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By Swami Harshananda

Tamil is one of the oldest languages of the world with a rich ancient literature. Avvaiyār (also spelt as ‘Auvaiyār’) is one of the outstanding poetess of the ancient period, as well-known as Tiruvalluvar.[1]

Information about her is very meagre. According to the popular stories she was one of the seven children of Ādi, a lowcaste woman, and Bhagavān, a brāhmaa.

Scholars who have studied the poems attributed to Avvaiyār have come to the conclusion that there were two or perhaps more poetesses of the same name living in different periods of history.

  1. The first belonged to the Sañgam period (2nd cent. A.D.). King Ādiyamān had given her a high and honored place. About 59 poems of this period are available now. Apart from literary grace, these poems showcase the character of the people that made the country great.
  2. The second Avvaiyār, a follower of the Śaiva saint Sundaramurti, might have lived in the last part of the 8th cent. A. D.
  3. The third was a contemporary of the famous Kamban (12th cent. A. D.). Poems of this Avvaiyār extol the greatness of the householder’s life, agriculture and acquiring knowledge. Importance of māna or honor in a person's life is very well emphasized in these poems. Ethical works attributed to Avvaiyār apart from the songs are :
    • Mudurai
    • Atticcudi
    • Nalvali
    • Kosaraivendan


  1. Most well-know poet
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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