Lord Ayyappa is the presiding deity of Sabarimala
temple. Information on the life and teachings of the Lord are mostly based on
legends. In fact, there are very many popular stories associated with Him among
the devotees. These differ from one to another depending on the imaginations of
the narrator and inherent variations due to the passing down of the stories
from generation to generation. However, there are a few events which are common
in all the stories and which can stand historical scrutiny. Examples are:
|The most popular and widely accepted story goes to say that Lord Ayyappa had had His human sojourn as the son of the Raja(King) of Pandalam. 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 bead ('mani') around his neck. Mythology has it that Manikantan was Ayyappan, born of Hari and Hara. The King, though pious, charitable, just, and God-fearing had no children. 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.Meanwhile the Rani gave birth to a son. The King regarded Manikantan as his elder son. He decided to crown him as the Yuvaraja. The King's corrupt Minister had had a deep dislike for Manikantan. The Minister made the innocent Queen believe that adverse consequences would befall her if Manikantan was crowned Yuvaraja and that the kingdom actually belonged to her son.|
conspired between them to get rid of Manikantan by hook or crook. They bribed
the royal physician into becoming an accomplice of theirs. The Rani pretended to
be afflicted with severe pain in the stomach, and the physician prescribed the
milk of a leopard as the only cure for the ache. The King was in an agonizing fix.
He knew that none could be deputed for a mission that was so patently suicidal.
However, the youthful and valiant Manikantan stepped forth and volunteered to
fetch the milk. Despite the worried protestations of his foster-father, he set
out for the fearful forests.
Days later Manikantan entered the palace precincts riding a fierce leopard and followed by a pack of its cubs. The schemers were frightened into confessing their nefarious plot. They and others now knew that Manikantan was no ordinary being. They were convinced of His divine origins, and prayed to Him to be with them for their own salvation and for the safety of the kingdom. However, Manikantan was now determined to leave the place.
Filled with emotions of happiness, grief, fear, wonder and 'bhakthi' (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 continued to pray: " Lord, kindly bless me by freeing me from my egos and the worldly life of birth and rebirth and grant me ' moksha’ (salvation). Kindly continue to be the savior of my family and stay eternally in my kingdom.” Manikantan then enlightened the King on the path of attainment of 'moksha'. These words of the Lord are contained in ‘Bhuthanathageetha’, which is in the form of conversation between Him and His foster-father. To the King who is by now mentally cleansed and completely immersed in 'bhakthi', Lord Ayyappa told: " I am to free you from all worldly sorrows & worries and to grant you 'moksha'. All those who are and would be born in your family shall have my blessings unfailingly. I am always accessible to 'bhakthi' and only 'bhakthi ". The Lord told the King that he could construct a temple at Sabarimala, north of the holy river Pampa and install His deity there. Ayyappa also explained how the Sabarimala pilgrimage shall be undertaken, emphasizing the importance of 'vrutham' and what the devotees can attain by His 'darshan'.
Lord further consoled the King saying that the devotees who held him and his
descendants in 'bhakthi' 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 Him.
There are various lore’s connected with Lord Ayyappa. 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 leopard's milk, accomplishing His divinely destined mission of annihilation of the demoness Mahishi, eliminating the forest-thug Udayanan, bestowing immortality on Sabari, blessing His foster-father with immortality 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'.
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