613 – Who is Ayyappa?

Ayyappa is the son of Vishnu and Shiva? How did this come about? He was born out of the mystical union between Shiva and Mohini, who is the temporary avatar of Vishnu. Vishnu took the form of Mohini to undertake tasks that he could not accomplish in his original male form.

The main task was to trick the demon Bhasmasura. Bhasmasura was given the boon of making anyone he touched, vanish. He was so wicked that he ran behind Shiva and tried to make him disappear. Mohini was a transient avatar. Mohini enticed Bhasmasura and made him engage in a dance, where he touched his own head and he vanished. She fused back into Vishnu after the task was completed.

All the Gods were praising the beauty of Mohini. Shiva decided to visit Vishnu along with Parvati. Shiva insisted that Vishnu assume the form of Mohini again. Shiva was enchanted by Mohini, and he fell in love with her. Shiva told Vishnu that they must consummate the relationship. Vishnu said that it was not possible as he was a man. Shiva informed Vishnu that he was just one of the forms of his female consort, Shakti.

How did this happen?

Shiva questioned Vishnu about Mohini. Vishnu disappeared and there emerged a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl. On seeing her, Shiva ran after her. As Shiva is running after her, his seed falls on the ground, turning into golden silver. Shiva’s leaves and returns to Parvati. Mohini returns to the form of Vishnu. No one comments on what has happened. And Ayyappa was born.

Ayyappa is called the Hariharan Puthiran which means the son of both Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Haran). Another name for him is Manikandan. The story is that his parents tied a golden bell also called a mani around his neck. He was abandoned by Shiva and Mohini on the banks of the river Pampa. He was adopted by a childless king, who accepted him as a divine gift. However, the king’s wife hated the baby, Ayyappa. Since Ayyappa was a God, he left for the heavenly abode and asked the king to build a large temple at Sabari, so that he would not be forgotten.

His worship is very complex. The fasting period is from November fifteenth to twenty sixth December. Devotees must wear only one color, blue black or saffron. If they cannot wear these clothes daily, they have to wear these clothes while they go to Sabarmalai on pilgrimage.

Girls, who have not reached puberty, and women who have reached menopause can visit Sabarmalai. The men who are fasting cannot shave and cut their hair. His devotees have to observe a forty- one day fast before they can go to the temple. They have to practice a severe penance. They have to live like a celibate sannyasin. They have to concentrate on being self-aware and have only pure thoughts. The mala for chanting is Rudraksha or Tulsi.

Why was Ayyappa born?

It was destined that Ayyappa had to be born to kill Mahishi, who was a sister of Mahishasura, the buffalo demon. Mahishi could only be killed by a child born from Vishnu and Shiva. Since they are both men, she deluded herself into thinking that she was immortal. Parvati is the cosmic mother, and she resides in the heart of Shiva. Shiva did not cheat, and Parvati is Ayyappa’s mother also.

The special day for Ayyappa is Saturday.

People pray to him because he is considered the epitome of dharma, truth and righteousness. He also grants success in all aspects of life.

Aim Hrim Klim

Picture: https://www.columbia.edu, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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