pilgrimage is complete only after the faithful worship also at
Malikappuram, the temple of the Lord's virgin consort, and at
the shrines of the Muslim Saint Vavar and Saint Katuthaswamy who
guard the entrance to the temple as sentinels. After this
the pilgrims descend the Eighteen Steps with their faces directed
toward the Lord. Next, they go to the Brahmin priests to
receive the sacrament of sweet prasadam which they take home,
after consuming some, for friends and relatives. Immediately
afterwards most of the pilgrims begin the return journey back
to their homes; they walk back to the banks of Pampa. They
eat their meals and board buses and cars to different destina-tions,
as is the custom today.
is the historical Ayyappan? Some say he is the Buddha, for
the Buddha is also known as Sasta and the prayer of saranam is
Buddhistic and some icons of Ayyappan bear strong resemblances
to the Buddha-statues. The popular Brahminical theology
of the latter days present Ayyappan as the son of Shiva and Vishnu-Mohini;
he is Dharma Sasta. Many anthropologists from Kerala think
that Ayyappan is a tribal god of ancient Kerala; interestingly,
not all the tribes of Kerala worship Ayyappan as Lord, especially
in Northern Kerala.
key to the identification of Ayyappan lies in the fact that devotion
to Ayyappan is a relatively modern cult even in South India.
The puranas^ of the sixth and seventh centuries do not mention
Ayyappan's name. There is no evidence that there was an Ayyappan
cult associated with Sabarimalai before the ninth century.
But in the ninth century the name of Ayyan appears for the first
time in the history of Kerala along with the name of Rajasekhara.
period between 800 and 1000 is the Golden Age in the history of
Kerala. It was the age of the Second Chera Empire of the Kulasekharas.
The founder of this empire is Kulasekhara Alwar (800-820), the
Vaishnavite saint who is celebrated as the author of the Tamil
Thiruniozhi and the Sanskrit Mukundarnala. His successor Rajasekharavarman
(821-844) is identified with the Saivite saint Cheraman Perumal
Nayanar whose story is told in the Tamil Periyapuranam. This king
who proclaimed the Malayalam Era of Kollavarsham is the
darling of the myth-making imagination of the people of Kerala.
great Sankaracharya (788-820) was a contemporary of Rajasekhara.
It was in the same ninth century that there lived the Chera King
Ayyan Adigal Thiruvatigal of Venad, who gave the celebrated land-grant
to the Christian church of Tarisa (c. 824) of Isodat Virai of
Curakkeni Kollam. The Arab merchant Sulaiman visited Kerala
during the reign of Ayyan Adigal. During the same period
Kerala was attacked from the east by the Chola kings and Pandya
kings. Kerjiolpathi (ch. 5) talks about the Pandya king's
invasion of Kerala during the reign of Cheraman Perumal (Rajasekhara)
as well as about a military leader Udayavarman; the Ayyappa legends
talk about Ayyappan's victory over a certain Udayanan. Keralolpathi
provides us also with information on the presence and influence
of Buddhism in Kerala, which is reflected in the Ayyappa cult.
Further, according to Muslim traditions, the last Perumal became
a Muslim, changed his name to Abdul Rahman Samiri, married the
Muslim woman Rahabieth, and retired to Shahr on the Arabian coast.
Therefore, King Ayyan of Venad lived during a period of military
campaigns, under Buddhist and Muslim influences, and with a certain
King Rajasekhara as his suzerain lord.
we reflect upon the Ayyappa tradition against the historical back-ground
sketched above, it becomes clear that Lord Ayyappan is the apotheosis
of Ayyan Adigal, the Chera king of Venad and his stepfather Rajasekhara
of Pantalam is the favorite Perumal of Kerala, Rajasekharavarman
or Cheraman Perumal. King Ayyan apparently was successful
in checking the inroads of the Chola and Pandya kings who staged
their invasions from the east across the western Ghats; oral traditions
indeed refer to the martial victories of Ayyappan and his commander
Katuthaswami; according to tradition, Ayyappan laid down his victorious
arms on the Sacred Eighteen Steps. Further, Ayyappan, unlike the
Hindu deity Sasta, is very human in form with just two hands carrying
bows and arrows.
my reading of the Ayyappa tradition, Mahishi represents the Chola
and Pandya forces of the east whom he defeated in the High Ranges
of the western Ghats. There are seven battlefields on the
pilgrimage route which commemorate the victorious campaigns of
Ayyappan: Kottappuram, Kalaketti, Utuniparamalai, Karimala,
Sabaripeetham, Saramkuttial, and Thrippaty — evidently, the pilgrims
have to enact the campaigns of Ayyan by touching base at these
battle sites. Utumparamalai is also known as Inchipparakkotta,
where the hero won a significant victory over his enemies; it
is commemorated there by the temple dedicated to the Lord.
At another place, Thalapparakkotta, the commander of Ayyappan's
army, Kochukatutha, destroyed the army of Udayanan, obviously,
an Aryan or Brahmin king.
association of Ayyappan with the Muslim Vavar and the Christian
Katuthaswami indicates that Muslims and Christians fought side
by side against the invaders of Venad. The conclusion is
that Lord Ayyappan is the deified hero-king Ayyan Adigal of Venad.
In him martial glory, virtuous life, benevolent kingship, and
blameless leadership merged to form the great Lord Ayyappan, the
local god-saint of Travancore.