Religion Under the Pallavas

We have studied that during the post-Sangam period, Buddhism and Jainism began to spread into the Tamil country. They became popular during the Kalabhra rule. After the establishment of the Pallava rule, both Saivism and Vaishnavism had been revived. The Pallava kings had patronized both these religions. They had built temples and made land grants to them. Hence both these religions flourished during the Pallava period. The spread of the Bakthi Movement had provided further stimulus to them.

Bakthi Movement

The Bakthi Movement, which had spread in South India during Sixth and Seventh centuries A.D., made a tremendous impact in the social and cultural life of the people. The term, Bakthi means Devotion to God. True Bakthi was considered as more valuable than mere rites and rituals. During the Pallava period Alwars and Nayanmars preached the cult of Bakthi among the people. There was no caste disparity in the Bakthi Movement. Even those who belonged to low-caste had also become Bakthi Saints. For example, Nandhanaar, Kaalathi Nayanar Thiruppaanazhalvar belonged to lower caste. Yet, they were treated and respected as saints. Therefore, all castes and communities had equally followed Bakthi or devotion to God.

There were two important aims for the Bakthi Movement. They were

1. To meet the challenges posed by Buddhism and Jainism and
2. To spread Saivism and Vaishnavism.


The followers of Lord Siva were known as Saivaites. During the Pallava period, the Saiva saints, Nayanmars had preached Saivism. There were sixty-three Nayanmars. The most important among them were Thirunavukkarasar, Thirugnanasambandar, Sundarar, and Manickavasagar. The hymns composed by the first three were called Thevaram, Manickavasagar composed Thiruvasagam. His hymns were popular for devotional recitation. There were also women saints like Karaikkal Ammaiyar. The other important sects of Saivism were Kalamukhas and Pasupathas.


The devotees of Lord Vishnu were called Vaishnavaites. Azhavars preached Vaishnavism during the Pallava period. There were twelve Azhavars. Those who lived in the Pallava kingdom were Poigai Azhavar, Pey Azhavar, Bhudhathazhavar and Thirumangai Azhavar. The first three had composed Nanmugan Thiruvanthathi. The other Azhavars like Nammazhavar, Periazhavar and Thirumangai Azhavar also contributed to the growth of Vaishnavism. The only woman among the twelve Azhavars was Andal. She had composed Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi. The hymns of Alwars have been compiled into Nalayira Divya Prabandam.
Saivism and Vaishnavism had become popular among the people due to the spread of the Bakthi Movement. Azhavars and Nayanmars had composed their songs in Tamil and contributed to the growth of Tamil literature.