Ayyappan

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Ayyappan, (Malayalam: അയ്യപ്പൻ,Tamil: ஐயப்பன்,Telugu: అయ్యప్ప స్వామి,Kannada:ಅಯ್ಯಪ್ಫ) is a Hindu deity. Lord Ayyappan is worshiped in a number of shrines across India; at Kulathupuzha, Kerala he is worshiped as a child; at Achenkovil in conjunction with his consorts, Pushkala and Poorna; and at Sabarimala as an ascetic - a celibate meditating in solitude for the benefit of all mankind. The name "Ayyappan" is used as a respectful form of address in Malayalam, and the famous mantra Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa can be directly translated as Give me shelter, Lord Ayyappa! He is considered to be born out of the union between Mohini (an avatar of Vishnu), and Shiva.

The most famous Ayyappa shrine in India is the one at Sabarimala with over 50 million devotees visiting it every year, making it the second largest pilgrimage in the world.

Contents

Names

Ayyappa is known as "Hariharan Puthiran" because he is the son of both Hari(Vishnu) and Haran(Shiva). His most common name is Manikandan because soon after his birth his parents (Mohini & Shiva) tied a necklace with a bell (mani) around his neck (kandan).

Background

The asura princess Mahishi was burning up with anger at the trick the gods had pulled on her brother, the asura king Mahishasura. As Mahishasura was blessed with invulnerability to all men, the gods had sent goddess Durga, to fight and kill him. Thus, Mahishi began performing a fearsome set of austerities, and pleased the creator god Brahma. He granted her the boon of ruling the universe and being invulnerable except to a being that had not been born from a Woman's womb. Since such a person did not exist, she thought she was safe and began conquering and plundering the world.

The gods implored Shiva and Vishnu to save them from this catastrophe. Vishnu found a possible solution to the problem. When Vishnu had taken on the Kurma Avatar, he also had to manifest himself as Mohini, the enchantress, to save the nectar of immortality (ambrosia or amrit) from the demons who were not willing to share it with the gods. If he became Mohini again, then the female Mohini and the male Shiva could have the divine child who would combine their powers and beat Mahishi.

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