Saturday, 14 December 2013

Ayyappa Swamy

Sabarimala is one of the famous pilgrim center’s in southern India. It is located on a hilltop named Sabari which is more than 3000 feet above sea level at the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Perunad village in kerala.It is believed that lord Ayyapa meditated here after killing the demoness Mahishi. This temple is unique in many aspects. The temple is open only from 1st of Vrichikam, a malayalam month (mid November) till end of the month Makaram (mid January), these are the days of mandala pooja and Makaravilakku,, then on Vishu day and first 6 days of every Malayalam month.

The most important day of Lord Ayyappa is on Makarasankranthi day (between Jan14th - 16th ) It is also called Makaravilakku. Makaravilakku festival’s significance is that Holy jewels( Thiruvabharam) of Lord Ayyappa is taken from Pandalam palace to the Sabarimala temple accompanied by devotees hailing Ayyappa Mantram. Sree Krishna Parunthu (holy Garuda – an eagle) is seen circling above with the procession. It is believed to be Lord Vishu as protector. The bird is not always seen, but when it reaches the sanctum sanctorum the bird circles few times as a respect to Lord Ayyappa and flies away.
On the Makaravilakku day, Lord Ayyappa’s is adorned with these sacred ornaments. When the doors are then opened for Deeparadhana & Darshan “Makara Jyothy” (like a star) will appear in the sky opposite Sabarimala, Lord Ayyapp’a birth star and Makara Vilakku is the fire lamp which is lit by authorized people in commemoration of the aarathi performed.

Pathinettapadi (18 divine steps) to the sanctum sanctorium is divine in all aspects. The first three steps depict "Bhoomi, Agni, Vayoo & Akash", 6 to 9 steps for Karmendriya, 10 to 15 for Jhanandriya, 16th for mind 17th Intelligence and 18th Jeevathma Bhava. Those who cross all these steps are believed to achieve "Punyadarshan". The steep steps are so important and holy that no one can climb them without fasting for 41 days and carrying the holy irrumudi on ones' head.

There are many mythological stories associated with the holy Patinettampadi. Some believe the eighteen steps denote the 18 puranas. Some say that 18 weapons with which Lord Ayyappa destroyed the evil denotes the 18 steps. Others are of the belief that the first five steps denotes the indriyas (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin). The next eight steps signifies the ragas (tatwa, kama, krodha, moha, lobha, madha, matsraya, and ahamkara. The next three steps signifies the gunas (satwa, rajas and thamas). The seventeenth and the eighteenth denotes vidhya and ignorance.

The 18 steps can be used only twice - once for ascending the temple and once for descending below leaving the hill. Before ascending or descending the steps, pilgrims break coconut as an offering to the steps. One needs to have the sacre Irumudi on head while going up or down the 18 steps. While descending the steps the devotees climb down backwards facing the sanctum sanctorum.
One who climbs the Patinettampadi for 18 times shall plant a sapling of coconut in Sabarimala.

Built on a plateau about 40 feet high, the Ayyappan temple commands a lofty view of the mountains and valleys all around. The ancient temple has been rebuilt after a fire in 1950. Within the confines of the sanctum sanctorium with a copper-plated roof and four golden finials at the top, two mandapams, the belikalpura which houses the altar, the flag-staff replacing the earlier stone image of the deity, sits a beautiful idol of Ayyappa in panchaloha, an alloy of five metals, about one and a half feet tall.

The uniqueness is that devotees are all equal for Lord Ayyapa and they all address each other as “Ayyappa” or “Swamy” and ladies addressed “malikapuram” instead of names. All devotees are draped in black or blue. Apart from the southern states Kerala, Andra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu devotees throng in from other parts of country and abroad. - for women and girls only kids and older women are allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple since Lord Ayyappa was a bramachari (unmarried).


Mahishi was the sister of Demon Mahishasura who was killed by Goddess Durga, who came up on earth with the energy of the Trimurtis and other Devas. Mahishasura had received the boon that no man could kill him but he was eventually killed by Goddess Shakti in her Durga form. Demon Mahishi went a step ahead and performed intense tapas and austerities to please Brahma. Finally, Brahma relented and as a boon Mahishi asked that a son born to Shiva and Vishnu should only kill her. 

She asked this boon as Vishnu and Shiva had got better of all the boons that the demons had received earlier. Now it was impossible for a son to be born to Shiva and Vishnu as they were of same gender.
Before that Vishnu had taken the form of Mohini to rescue Amrut got during the Samudra Manthan. Shiva once expressed a desire to see the Mohini form which had enamored both the Devas and Asuras. Vishnu again appeared in the form of Mohini. Thus Shiva and Mohini united to give birth to Ayyappa.Hariharaputra is born. 

             The baby is abandoned. The childless King Rajasekhara of Pandala who came hunting in the forest on the banks of Pampa river takes the baby to his palace. 

             Named the boy as Ayyappa, he grows up as the king's adopted son. Then the king has a son of his own. However, the king wants to name Ayyappa as the heir to the throne. The queen, wanting to get rid of him, sends him to the forest to bring leopard milk she claims as the only cure for her pretended stomach pain.

             Lord Ayyappa starts to the forest when The Panchabuthas of Lord Shiva closely followed Manikandan as he entered the forest. But on the way, he chanced to witness the atrocities of the demoness Mahishi(sister of Mahishasura killed by Devi Durga) in Devaloka. His sense of justice outraged, Manikandan hurled Mahishi onto the earth below; she fell on the banks of the Azhutha River. A fierce battle soon ensued and at the end, Manikandan mounted Mahishi’s chest and commenced a violent dance that reverberated within the earth and the Devaloka. Even the Devas were frightened. Mahishi realized that the divine being on her was the son of Hari and Haran, chastened, she prostrated before the young boy and died.

This dance was witnessed by Lord Shiva and Mahavishnu from a place called Kalakatti .It is said that Leela, daughter of Kavalan, a Karamban, with a face of Mahishi and freed herself from the curse and obtained Moksha by the grace of Shri Dharma Sastha, which is described in Sabarimala Temple as Malikapurathu Amma, by which name she has a temple there.

Following his confrontation with Mahishi, Manikandan entered the forest for tigress’ milk. He had a darshan of Lord Shiva who informed him that even though he had fulfilled the divine plan, he still had one major task to accomplish. Manikandan was reminded about his grief-stricken father and ailing mother; also he was assured of Lord Indran’s assistance in obtaining the much prized tigress’ milk. Manikandan made his way to the Royal palace on Lord Devendran, disguised as a tiger; they were accompanied by female devas in the guise of tigresses and male devas as tigers.

  Every one of the Land gets surprised as  Ayyappa brings not just the milk but also a pack of leopards to the palace for all future use! The queen apologizes. The son of god shoots an arrow. Wherever it falls will be His abode, he said so. It fell on Sabari hills. Later, acting upon the advice of Saint Agasthya King Rajasekara laid the foundation stone of the temple at Sabarimala.

 Every year since, the believers go in pilgrimage to Sabarimala (mala means hill) in Dec-Jan.