Tamil Nadu and are famous for their poetry in praise of Vishnu. The Alwars are crucially important figures in the development of Vaishnavism; it is the principles and beliefs embodied in the Alwars' poems that ultimately gave rise to the Sri Vaishnava sect (of which I'm a member).

The Alwars praised many Vishnu temples and other sacred places of Vishnu in their poetry; a sacred place of Vishnu that was praised by at least one Alwar is called a Divya Desam, and there are 108 of them. My question is, who compiled this list of 108 Divya Desams?

The Naalayira Divya Prabhandam, the collection of the Alwars' 4000 verses, was compiled by a Sri Vaishnava thinker named Nathamuni. But who went through all the poems and found out what locations they mentioned? And who was the one who came up with the concept of Divya Desams in the first place? Was all that done by Nathamuni too?

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Most of the dhivya desams mentioned in the Azhvar pasurams carry their archaic names and hence are different from the names that existed during the Acharyas time. Periyavachan Pillai is the first to record the exact locations of these dhivya desams in his commentaries. There is also a Pillaipperumal Iyengar who has done a work titled '108 Tiruppati Andadi' which identifies these locations. However, there is debate whether he lived prior to Periyavachan Pillai's time or after him.

However, one can safely say what these people codified was available as oral knowledge to them and hence should have been a part of tradition. As to who was the first to compile them, one may be tempted to say Nathamuni, but there is no conclusive proof to it.

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    But who came up with the concept of Divya Desams? By the way, answers on this site should be backed with details and sources, so you should expand your answer or else it's liable to be deleted. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 21 '14 at 19:59
  • The term 'dhivya desam' is a later day appellation. The original term is called 'ugandharuLina niLangal' - the places where the Lord chose to reveal Himself. This is the word that is used all through the commentaries. 'Dhivya desam' is the sanskritization of this tamil word. – Mukund Dec 21 '14 at 20:05
  • I am sorry Sir. I don't have the time to give you the quotations and page numbers now. You are free to delete the contents as you wish, and I will refrain from posting from now on. – Mukund Dec 21 '14 at 20:06
  • OK, when was "ugandharuLina niLangal" or any other term for the places mentioned by the Alwars first used? – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 21 '14 at 20:10
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    I suggest you keep participating on the site. And you should create an account; you don't even need to create a password, you can just sign in with your Google account. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 21 '14 at 20:14

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