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Kulasekara Alwar – Story of one of the 12 Alwars who was also a King

This article is an excerpt from an article titled – The Privilege of Kulasekhar Alwar written by K.C. Muthyalaiah Chetty in February 2016 edition of Saptagiri Magazine published by TTD.

The Tamil saint poets called as Alwars are twelve in number - (Poigai Alwar, Pudatt Alwar, Peyalwar, Tirumalisai Alwar, Madurakavi Alwar, Tiruppanalwar, Tondaradipodi Alwar, Tirumangai Alwar, Kulasekara Alwar, Periyalwar, Nammalwar, Andal). They belong to the Vaishnava cult.
The Nalayira Prabandham, a collection of four thousand hymns, was sung by the famous twelve Vaishnavite Alwars of South India in praise of Vishnu and His Avataras.

Of the twelve alwars only two Madurakavi and Tondaradipodi have not sung of Tirupati.

The hymns of the remaining ten alwars have reference to Vengadam and its Lord Venkateswara. Kulasekara Alwar is one among them.

The Alwars dived deep into the ocean of devotion and they immersed in the Lord. Their poetic outpourings laid a mystic experience to the Lord.

Kulasekara Alwar was a king, who ruled the prosperous Chera kingdom of Malai Nadu during the Post Sangam period (around 7th - 9th century A.D.).

He was a devotee of Lord Sri Rama, at an early age. He became not only a great king, but also an ardent follower of Vaishnavism. He expressed his desire to be born on Tirumala Hills as a bird or a beast, a fish in the holy tank or a tree, or be a stream or stone, a post or a statue in preference to all earthly riches and kingdoms, so that he can stay much closer to the Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala. Lord Venkateswara is venerated as one who could free human beings from all sins.

Kulasekhara Padi in Tirupati

Kulasekhar Alwar devoutly prayed to be at least a step on the sacred hills. “Oh! Tirumal who is capable of freeing me from all sins, Universal Lord, Lord of Vengadam! I would like to be feasting at the sight of your coral-like lips even if I could get the form of a stone-step in front of your temple at whose doors your devotees, gods and celestial nymphs crowd to worship you”.

In Tirumala temple, the step leading to the Sanctum Sanctorum is called “Kulasekhara Padi” (Kulasekhara’s step).

Kulasekhara Alwar in his “Perumal Tirumozhi” contributed 105 stanzas to the Nalayiram, divided roughly into ten sections, traces in one sense the growth of religious consciousness.

In that he speaks about the interest created in the matter of love towards God. His devotion did not just stop with following Vaishnavism, but also by showing extreme respect and affection to all Vishnu Bhaktas.

Kulasekara Alwar Proves Vishnu Bhaktas Never Steal

He considered them as images of Lord Himself and treated them with due diligence. All Vishnu Bhaktas, who entered his kingdom were looked upon with great favour and found resource in his palace. However, his growing fondness for the Vishnu Bhaktas did not go well with his ministers. They plotted to ruin the reputation of the devotees in the eyes of their king. In view of this, they stole the Lord’s divine ornaments and blamed the devotees for the same, as they have free access to the Lord’s Sanctum Sanctorum.

The king, when apprised of the situation, didn’t accept the accusation and wanted to prove to all that Vishnu Bhaktas would never resort to such tactics.

He called for a pot filled with venomous snakes and declared that if the Vishnu Bhaktas had indeed committed the crime, then the snakes would bite him. Else, he would remain unharmed. In front of all, a pot of snakes was brought and the king put his hand in the pot. Much to the chagrin of his ministers, he wasn’t bitten by snakes. Kulasekhara Alwar considered this as divine providence and felt ecstatic that he was able to prove the innocence of the Vishnu Bhaktas. This incident is just one of many that stand out to prove not only his stead fast devotion to Lord Sri Rama, but also his belief in the Vishnu Bhaktas and his reverence of them.

Kulasekara the Sixth Alwar

Due to his pious devotion, he became the Sixth Alwar and the only royal born to attain such spiritual heights. He is also the only Alwar to have distinction of being called “Kulasekhar Perumal”.

Kulasekhara Alwar wrote in Sanskrit called ‘Mukundamala’, a garland of poems in praise of Lord Krishna. He was also a staunch devotee of Lord Rama and his eleven Pasurams on the Lord of Seven Hills totally reflects his ‘Saranagati’ to Lord Venkateswara. His pasurams dedicated to Lord Venkateswara of Tirumala Hills is to be read by everyone to finally seek the grace of Lord Srinivasa.

His poems on Vengadam are exceedingly moving and of a very high literary merit.

This article is an excerpt from an article titled – The Privilege of Kulasekhar Alwar written by K.C. Muthyalaiah Chetty in February 2016 edition of Saptagiri Magazine published by TTD.