Madhurakavi Alvar is one of the twelve azhwar saints of South India, who are known for their affiliation to Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. The verses of azhwars are compiled as Nalayira Divya Prabandham and the 108 temples revered are classified as Divya desam. Mathurakavi is considered the sixth in the line of the twelve azhwars. He was the disciple of Nammazhwar, considered the greatest among the twelve azhwars and his contributions amount to 11 among the 4000 stanzas in the Nalayira Divya Prabandam. Mathurakavi is believed to have recorded and compiled the works of Nammazhwar namely, Thiruvaymozhi (1102 verses). One can say that the 11 verses of Kanninun Siru Thambu composed by Swami Madhurakavi Alvar can be considered as the key which opened the treasure to the 4000 verses of Nalayira Divya Prabandham. These verses were chanted by Swami Nathamuni 12,000 times to propitiate Swami Nammazhwar and re-obtain the lost Nalayira Divya Prabandham from Swami Nammazhwar.
As per Hindu legend, Nammazhwar remained speechless from his birth sitting in a tamarind tree and he first interacted with Madhurakavi, who saw a bright light shining to the south, and followed it until he reached the tree where the boy was residing. The works of Madhurakavi along with the other azhwars contributed to the philosophical and theological ideas of Vaishnavism. The verses of Mathurakavi and other azhwars are recited as a part of daily prayers and during festive occasions in most Vishnu temples in South India.
Madhurakavialvar was born in the beginning of Kali Yuga in 3102 CE in Thirukollur in Tamil Nadu. He is the 6th of 12 Alvars and lived around the lifetime of Nammalvar and Nathamuni. He was born under Chitrai nakshatra somewhere between the months April-May (Chithirai month). That puts his birthdate on April 25, 3102 BCE.
Madhura Kavi aazhwar was born before Nammazhwar, in a Brahmin family, in the month of Chittirai and in chitra star in Thirukkolur near Azhwar Thirunagari. The presiding deity in the temple is called Vaitha Maanidhi, meaning the storage of great wealth. He is believed to be the divine form of Kumudha Ganesa, the disciple of Vishwaksena, a servant of Vishnu. He is also believed to be the incarnation of Garuda, the sacred eagle vehicle of Vishnu. Though some belief is that he is an incarnation of Garuda, some accounts show that he is the incarnation of Kumuda, Vishvaksena's disciple while Nammalvar himself is the incarnation of Vishvaksena (Vishvaksena is the commander in chief of Vishnu's army). Maybe that's why Madhurakavi Alvar lived during the lifetime of Nammalvar (Vishvaksena's incarnation).
Madhura Kavi is believed to have learnt the Vedas and considered well-versed in both Tamil and Sanskrit. He used to compose poems in the praise of Vishnu. At one stage in his life, he decided to abandon all the chains of livelihood and strive towards moksha. In this pursuit he undertook a pilgrimage to the divya desam located in northern India like Ayodhya and Mathura.
When Madhura Kavi aazhwar, after long tour had reached Ayodhya and completed the mangalaasasanam of the enchanting forms of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and others, he noticed a glowing ball of fire in the sky. However much he tried, he could not understand the reason for this phenomenon. He also noticed that the ball of fire started moving southwards. He decided to follow the light which led him to Aazhwar Thirunagari and finally disappeared. Madhurakavi already heard about a sixteen-year-old youth (Nammalvar) who spent his life since birth under a Tamarind tree without eating anything and emitting a divine glow. Madhurakavi proceeded straight to the seat of Nammalvar who was in a trance. In order to test Nammalvar, Madhurakavi dropped a stone. Unable to elicit any reaction from the child, he asked him a riddle:
"If an infant is born in the womb of the dead, on what will it subsist and where will it stay?" (philosophically; if the subtle soul is embodied in the gross body, what are its actions and thoughts?) Nammalvar broke his lifelong silence and responded,
Translation: "On that it will subsist, in that it will stay!" (meaning that if the soul identifies with the body, it will be the body but if it serves the divine, it will stay in Vaikunta and eat(think) of God).
When Nammalvar was ready to go to vaikunta loka (attaing Salvation), Madhurakavi asked Nammalvar with full of tears what to do next. Nammalvar advised Madhurakavi to boil the waters of Tamraparni and he said that an idol will form during boiling of the water. Madhurakavi did as per Nammalvar's advice. When he had boiled the waters of Tamraparni, He got an idol of Bhagavad Ramanuja. He was surprised to see that the idol was different from what he had expected. He went to Nammalvar with the idol and the latter told him that this idol was Bhavishyadhacharya (Future Guru) and that he will be born 4000 years from then. He again advised to boil the waters of Tamraparni. Madhurakavi once again boiled the waters of Tamraparni and finally got the idol of Nammalvar.
The eleven verses of Madhurakavi are classified as Kanninum Chiruthambu, all of which are in four lines in praise of his divine teacher, Nammazhwar. The verses are compiled as Nalayira Divya Prabandam along with the work of the other eleven azhwars. Mathurakavi was instrumental in spreading the works of Nammazhwar and composing tunes to each of them. The verses begin with "The name of the great one, my acharya of Kurukoor, brings nectar to my tongue and far sweeter than the name of the Lord". It is believed that Madhurakavi compiled and codified all the verses of Tiruvaimozhi by Nammazhwar as he recited them.