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; see the list here.

Now because of the important role that the Alwars' poetry played in the development of the Sri Vaishnava sect, Sri Vaishnavas naturally tried to build temples in the sites of any Divya Desams that didn't already have Vishnu temples, and the advent of the Sri Vaishnava sect led many existing Vishnu temples to convert to Sri Vaishnavism in their rituals and practices. So my question is, out of the 108 Divya Desams, how many of them are the site of a Sri Vaishnava temple?

Now two of the Divya Desams aren't even located on earth, Vishnu's ocean of milk and Vishnu's palace of Paramapadam. It's probably best to avoid speculation here about what customs are used to worship Vishnu there, so I'm just asking about the 106 Divya Desams on Earth! I expect some Divya Desams in North India (of which there aren't that many) don't have Sri Vaishnava temples, only because Sri Vaishnavism is more popular in South India. But are there any South Indian Divya Desams whose Vishnu temples follow other sects other than Sri Vaishnavism, like Gaudiya Vaishnavism and the like?

  • Aren't they all Vishnu temples? What temples do the divya desams that are not Sri Vaishnava have? Or are you asking how many temples follow a certain Agama (for e.g., vaikhanasa vs. pAcharAtra)?
    – user1195
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 15:50
  • @moonstar2001 First of all, the Divya Desams are all sacred places of Vishnu, but just because a place is sacred doesn't necessarily mean that it has a temple there. Second of all, not all Vishnu temples are Sri Vaishnava temples. In the first place as you said there are some temples that follow Vaikhanasa Agamas, whereas Sri Vaishnavas follow Pancharatra Agamas. But even among temples that follow Pancharatra Agamas, not all of them are Sri Vaishnava. After all, there are other Vaishnava sects besides Sri Vaishnavas, like Gaudiya Vaishnavas, Madhvas, Kumara Sampradayam, etc. Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 15:58
  • @moonstar2001 Here's the basic thrust of my question: the concept of Divya Desams is unique to the Sri Vaishnava sect of Hinduism, but the actual Divya Desams themselves are sacred to all Vishnu-worshippers. So the Vishnu temples at some Divya Desams may be run by people other than Sri Vaishnavas. So I'm trying to find out, if a Sri Vaishnava wanted to visit all the Divya Desams (at least the 106 on Earth!), then how many of them would he come across where the Vishnu temple is run by Sri Vaishnavas? Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 16:10
  • 108 divya desam are there .2 are not in earth.
    – user4490
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


To answer your question, Alwars praised Vishnu temples at various places. There are many in south India and also some in the North India.

But, the temples that Alwars sang need not necessarily be existing today and may not be following the tenents of Sri Vaishnavism or for that matter Vaishnavism it self, as of today.

Also, there are shrines standing today, need not necessarily be the ones which Alwars had visited or praised during their time.

Example Naimisharanya in Uttar Pradesh is one of the 108 Vaishnava divya desam. Now the Lord there is in the form of forest. So no one knows whether there was any temple existing at the time of Alwars.

Same goes with Badrinath shrine. The shrine that is existing now is built during the time of Adi Shankara. The main part of Badrinath is the Nara-Narayana mountain peaks and not the temple established by AdiShankara. Again whether any temple existed in the present Badrinath temple at the time of Alwars is highly debatable. Most of the temples in North India related to 108 vaishnava divya desam could be, non-srivaishnavaite, due various reasons like passage of times, invasions etc... Even, the Muktinath kshtram in Nepal it seems has a Vishnu shrine where deity of Vishnu and Lakshmi along with Sri Ramanujacharya? is there. But it is maintained by buddhists is what I had read somewhere.

  • This doesn't answer my question at all. I'm not asking how many Divya Desams had Vishnu temples when the Alwars sang about them, and I'm not asking how many temples the Alwars sang about still exist today. I'm asking how many Divya Desams currently have Sri Vaishnava temples. Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 14:32
  • Also, you shouldn't use blockquotes unless you're quoting something. Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 18:53
  • I understand, my answer doesn't directly address the question. The simple answer is it is doubtful whether those temples exist now in North India. So, naturally what ever exists today don't have Sri Vaishnavishm per se practised in those temples.
    – user808
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 6:19
  • In any case, very few Divya Desams are in North India, so it should be relatively easy to determine which ones do and don't have temples that follow Sri Vaishnavism. So the main question is, how many of the South Indian Divyadesams currently have temples that follow Sri Vaishnavism? Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 7:57
  • By the way, look at this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaikhanasas#History "Today Vaikhanasas are the chief priests in more than half of the Vaishnava temples in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and parts of Karnataka." So then there may be quite a few Divya Desams where the temples are run by non-Sri Vaishnavas. Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 0:38

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