A Divya Desam or Vaishnava Divya Desam is one of the 108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the works of the Alvars (saints). ”Divya” means “divine” and “Desam” indicates “place or abode” (temple). Of the 108 temples, 105 are in India, one is in Nepal, and last two are believed to be outside the Earthly realms. In India, they are spread over states of Tamil Nadu (85), Kerala (11), Andhra Pradesh (2), Gujarat (1), Uttar Pradesh (4), Uttarakhand (3). Muktinath, Saligramam is the only Divya Desam in Nepal. The Divya Desams are revered by the 12 Alvars in the Divya Prabandha, a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses. Divya Desams follow Thenkalai or Vadakalai modes of worship.
In Divya desam, Divya means "premium" or "divine" and Desam indicates "place" (temple).
The word azhwar in Tamil, means one who immerses oneself into the ocean of the countless attributes of god. Azhwars are considered the twelve supreme devotees of Vishnu, who were instrumental in popularising Vaishnavism during the 5th-8th centuries AD. The religious works of these saints in Tamil, songs of love and devotion, are compiled as Nalayira Divya Prabandham containing 4000 verses and the 108 temples revered in their songs are classified as Divya desam. The saints had different origins and belonged to different castes. As per tradition, the first three azhwars(mudhal azhwargal ), Poigai, Bhutha and Pey were said to be born out of divinity. According to tradition, Tirumazhisai was the son of a sage, Thondaradi, Mathurakavi, Peria and Andal were from brahmin community, Kulasekhara from Kshatria community, Namm was from a cultivator family, Tirupana from panar community and Tirumangai from kalvar community.
Divya Suri Saritra by Garuda-Vahana Pandita (11th century AD), Guruparamparaprabhavam by Pinbaragiya Perumal Jeeyar, Periya tiru mudi adaivu by Anbillai Kandadiappan, Yatindra Pranava Prabavam by Pillai Lokacharya, commentaries on Divya Prabandam, Guru Parampara (lineage of Gurus) texts, temple records and inscriptions give a detailed account of the azhwars and their works. According to these texts, the saints were considered incarnations of some form of Vishnu. Poigai is considered an incarnation of Panchajanya (Krishna's conch), Bhoothath of Kaumodakee (Vishnu's Mace/Club), Pey of Nandaka (Vishnu's sword), Thirumalisai of Sudarshanam (Vishnu's discus), Namm of Vishvaksena (Vishnu's commander), Madhurakavi of Vainatheya (Vishnu's eagle, Garuda), Kulasekhara of Kaustubha (Vishnu's necklace), Periy of Garuda (Vishnu's eagle), Andal of Bhoodevi (Vishnu's wife, Lakshmi, in her form as Bhudevi), Thondaradippodi of Vanamaalai (Vishnu's garland), Thiruppaan of Srivatsa (An auspicious mark on Vishnu's chest) and Thirumangai of Sarangam (Krishna's bow). The songs of Prabandam are regularly sung in all the Vishnu temples of South India daily and also during festivals.
In Hindu texts, these temples are often referred to as Bhooloka Vaikuntam, which in Sanskrit means Heaven on earth. Each of the Divya Desam has its own significance related to Shri Vaishnava Mythology. Each of these Temples had separate shrines for Maha Vishnu and Maha Lakshmi.
The 106 earthly Divya Desam temples are spread over the Indian states of Tamil Nadu (85), Kerala (11), Uttar Pradesh (4), Uttarakhand (3), Andhra Pradesh (2) and Gujarat (1), and Country of Nepal(1)- Muktinath. The last two are believed to be outside earthly realms.