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. It is the beliefs and principles embodied in the Alwars' poems that ultimately gave rise to the Sri Vaishnava sect. Now the Alwars incarnated in a variety of different castes, in order to show the world that Sharanagati, complete surrender to Vishnu as a means of attaining Moksha, is open to all regardless of caste. In this connection I just found something interesting about one of the Alwars, Thirumangai Alwar.

This journal paper summarizes the biography of Thirumangai Alwar as it's described in different Sri Vaishnava works. In particular, it says this:

In the three hundred and ninety eighth year of Kali Yuga, on a Thursday, in the month of Kartika, under the Krttika asterism, on a Purnima, was born in Thiruvali-Thirunagari, to Nilan, a man of the fourth varna (Mgpp)/ mleccha varna (Agpp)/ sudra (DSC), an amsa of Sharnga, Vishu's bow.

Now the three abbreviations are for three different works by Sri Vaishnava Acharyas on the history of Sri Vaishnavism: Mgpp stands for the second Parakala Matham Jeeyar's 3000 Padi Guru Parampara Prabhavam, Agpp stands for Pinbazhagiya Perumal Jeeyar's 6000 Padi Guru Parampara Prabhavam, and DSC stands for Garudavahana Pandita's Divyasuri Charitram. In any case, apparently the 3000 Padi Guru Parampara Prabhavam and the Divyasuri Charitram agree that Thirumangai Alwar was from a fourth-caste family. But the 6000 Padi Guru Parampara Prabhavam, which is the one Thenkalais follow, says that Thirumangai Alwar was from a Mleccha family.

So my question is, which Mleccha race do Thenkalais believe Thirumangai Alwar was from? Do they think he was a Yavana or Greek, a Saka or Scythian, or what?

1 Answer 1


Do they think he was a Yavana or Greek, a Saka or Scythian, or what?

Thirumangai Azhwar can't be a European or Western Asian, as members of those tribes are, for the reason that he is a native Tamilian. Many sources state that he is from the Kallar community.

The name Kallar primarily traces its etymology to "thief", which Thirumangai Alwar was for a part of his life, but also to "black-skinned" (indicating a south Indian origin), "hero", and "toddy-tapper" (toddy is from palm trees, which are generally not found in north India, but are abundant in south India).

Mlecchas were not limited to outside of India; they also existed in India at one point, particularly in south India, and this is indicated in the following Manusmriti verse:

Manu 2.22 - The country extending as far as the Eastern Ocean and as far as the Western Ocean, and lying between the same two mountains [Himalaya and Vindhya],—the learned know as ‘Āryāvarta.’

So, Thirumangai Azhwar could've been part of a mleccha group native to India.

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