- Sabarimala temple
Sri Ayyappan is the avatar of Lord Sastha. He incarnated about, 935 years back in Kerala. After completing His divine mission, Sri Ayyappan merged Himself on the Lord Sasta Deity of Sabarimala temple which was consecrated by Bhagavan Parasurama.
Sri Ayyappan was born out of the union between Mohini (Maha-Vishnu) and Lord Shiva. There are specific evidences to prove the legend of Sri Ayyappa. Even atheists can not dispute those historical evidences readily available at the Pandalam palace and associated places.
Sri Ayyappan is a an *Upda-devan* in all Vishnu/Krishna temples in Kerala including Guruvayoor. Every year, over 50 million devotees visit the Sabarimala Sri Ayyappa temple, making it the second largest pilgrimage in the world.
Names of Sri Ayyappa
Dharmasasta, Hariharasudhan, Manikandan, Sathanar, Sastan, Cattan (from Sanskrit Sasta), Ayyanar, Natrayan, Nattarasan, Bhutanathan, Pandala Raja, and Pamba Vaasan.
The Asura princess Mahishi was burning up with anger at the trick the Devas had pulled on to kill her brother, the Asura king Mahishasura. As Mahishasura was blessed with invulnerability to all men, the Devas had sent goddess Durga, to fight and kill him. Thus, Mahishi began performing a fearsome set of austerities, and pleased the creator Lord Brahma . He granted her the boon of ruling the universe and being invulnerable except to a being that manifests from the improbable union of Bhagavan Maha-Vishnu and Lord Shiva . Since such a person could never exist, Mahishi thought she was safe and began conquering and plundering the entire world.
The Devas implored Lord Shiva and Maha-Vishnu to save them from this catastrophe. Maha-Vishnu found a solution to the problem. When Vishnu had taken on the Kurma Avatar for Amritha-mathana (churning of milky Ocean), he also had to manifest himself as Mohini, the enchantress, to recover the nectar of immortality ( Amrita) from the Asura-thieves who were not willing to share it with the Devas. If Vishnu became Mohini again, then the female Mohini and the male Shiva could have the divine child who would combine their powers and beat Mahishi.
The two Gods thus became "HariHara Murthy", that is a composite form of Maha-Vishnu and Shiva as one God. From this union, Lord Ayyappan was born. He combines in himself the powers of both Vishnu and Shiva, and is a visible embodiment of their essential identity. Bhagavan Vishnu gifted the new-born deity with a little bejeweled bell necklace, so this God is called Manikanthan Swamy.
Lord Ayyappan had his human sojourn as the son of the Raja (King) of Pandalam, Kerala. At that time, Raja Rajasekhara ruled the kingdom of Pandalam. During one of his hunting expeditions, the Raja was puzzled to hear the wails of a child on the banks of the River Pampa . He moved in the direction of the voice to find a resplendent infant there. The beautiful baby with radiant face wore a gemstone (precious stone) around his neck, hence the name Manikantan ("Mani", means gemstone and "kantan" means wearer around the neck). Manikantan was born of Hari (Bhagavan Vishnu) and Hara (Lord Shiva), with Hari assuming the form of a female (Mohini). Hence Ayyappan is also named as Hariharasutan (Sutan meaning Son).The king, though pious, charitable, just, and God-fearing, had no children. The king was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and his queen was devotee of Maha-Vishnu. They had prayed to their respective Ishta-devas for blessings in the form of a child. He accepted the child as God's gracious response to his fervent prayer for an heir to his throne. Manikantan was given proper education and training and he grew into a boy well versed in academic lore and martial arts of the time like Kalaripayattu. The Cheerappanchira kalari at Muhamma, in Alappuzha District was responsible for his training in the martial arts. Meanwhile the Rani (Queen) gave birth to a son, however the king regarded Manikantan as his elder son and decided to crown him as the Yuvaraja (heir).
Since the wicked minister of the Raja was always against Manikantan becoming the Yuvaraja, he along with his sycophants turned the queen against the king's decision. On the coronation day of Manikantan as Yuvaraja, the queen pretended to be suffering from unbearable stomach ache, and said she was unable to get any relief from the treatment of any doctor (Vaidya). Finally a fake practitioner appeared at the instance of the minister, and prescribed "the milk of a tigress" as the cure of the queen's illness. The king appealed to one and all to get the tigeress-milk, but no-one dared. At last, Manikantan volunteered and went to the forest in search of tigress Milk, despite the king's attempt to stop him. The king was deeply frightened that the deemed Yuvaraja may not come back alive.
Manikantan entered the forest to fulfill his divine duty, to rid the world of demoness Mahishi. Manikantan killed her and released a beautiful woman who had been cursed to become Mahishi. The young woman asked Ayyappan for his hand in marriage, but he declined, being a celibate. However he promised that she would be visited by pilgrims and would be housed next to his temple, and if the number of new pilgrims visiting him stopped, then he would marry her. Hence she is now worshiped as Maalikapurathamma. On the death of Mahishi, Indra - the king of the Devas, who was displaced and banished by Mahishi, led several tigers for the disposal of Ayyappan.
Days later Manikantan entered the palace precincts riding a fierce tigress and followed by a pack of her cubs. The schemers were frightened into confessing their plot. They were convinced of Ayyappan’s divine origins, and prayed to him to be with them for their own salvation and for the safety of the kingdom. Immediately Manikantan disppeared. The king would not eat anything if Manikantan did not come back. Then Manikantan gave a vision (Darshan) to the king. Filled with emotions of happiness, grief, fear, wonder and 'Bhakti' (devotion to God) and self-surrender, the king stood praying for the mercy and blessings of Manikantan. He repented he could not fully visualize the truth of the divine powers of the Lord and repeatedly requested Him to forgive him for behaving as if He were his son only. The Lord lovingly embraced the King who prayed to bless him by freeing from ego and the worldly life of birth and rebirth and grant Moksha (salvation). He told the King that he was destined to return to heaven. The king implored Lord Manikantan to allow him to build a temple and dedicate it to him and the Lord assented.
Manikantan then enlightened the King on the path of attainment of Moksha. The Lord shot an arrow that fell at the top of Sabrimala and told the King that he could construct a temple at Sabarimala, north of the holy river Pampa and install His Murthy there. Ayyappan also explained how the Sabarimala pilgrimage shall be undertaken, emphasizing the importance of Penance vratham and what the devotees can attain by His 'darshan'.
But before the departure of the Lord, the King secured a promise from the Lord that on thai Pongal on January 14, every year,(celebrated as "Makara Jyothy" all his personal jewellery (usually kept at the Palace) will be adorned on His Murthy at Sabarimala temple. Hence on the 12th of January every year, the Jewellery will be taken on foot from the Palace by a special emissary of the kingdom, after the puja with all pomp, devotion and reverence. Immediately when the Arati is over, Royal Garuda (Eagle) flies over the Palace, (which is quite automatic). The Royal Garuda flies ahead, and appears guide the pilgrims throughout their journey. Since there was no modern means of communication like Telephone or Mobile , to the hundreds of thousands of Devotees desirous of worshipping Lord Manikantan's Jewels enroute to His Abode, this Garuda was the sole and absolute signal of advance information even to the Temple authorities at Sabarimala to get ready for the adorning of the Jewels. This journey on the 12th and 13th of January finally reaches Sabarimala on January 14th. Immediately after the jewellery is adorned on the Deity, there is an Aarti (offering by burning Camphor). The miracle is that just after the Arti, without loss a second, the Jyothy appears on the east side of the Temple up above the Hills (details are given hereunder).
But then the Lord further consoled the King saying that the devotees who held him and his descendants in 'Bhakti' shall happen to be devoted to Him as well. Manikantan then blessed the King and all others assembled there, and vanished. The King duly constructed the temple at Sabarimala, dedicated to Lord Ayyappan. The Murthy for installation was prepared by Sri Parasurama, an incarnation of Maha- Vishnu, and was consecrated by himself.
A strong liking for vegetarian sweets is a common factor of all Hindu Gods and Ayyappa is no exception. Appam and Aravana (Payasam made of rice, ghee and jaggery) are the prasadams of the Lord .There is an interesting story behind these prasadams also. The Raja of Pandalam admitted Ayyappa to a famous Kalari (school where traditional martial arts of Kalaripayattu is taught) at Cheerappanchira in Cherthala in Alappuzha district. The young daughter, Leela, of Kalari Panicker fell in love with Ayyappa. But Ayyappa was so involved in his studies that he didn't notice the girl's infatuation.
Soon the girl started bringing him food to capture his attention. Time passed by and the girl reached her puberty. And her family, following the Hindu tradition, prepared special cuisines to celebrate the occasion. One mandatory item on the menu is Rthumathikanji (porridge made using rice and five times the quantity of jaggery). On that day she took this porridge to Ayyappa, who was practising payattu in the Kalari. He liked it very much and requested the girl to bring only the porridge everyday. It is believed that the practice of offering Aravana as prasadam to Lord Ayyappan was born from this incident.
Dharma Sastha (Ayyappan) is the presiding Deity of Sabarimala temple. Information on the life and teachings of the Lord are based on specific historical evidences. In fact, there are many popular legends associated with Him among the devotees. These do not differ from one to another in spite of the passing down of the stories from generation to generation. The following are a few events which are common in all the Ayyappa related stories and which can pass any historical scrutiny.
1. All stories confirm that Ayyappa lived in the Pandalam Palace as the son/savior of the King.
2. Ayyappa had had super-human or divine knowledge, wisdom, and courage and had great liking for the King and his people.
3. He protected the King and the kingdom from the attacks of enemies.
4. At the end of His life in Pandalam, He vanished into the forests and is ever since worshiped at the Sabarimala temple.
There are several miracles connected with Lord Ayyappan. These relate to discovery of the child at Pampa, Manikantan's youthful days in the Pandalam palace, bestowing the power of hearing and speaking upon the deaf and dumb son of His teacher as Guru-dakshina, His friendship with Vaver, bringing the tigeress's milk, accomplishing His divinely destined mission of annihilation of the demoness Mahishi, eliminating the forest-thug Udayanan, bestowing moksha on Sabari, blessing His foster-father with moksha and so on. Legend also goes to say that Manikantan was the incarnation of Lord DharmaSastha. Raja Rajasekhara was in his previous birth a rich and pious 'brahmin' by name Vijayan who was a very strong believer and devotee of Lord Dharma Sastha. Such was Vijayan's 'bhakthi' towards the Lord that He blessed the brahmin by granting his wish to be born as his son in his next birth when the Lord would offer him "moksha'.... This legend plausible since it explains why members of Pandalam Royal Family even today do not stand directly in front of the sanctum sanctorum at Sabarimalai. It is obvious that even subsequent generations of Royals would be honoured by Ayyappa and would apparently cause the Murthy to stand up-the ostensible reason for Royal family members not standing in front of the Murthy .If he were their ancestor-adopted or otherwise this could not be the case. Also the popular Kerala version places the Vishnu-Siva union and birth of Sastha smack in the 11-12th century since Ayyappan's close friend is a Muslim.Islam has come to India in historical times!
The Pandala Raja constructed a small temple, 18 steps above the ground as instructed by Lord Ayyappan himself. Each of these eighteen holy steps represents a desire one must conquer in life. The 18 steps and the temple have in recent times been coated in gold. The original vigraham was a wooden idol , and was consecrated by Sri Parashurama (incarnation of Maha-Vishnu).
The common cry heard during the pilgrimages to his shrine is "Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa!" ("Oh Swami, we take refuge in you"). Pilgrimage to Sabarimala begins from the 1st of Vrichikam, a Malayalam month coming in the middle of November (today). The most important day for Ayyappan is Makarasankranti Day, which is the 1st of Makara (a month of the Malayalam calendar). This day will fall between January 14-16. Currently millions of devotees come from all parts of India to Sabarimala for a glimpse of Lord Ayyappan, having undertaken 41 days of Vratham (austerities).
On *Makarasankranti* every year without fail, miraculous events occur. Firstly as the jewels (Thiruvaabaranam) of the Lord are transported from the Old Pandalam Palace to Sabarimala, a *Krishnaparanth* (holy Garuda - an eagle - the vehicle of Bhagavan Vishnu), circles above the precious jewels (in fact guarding them), like a protector. This rare eagle is rarely seen in the midst of people for a long period of time, yet the auspicious bird follows the Thiruvaabaranam procession, finally circling above Sanithanam at Sabarimala nine times as it pays its respects to Lord Ayyappan. During this time, there is not a single star in the sky except for a special Nakshatram. As the beautiful jewels are placed on the golden body of Lord Ayyappan within the temple, the several hundred thousand devotees outside, crammed into any available free space, chant "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa". When the jewels are finally all adorned on the Lord, the Nakshatram in the sky miraculously disappears, as all the Devas and Celestial beings leave the sky to get a glimpse of Lord Ayyappan in all his splendor. Within moments of the Lord being adorned with the Thiruvabaranam, an effulgence (Divya Jyoti) appears in the opposite hills of Shabarimala, appearing 3 times. This hill is called Ponnambalamedu. It is believed that the Lord Ayyappan himself appears in the form of that Divya Jyoti. It is firmly believed that Lord Indra himself lights the divine efflugence. The entire hillside reverberates with the chant "Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa" as the devotees witness this auspicious Darshan, as the Devas and celestial Rishis arrive at Sabarimala to participate in birthday celebrations of Ayyappan effulgence. These auspicious sights are different forms of the Lord Himself appearing. The devotees then climb the 18 holy gold steps to arrive at the sanidhanam where they finally get a glimpse of the Lord as Himself, in all beauty, Manikanta Shri Dharmasastha, adorned with jewels. It is believed that if one witnesses these events after having undertaken 41 days of severe austerities (Vratham), one can attain Moksha.
This is why Ayyappan is also known as "Kaliyugavaradhan", since He can help us attain Moksha in this difficult age of Kaliyuga, the age of hypocrisy and violence.
Devotees observe traditional austerities (vruthams) before their pilgrimage to sabarimala. Austerities normally start from the first day of the Malayalam month Vrishchikam . Devotees initiate the vrutham by wearing a Thulasi or a Rudraksha mala. After this ceremony, the male pilgrim and the female pilgrim are addressed as ayyapan and Maalikapuram respectively, until their completion of the pilgrimage.
During the period of vrutham, Devotees are expected to undergo practices of simple living, and absolute cleanliness. The mind and body are to be kept impeccably pure and absolute celibacy is practiced. The devotee is expected to behave in an austere and sober fashion during his vrutham. Total abstinence from all vices like alcohol, tobacco and non-vegetarian food is stipulated. Personal adornments, hair cutting, shaving, etc. are also taboo. The devotee is expected wear black/blue/saffron clothes. The devotee is expected to pray daily in the mornings and evenings after bathing. The prayer ritual may be performed by going to any temple or in one's own pooja room. Those devotees who are desirous of worshipping Lord Ayyappa on 'Makara Vilakku' day, January 14th,(this year, 2008, it is on January 15th), may continue their vrutham till that day. The vrutham continues till the pilgrim returns from his pilgrimage to Sabarimala and removes his `mala' after breaking a coconut and offering prayers.
The life of the man can be improved and re-energized by performing Tapas or austerity. Tapas may be performed in body, speech and mind as per 'Gita'. When man applies himself to these three components, he changes for the better. Given below are the austerities and regulations that has to be strictly followed for taking pilgrimage to Shri Sabarimala:
The vritham has to be undertaken after getting permission from parents. Then one has to get the permission of the Guru. After this the date is fixed to commence the vritham. The previous day before the said date one has to offer prayers to ones family deity and make a holy knot with yellow cloth with 1.25 currency units within and present it to the family deity, thereby taking Her/His permission to commence the vritham.
Previous day before starting the vritham, the devotee will cleanly shave, clip his nails, trim his hair and make himself physically clean. The holy mala / garland (tulsi / uthradsham) should be cleaned and smeared with sandal paste and placed before the portrait of Lord Ayyappa. The devotee should also buy a new pair of coloured (black, blue, saffron) dhoti and towel/shawl.
On the day of starting the vritham the devotee shall raise early, bath and offer prayers to family deity, Navagrahas and perform pooja to the holy mala. Then he shall go to temple with his Guru. The mala has to be received from the Guru in midst of chanting of Saranam. After wearing the mala the devotee becomes Lord Ayyappa himself and starts the demands of pious life.
The devotee shall withdraw from all social activities and spend his time by taking part in praying, poojas, bajans, visiting temples, cleaning temples, feeding the poor, helping the poor/sick and attending religious discourses. He shall take only satvic foods and refrain 100% from taking meat, intoxicating drinks / drugs, chewing betel leaves and from smoking.
He shall bathe twice, if possible thrice, daily and perform pooja by at least chanting 108 Ayyappan Saranam. He shall continuously chant Saranam Ayyappa in mind, both at work and at home.
He shall not hurt anybody verbally or physically.
He shall treat all co-devotees as Lord Ayyappan himself and serve them in all the ways.
He shall not feel proud of the respect and privileges he gets when he is wearing the holy mala. When others prostrate themselves on his feet he shall not feel proud but dedicate the same to Lord Ayyappan and say aloud 'Lord Save everybody for their faith in you'.
He shall not cause inconvenience to his family members on account on observing the vritham.
As he starts his vritham every year, he shall think that he is doing the same for first time and follow all the rules of the vritham strictly.
He shall strictly follow brahmacharya (continence), refrain from sex, thinking of sex, develop passion against all women including his wife, and treat all women with motherly feeling.
He shall not apply oil to his hair and shall not take bath with oil smeared over his body.
He shall not attend any social function like birthdays, engagement, and wedding, etc. and shall feast in anyone's home who have not undertaken the vritham.
He shall avoid being in the proximity of dead body and shall not eat anything till he bathes if he accidentally sees one.
He shall always carry a tulsi leaf with him to prevent him from evil feeling and from Thitu.
He shall not sleep on bed but on floor, he shall not use pillow but wooden block, he shall not use footwear but walk with bare feet.
He shall totally surrender himself to Lord Ayyappa.
One should remember that the grace and power of Sabarimala increases and reflects back by observing the above rules strictly.
Nama-japam for Bhagavan Ayyappan
Add the words 'Saranam Ayyappa' after each line:
2. Harihara Suthane
3. Kannimoola Mahaa Ganapathy Bhagavaane
4. Shakti Vadivelan Sodarane
5. Maalikaippurattu Manjamma Devi Lokamathave
6. Vaavar Swamiye
7. Karuppanna Swamiye
8. Periya Kadutta Swamiye
9. Cheriya Kadutta Swamiye
10. Vana devathamaare
11. Durga Bhagavathi maare
12. Achchan Kovil Arase /Achchan Kovil Rajave
13. Anaadha Rakshagane
14. Annadhaana Prabhuve
15. Achcham Thavirpavane
16. Ambalathu Aasane
17. Abhaya Dayakane
18. Ahandai Azhippavane
19. AshtaSiddhi Dayagane
20. Andmorai Aadarikkum Deivame
21. Azhuthayil Vaasane
22. Aaryankaavu Ayyaave
23. Aapath Baandhavane
24. Ananda Jyotiye
25. Aatma Swaroopiye
26. Aanaimukhan Thambiye
27. lrumudi Priyane
28. lnalai Therppavane
29. Heha para suka daayakane
30. Irudaya kamala vaasane
31. Eedillaa inbam alippavane
32. Umaiyaval baalakane
33. Umaikku arul purindavane
34. Uzhvinai akatruvone
35. Ukkam alippavane
36. Engum niraindhone
37. Enillaa roopane
38. En kula deivame
39. En guru naathane
40. Erumeli vaazhum kiraata -Shasthave
41. Engum nirainda naada brahmame
42. Ellorkkum arul puribavane
43. Aetrumaanoorappan magane
44. Aekaanta vaasiye
45. Aezhaikkarul puriyum eesane
46. Aindumalai vaasane
47. Aiyyangal teerppavane
48. Opillaa maanikkame
49. Omkaara parabrahmame
50. Kaliyuga varadane
51. Kan.kanda deivame
52. Kambankudiku udaiya naathane
53. Karunaa samudrame
54. Karpoora jyotiye
55. Sabari giri vaasane
56. Shathru samhaara moortiye
57. Sharanaagadha rakshakane
58. Sharana ghosha priyane
59. Shabarikku arul purindavane
61. Satya swaroopane
62. Sankatam therppavane
63. Sanchalam azhippavane
64. Shanmukha sodarane
65. Dhanvantari moortiye
66. Nambmorai kaakkum deivame
67. Narttana priyane
68. Pantala raajakumaarane
69. Pambai baalakane
70. Parasuraama poojithane
71. Bhakta jana rakshakane
72. Bhakta vatsalane
73. Paramashivan puthirane
74. Pambaa vaasane
75. Parama dhayaalane
76. Manikanda porule
77. Makara jyotiye
78. Vaikkathu appan makane
79. Kaanaka vaasane
80. Kulattu puzhai baalakane
81. Guruvaayoorappan makane
82. Kaivalya padha daayakane
83. Jaati mata bhedam illathavane
84. Shivashakti Aikya svaroopane
85. Sevipparku aananda moorthiye
86. Dushtar bhayam neekkuvone
87. Devaadi devane
88. Devarkal thuyaram therthavane
89. Devendra poojitane
90. Narayanan mynthane
91. Neiabhisheka priyane
92. Pranava swaroopane
93. Paapa samhaara moorthiye
94. Paayasanna priyane
95. Vanpuli vaakanane
98. Ponambala vaasane
99. Mohini sudhane
100. Mohana roopane
101. Villan vilaali veerane
102. Veeramani kantane
103. Sadguru nathane
104. Sarva rokanivarakane
105. Sachi ananda sorupiye
106. Sarvaabheestha thayakane
107. Saasvatapadam alippavane
108. Patinettaam padikkutaiyanaadhane
Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa !!!
The Guru (Called as Guruswamy or Periyaswamy)
The role of the Guru is significant in the Ayyappa faith . The Guruswamy is usually an elderly person who has undertaken pilgrimage to Sabarimala not less than eighteen times and has travelled by the traditional long route and had darshan of Makara Jothi. The devotees treat the Guruswamy as Ayyappan himself. It is important that pilgrims gain knowledge from the Guru on all the aspect of the Pilgrimage. One should serve the Guru physically, mentally and verbally. The pilgrims should give the due respect and reverence which the Guru deserves. All instructions of the Guru should be carried out without fail. The Guru will enlighten the Shishyas about the austerities to be followed. He will teach them the slokas, and ways to perform pooja and bhajans. He shall prepare them for the pilgrimage mentally and physically. He will lead the pilgrims safely and comfortably to Sabarimala " Swamiye Sharanam Aiyappa..."
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