By the Lord’s grace, the ashtakshari mantra started to work on Thirumangai-alwar, who had become pure by serving the devotees, and his innate savage tendencies started giving way to saintly qualities. Thirumangai-alwar’s poetic skills started to improve along with devotion and very soon Thirumangai-alwar’s devotion severed his material attachments. He started to spend his time wandering from one temple to another to have the vision of his beloved Deity and started to sing the glories of the Deities at different shrines in the process.
Thirumangai-alwar visited Thiru-ppirudi (Joshimutt), Badrikashram, Salagrama (Mukthinath in Nepal), Naimisharanyam, Singa-vel-kundram (Ahobilam) and Thiruvangadam (Tirumala) and dedicated many hymns to the Deities in these holy places. On his return journey, Thirumangai-alwar visited Thiru-vevvulur and reached Thiruninraoor, where he was denied the darshan of the Deity for some reasons. Thirumangai-alwar left to Thiruvalli-keni (Triplicane in Chennai) to have darshan of Lord Parthasarathy and other Deities in the temple there. From there Thirumangai-alwar went to Thiru-kkadal-malai. The Lord blessed Thirumangai-alwar with the vision of His Deity form at Thiruninraoor, as Thirumangai-alwar could not see that form when he visited Thiruninraoor, along with His Deity form at Thiru-kkadal-malai.
Therefore, Thirumangai-alwar has sung about both the Deities together at Thiru-kkadal-malai. As Thirumangai-alwar had compiled hymns glorifying the Lord in all the four different categories – Asu, Madhuram, Chitram and Vistaram – he became popular and came to be known as Nalu-kavi-perumal, Parakala, Ali-nadar, Kaliyan, etc., and people thronged to see him wherever he went.
In the course of his wanderings, Thirumangai-alwar reached Shiyali, which was also the home town of Thirugyana-Sambandhar, a renowned Shaiva saint who is included among the Nayanmars. The news of Thirumangai-alwar’s visit and his greatness reached Shiyali even before Thirumangai-alwar reached there. Sambandhar’s followers were not willing to accept Thirumangai-alwar’s greatness as a poet as they regarded Sambandhar as the greatest poet and challenged him to enter into a duel with Sambandhar. Thirumangai-alwar accepted the challenge and entered Shiyali to face Sambandhar. Thirumangai-alwar could not find a single Vaishnava temple in Shiyali and he started to search for Vaishnava households to spend the night there as Vaishnavas never used to eat food that was not offered to the Lord or visit Shaiva temples in those days.
Thirumangai-alwar requested a small Vaishnava girl who was carrying her Deity to lend it to him for some time and the girl willingly handed over her Deity to him. Thirumangai-alwar finished his morning ablutions and worship and went to take part in the duel along with the Deity that he had borrowed from the girl. Thirumangai-alwar successfully refuted Sambandhar and highlighted the errors in the poems composed by Sambandhar and Sambandhar had to accept Thirumangai-alwar’s superiority over him. Sambandhar presented a trident as a token of respect to Thirumangai-alwar. Thirumangai-alwar composed a hymn on Lord Rama, the presiding Deity of Shiyali and proceeded to Thiruvali, which was his native place.
After spending some days in Thiruvali, Thirumangai-alwar proceeded to Sri-Rangam to have the darshan of Lord Ranganatha, visiting Thirunagari and other shrines on the way. Lord Ranganatha appeared in person and asked Thirumangai-alwar to stop his wanderings and focus on completing the temple work and strengthening the temple by constructing ramparts, towers, corridors, chambers, etc., at Sri-Rangam. Thirumangai-alwar became very happy and was more than willing to comply with the Lord’s orders. Thirumangai-alwar started to like the merciful nature of Lord Ranganatha and has sung many hymns glorifying the Lord.
As Thirumangai-alwar did not have any assets or possessions, he started to worry about sourcing funds to carry out the Lord’s orders as a very vast sum was needed to complete the temple. Thirumangai-alwar summoned his sister Andalammai’s husband, Yatirasan, to discuss about sourcing funds for the temple.
We will reveal about Thirumangai-alwar’s efforts to source money for carrying out Lord Ranganatha’s order in the next post.