Nammazhwar was born in Thirukkurugur which was also called as Azhwar Thirunagari, to Kariyar and Udaya Nangayar in the Pramadhi year, Vaikasi Tamil month in Vishaaka nakshatram. The child was unusual from birth. He did not cry, move or open its eyes or partake milk or food. He was named as “Maaran” and as “Satagopan”. The worried parents were not aware of the divinity of the child and took to Lord Adhinatha in Thirukkurugur. The baby was placed in a cradle under a tamarind tree besides the temple. An amazing event took place there. The child crawled out of the cradle to tamarind tree and assumed a yogic pose and meditated for 16 years till he met Sri Madhurakavi Azhwar (a famous Tamil poet and scholar) who brought him back to this world and made him speak his first word to this world. Seeing the divinity manifested in Maaran, he became his first disciple.
Sri Madhurakavi Azhwar named Maaran as “Namm-Azhwar” which means ‘Our very own holy saint’. Madhurakavi Azhwar composed 11 pasurams (poems) in praise of his Acharya (preceptor).
Nammazhwar composed four beautiful works which are considered to be equivalent to the four Vedas. They are:
- Thiruviruttam – is a collection of 100 verses which contains the essence of Rig Veda
- Thiruvaasiriyum – is a collection of 7 verses which contains the essence of Yajur Veda
- Periya Thiruvandhaadi – is a collection of 87 verses which contains the essence of Atharvana Veda
- Thiruvaimozhi – is a collection of 1002 verses which are the essence of Sama Veda. Thiruvai mozhi is considered as the crown among all the 4000 verses written by the Azhwars called as the Naalaayara Divya Prabandam.
Nammazhwar composed all his pasurams over 16 years since he started speaking. All the pasurams that flowed from Nammazhwar was written by his disciple Madhurakavi Alzhwar.
Nammazhwar was one of the twelve Azhwar poet-saints who immersed themselves in the love of Lord Vishnu and who had a considerable knowledge of ancient Tamil literature and its variants of traditional stories.
Nammazhwar was able to see the various forms of Lord Vishnu through his divine vision. Lord Adinatha was so pleased with Nammazhwar’s pasurams that He blessed him with a garland of Vakula flowers. Since then he was also called as ‘Vakulabharanar’. Nammazhwar’s other names were ‘Parankusa’, ‘Vedam Tamizh Seidha Maran’, ‘Thirukkurugaippiraan.
In his 32nd year Nammazhwar composed his final pasuram about moksham. Lord Narayana himself appeared before the Nammazhwar and took him to Vaikunta.
Nammazhwar is believed to have ascended to Sri Vaikuntam, the Supreme Abode of Lord Vishnu on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day. It is believed that on this day the gates of the Vaikuntam are opened for all devotees. It is to signify this, that in all Vaishnava temples a special door designated as ‘Vaikunta Vaasal’ or ‘the door to Vaikunta’ is kept open for the devotees to pass through and have the Darshan of the Lord.