Lord Ayyappa: The Son of Shiva and Vishnu
Lord Ayyappa is the famous Hindu deity in the southern part of India. There are various shrines dedicated to Lord Ayyappa; Sabarimala temple in Kerala is one such example. He is also famous by the name of Manikandan. Soon after the birth of Lord Ayyappa, his parents tied a bell (Mani) around his neck (kandan) and therefore he was named as Manikandan. It is said that Lord Ayyappa was born out of the union of Lord Shiva and Mohini. Mohini was the female form of Lord Vishnu. Hence, Lord Ayyappa is also popular by the name of Hariharan Puthiran.
Depiction of Lord Ayyappa (Manikandan)
Lord Ayyappa’s appearance is that of a perfect king. He wears a crown and a beautiful garland around his neck, which signifies grace. The right hand of the God is depicted in Abhaya Mudra. This mudra in Hindu yogic school symbolises protection offered by the God to his devotees. It grants the boon of fearlessness to its devotees. Njaana Mudra or Chinmudra are other names for this posture. The left hand of Lord Ayyappa rests on his knees. All the fingers are pointed downwards, which symbolises the five elements with which the earth is made of. The legs of Lord Ayyappa are surrounded by a belt. The folded legs tied with belt symbolises that one should have good control over the wandering mind. Lotus pedestal of the Lord indicates the world we live and the lotus is a symbolism of the different stages of life we cross during our entire lifespan.
Legends associated with the God
The legends about Lord are full with elements of surprise. It is believed that after Mahisasura was killed by Devi Durga, his sister Mahishi decided to avenge her brother’s death. Mahishi was indestructible as she was blessed by Lord Brahma that only the child of Shiva and Vishnu can slay her. Hence, to save the world from the destruction caused by Mahishi, Lord Vishnu incarnated as Mohini, and she united with Shiva to give birth to Lord Ayyappa. After his birth, Lord Ayyappa was abandoned by Shiva and Mohini on the banks of river Pampa. The abandoned baby was found by the childless king of Pandalam named Rajashekhara. The king accepted the baby as a divine gift of God and adopted him as his child.
The renowned Sabarimala Temple
Sabarimala temple is situated at the top of the hill named Sabarimala in the district named Pathanamthitta district. Irrespective of the variations in caste and religion, the doors of the temple are open to all. An interesting fact about the temple is that it is opened only during Chitra Vishnu, Makaravilakku, and Mandalapooja. Every year the temple is visited by over fifty million devotees. In order to visit the temple shrine, the pilgrims cross the dense forest and unpleasant weather. It is believed that Lord laid down stringent religious adherence to please him. The devotees are supposed to observe a continuous fast of fourteen days to visit the temple. This temple is a must for a visit for all the serious devotees of Lord.