Difference Between Alvars and Nayanars

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 30, 2022, 9:50

The Alvars was a term used for a group of mystics from South India who sang joyous songs in praise of the Hindu God Vishnu. They existed from the 7th to the 10th century and sang from temple to temple. Historical records describe the Alvars to have fallen unconscious while singing rapturously before the image of Lord Vishnu.

The Nayanars were Tamil poets-saints-musicians from the 7th and 8th centuries who were devotees of the Hindu God Shiva and composed devotional poems or hymns in his honour, praising his great beauty.

Historians have always been interested in knowing about the difference between Alvars and Nayanars. Before delving into the difference between Alvars and Nayanars, let's look at who they were -

Who Were the Alvars and the Nayanars?

The Nayanars and Alvars ushered one of the biggest religious movements in Southern India from the 7th to 10th century. It was known as the Bhakti movement.

One of the characteristics of the Nayanars and the Alvars was that they wandered from place to place and sang beautifully composed poems in honour of the deities.

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Difference between the Alvars and Nayanars



Alvars existed between the 5th - 10th centuries AD. Some sources also reveal that they lived between 4200 BCE – 2700 BCE.

Nayanars are known to have been around between the 6th-8th centuries AD.

The Alvars were ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu and his avatars.

Nayanars were followers of Lord Shiva and his avatars.

Nathamuni, a leader of the Shrivaishnava sect, is believed to have gathered the hymns of the Alvars in the 10th century. He introduced the regular singing of hymns in the Vaishnava temples of South India.

Nambiyandar Nambi, in the 10th century, compiled the hymns of the Nayanars in an anthology called the Tevaram. The hymns were set to Dravidian music and became part of the services of South Indian temples.

The hymn collection of the Alvars is called Naalayira Prabandham, or the Collection of 4,000 Songs.

Inscriptions during the reign of the Chola king Rajaraja the Great (985–1014) record an introduction describing the singing of the Nayanar hymns in the great temple at Thanjavur (Tanjore).

Manikkavachakar's hymns collected in Tiruvachakam or Sacred Utterance are also associated with the Nayanars.

The names of 12 Alvar saints are found in historical records.

There were known to be 63 Nayanar saints.


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FAQs on the Difference Between Alvars and Nayanars

Q.1. What is the main difference between Alvars and Nayanars?

The Main Difference Between Alvars and Nayanars is that Alvars were devoted to Lord Vishnu and his avatars, Nayanars were devoted to Lord Shiva and his avatars.

Q.2. What was the difference between the Alvars' and Nayanars' teaching?

Both the Alvars and the Nayanars were devotional saints that sang beautifully-composed poems from temple to temple in honour of their respective deities—the Alvars sang about Vishnu while the Nayanars were devotees of Shiva.

Q.3. What is the difference between the Alvars' and Nayanars' saints?

The poets, Appar, Chuntaramurtti, and Nanachampantar, are often referred to as “the three” Nayanar saints, and the Alvars had 12 saints. A few of their names are— Kulasekhara Alwar, Nammalwar, Sri Andal, etc.

Q.4. Why are the Alvars and Nayanars popular?

The Nayanars and Alvars are known to have influenced the Bhakti Movement in Southern India between the 5th and the 10th century.