Poigai Azhwar, BhoodatAzhwar and PaeyAzhwar are the earliest among the 12 Azhwars and are called the “Mudhal Azhwars”, since they came first in the lineage of Azhwars.
They were contemporaries and according to the traditions, Poigaiyar, Bhoodattar and PaeyAzhwar were born in the same month of Ayppasi in the year of Siddharthi on three consecutive days – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
Mudal Azhwars are believed to have lived towards the end of Dwapara Yuga. Historically they are placed before the other Azhwars during early 6th century AD. It is traditional to narrate their life stories together as there is a bond of shared experiences between them [The thiru avatharam details of each Azhwar have been given below].
The Mudal Azhwars lived very close to each other and had cherished a great desire to meet and shape their experiences. The Lord decided to perform a grand miracle to bring His three devotees together. They left their native villages to go on a pilgrimage of divyadesams and converged on Thirukovilur to have darshan of the “Ulagdanda Pemmul”.
Poigai Azhwar reached the place first by nightfall and he was looking for shelter in the nearby area and who found a narrow passage in the front portion of an ashram belonging to Mrigandu Maharshi and lay down, prepared to spend the night as the rain started pouring. The place was just big enough for him to stretch himself for relaxing.
Sometime later, Bhoodat Azhwar came to the same place and finding someone already occupying the space, enquired whether there would be room for one more person. Poigai Azhwar sat up and told him that there was space enough for one person to lie down and two could sit comfortably and invited him to come inside.
Few hours later, PaeyAzhwar reached the same place and asked for shelter and he was welcomed by other two Azhwars. Three of them decided that the space (one can sleep, two can sit and three can stand) was just enough for them to spend the night comfortably. The three of them stood there and introduced themselves and they were delighted to have their long cherished desire fulfilled and shared their spiritual experiences.
They were engulfed in the darkness as it continued to pour outside. After some time, they noticed that the place was getting more and more cramped as if there was someone else standing amidst them. Soon the three Azhwars found out in their divine vision that the fourth person was none other than Lord Vishnu.
At that time Poigai Azhwar sang his famous pasuram where he lights a flame with the world as a lamp, the oceans as oil and the sun as the match.
“Vaiyam Thagaliyaa, Vaar Kadale Neyyaaga;/
Veyya Kadirone Vilakkaaaga;
Seiya Sudar Aazhiyaan Adikke, Soottinen Sol Malai;/
Idar Aaazhi Neengukave Enru!”
BhoodatAzhwar followed with”Anbethagaliya” pasuram, where he lights the lamp with his great love, desire and thrust to see Lord.
“Anbe Thagliyaa, Aarvame Neyyaaga
Inburugu Chinthai Idu Thiriyaa;
Nanburugi Gnaana Chudar Vilakku Etrinen, Naaranarku;
Gnaana Thamizh Purindha Naan!”
The two lamps lit by the two Azhwars had created such an extraordinary illumination, the third Azhwar – PaeyAzhwar, was able to see clearly the fourth person who had been squeezing them. The Lord appeared before them in his Thrivikram Avathara’ form which he assumed to measure three worlds and take them away from Mahabali chakravarthy. PaeyAzhwar sang the glory of the Lord as he stood in his ‘Thiru Kanden’ pasuram
“Tiruk Kanden, Pon Meni Kanden;
Thigazhum Arukkan Ani Niramum Kanden;
Seruk Kilarum Pon Aazhi Kanden, Puri Sangam Kai Kanden;
En Aazhi Vannan Paal Inru!”
The three Azhwars, inspired by the grand spectacle of Lord’s glorious form in their midst, poured out their devotion in beautiful verses. The verses were so constructed that the last or ending word of each verse became the first word of the next verse – an unique kind of characteristic of Tamil literature called ‘Andha-Adhi’ ‘Andha(m)’ means ‘End’ and ‘Adhi’ means ‘beginning’. The three works were thus called Mudhal (First), Irandam (Second), and Moondram (Third) ThiruVandhadhi respectively.