Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Legend of Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple

Idol of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple

Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple is located in the Pathanamthitta District of Kerala. It is a temple that stands quite apart from the other Hindu Temples as far as the customs and rituals are concerned. In the old days, the temple used to be open for the devotees only during the Mandalam Season (41 days from the 1st of Malayalam Month Vrischikam which usually starts on 15th or 16th of November every year and a few days before the 1st of Malayalam Month Makaram which falls on 14th or 15th of January). However, the temple is being opened in the first five days of every Malayalam month nowadays. Still, more number of Ayyappa Devotees prefer the Mandalam Season to visit this shrine.
Probably because of the large number of devotees being attracted to this temple, it always finds a place in controversies, especially during the season. Even there are many contradicting myths and legends about this temple. Although the deity of the temple, Lord Ayyappa is regarded as Hari Hara Putrha (son of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu in Mohini Avatara) some historians are claiming it to be a Budha temple once and the deity here is Lord Budha. The most popular legend about this temple goes as follows.
As per the Hindu beliefs, the gods became older due to the curse of Saint Durvasav, and to regain their strength and youth, they had to drink Amruth. This Amruth is being kept under the milky sea (Palazhi) and had to take out by churning the sea. Being old and weaker due to the curse, gods alone could not do this, hence they took the help of demons.
When the Amruth came out finally, the stronger demons took it away. Lord Vishnu incarnated in the form of a beautiful lady named Mohini and approached demons. The stunning beauty of Mohini attracted demons and all of them wanted to marry her. She put a condition to marry her. She told all of them to sit in line with their eyes closed and then she will serve the Amruth. Everybody can open their eyes after consuming Amruth, but she will marry the person who opens the eyes last.
Nobody wanted to lose a chance to marry this charming beauty and hence they all agreed with her condition. When the demons closed their eyes, she took the Amruth and went back to the gods and handed it over to them. When Lord Shiva came to know about this incident, he urged Lord Vishnu to show her the Mohini Incarnation. Although reluctant at first, Lord Vishnu had to take the incarnation once again due to the compulsion of Lord Shiva. When Lord Shiva saw the Mohini, he too fell for her beauty. Finally, Mohini gave birth to a boy child from Shiva. This child is known as Dharma Sastha.
As in the other parts of India, Kerala too was being ruled by different feudal lords before independence, and Pandalam was one such princely kingdom. Rajasekharan was a king in this dynasty. Although he could rule the country to the satisfaction of his subjects, he could not live happily as he does not have children. He was worried more about the fact that the dynasty will come to an end after his death. He used to pray to Lord Shiva every day for a child.
Once, when the king was out for hunting in a thick forest, he heard the crying of a small kid and when traced it to a huge banyan tree he saw a newborn baby boy lying just beneath the tree wrapped in a piece of silk cloth. There was a small golden chair around his neck with a bell tied to it. When the King wondered about how the baby came there, a sage appeared in front of him and asked him to take the baby to his palace as it has been awarded as an answer to his prayers to Lord Shiva. The sage also revealed that the baby has a divine lineage and the truth will be revealed when the boy becomes twelve years old. He obeyed the words of the sage and took the boy to the palace. Even the queen was happy as she got a cute child. They named him Manikantan as there was a bell tied around his neck.
Days have passed and Manikanta started pursuing education. The queen gave birth to a boy child in between and he has been named as Raja Rajan. Although the King and the queen still loved and regarded Manikantan as their eldest son, the minister who was taking care of the administration developed a dislike towards Manikantan. The young Manikanta, who came back from the gurukul after finishing education, became more popular among the subjects. He was smart too. Minister, who used to misuse the power for his own benefits, became unable to continue with his activities. This again worried him. He hatched a plot to finish Manikanta when he understood the plan of the King to handover the thorn to Manikanta.

He lured the queen by creating confusion in her mind. He warned her that once Manikanta, who is not her real son becomes King, he will certainly kick out both her and her own son from the palace and they will have to lead a life that is similar to those of slaves. After the continuous effort, the minister succeeded in creating a dislike about Manikantan in Queen’s mind. Still, she was afraid of requesting the king to avoid making Manikanta the king as she knew that he has a lot of love towards Manikanta. Hence, both queen and the Minister hatched a plan. As per his direction, the queen fell on the bed pretending that she is suffering from heavy stomach pain. Then the palace doctor, who was an aide of the minister, came to examine her and prescribed some medicines. He insisted that those medicines should be taken after dissolving them in the milk of leopard. This suggestion stunned the king. One has to bring leopard alive to take out milk and it was quite impossible too. At that time minister came there and suggested Manikanta’s name for this task.
Although the king was reluctant to send Manikanta for his risky job, Manikanta himself came forward and offered his readiness. He went into the dense forest. There Lord Indra along with other gods appeared in front of them with bowed hands and expressed their consent to incarnate in the form of a female leopard and its kids. Manikanta placed himself on the mother leopard and started his journey towards the palace. All the people got stunned seeing this and they got scared too. They all went inside their houses and remained inside with closed doors. The message even reached the palace even before the arrival of Manikanta.
The same sage who appeared in front of the king years before and asked him to took the baby Manikanta to the palace appeared once again there and revealed the right identity of Manikanta. He revealed that Manikanta went inside the forest to kill the demoness Mahishi the sister of Mahishasura. She derived a boon from Lord Brahma that only the son of Lord Shiva and Vishnu can kill her. That happened inside the forest and now Manikanta is returning.
As soon as he reached in the courtyard of the Palace, the queen jumped out of the bed and confessed everything to the king.  When Manikantan came inside the palace, the King told him that everything happened due to the evil planning of the minister and he should punish the minister. But Manikantan did not agree with that. He told the king that it was the wish of the heavens due to which everything happened. Then he asked the king to crown Rajarajan as his heir and allow him to leave back to the world of gods as he has completed his duty. Then both the king and queen fell on his feet and requested him to live in their country to bless the subjects. They asked him to suggest a place for constructing a temple for him. Then Manikantan shot his arrow and asked the king to construct a temple where it fell. That was the place where the great sage Sabari used to live during the period of Lord Sri Rama. Manikantan also told the king that he will only bless those devotees who are coming to visit the temple after taking strict vrutha for forty-one days.
It is believed that Agasthya Maharshi led the foundation of the stone ceremony of the temple.

Legend of Malikapurathamma

There is another temple beside the Ayyappa Temple which belongs to the deity Malikapurathamma. She is none other than the Mahishi who got killed by Ayyappa. Mahishi was the daughter of a saint and had to become a demon with the face of a buffalo due to the curse of her father.  When she has been removed from the curse by the son of Shiva and Vishnu, she regained her old figure. She had fallen for the charm of Ayyappa or Manikanta and requested him to marry her. Manikanta, who is known as Ayyappa rejected her pleas as he was still in Brahmacharya. However, he agreed to marry her with a condition. She will be given a place just beside him in Sabarimala and when the Kanni Swamis (The devotees who are visiting Sabarimala for the first time are known as Kanni Swamies) stopped visiting the temple he will marry her.

There is a ritual for Kanni Swamies (First-time visitors) to throw arrows at a place called Saram Kuthi Alu (A huge banyan tree where the arrow of Manikanta fell during his fight with Mahishi). At the end of the Mandala season every year, the idol of Malikapurathamma will be taken out on an elephant to this place. After seeing the place covered with a large number of arrows, she will recognize that kanniswamies have visited that year too. She will then return to her temple with a broken heart. This divine lady love is still waiting patiently for realizing her dreams. 

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