Tracing a Line: Guruparamparā in the Murals of Ālvār Tirunakari

How to Cite

Anna Lise Seastrand. (2022). Tracing a Line: Guruparamparā in the Murals of Ālvār Tirunakari: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 21(2), 47–67. Retrieved from


The Ātināta temple at Tirukurukūr, known more popularly today as Ālvār Tirunakari, sits beside the lush banks of Tāmirapāraṇi River near the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu. The site is revered in Sri Vaishnava tradition as one of the one hundred-eight sacred sites (divya desams) praised in sacred literature, as well as one of the Nine Tirupatis (navatirupatī) of Pandya Nadu. But as the place-name may suggest, the temple is most highly esteemed as home to one of the great teachers and saints of the Tamil Sri Vaishnava tradition, Nammālvār. In this temple, worship of both Vishnu and Nammālvār through performance of poetry, song, and movement is crucially important to the traditions and identity of its Teṅkalai Sri Vaishnava devotional community. In what follows, I will show that the self-consciousness of this community as historically and ritually constituted is demonstrated in paintings that adorn the pradakṣina patha around the shrine of Nammālvār. The paintings instantiate in a new way the devotional aesthetic of participation that scholarship has already observed in Sri Vaishnava theology and practice; this aesthetic is predicated on the expectation of devotee’s participation the experience of the relationship between God and devotee given voice through literature.

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