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Reasons of Sasthaa's Coming
Reasons of Sasthaa's birth originates from Rambh and Karambh Daitya. Both Rambh and Karambh did penance. Karambh was dong it in water and Rambh was doing it amidst Panchaagni. Vishnu assumed the form of a crocodile and killed Karambh, while Rambh got the boon that he would have such a son who would not be killed by anyone, but he should be born to him, to whoever he would see while going back from there and wed her with love. Incidentally he met a she-buffalo on the way, she lured him and he married her. At an appropriate time she got pregnant and Rambh started taking are of her. In spite of great care, once a he-buffalo followed her and when Rambh tried to save her from him, he killed him. The she-buffalo got burnt on his pyre, but the child came out alive from her womb and Rambh also came out alive from the pyre. The child was named Mahish and the reborn Rambh was names as Raktbeej. Later Raktbeej became Minister of Mahishaasur (his own son)

Now Karambh already had a daughter Mahishee. When Mahishaasur was killed by Devee, Mahishee got very angry and she went for penance to take revenge of her cousin's killing from Devee. She succeeded in getting a boon that she would be killed only by a child born from the union of Vishnu and Shiv. Now if she had to be killed, a child had to be born from the union of Vishnu and Shiv.

Manikanth is Born
Accordingly Sasthaa came down to Earth assuming the form of a small child with a bell tied around his neck, and appeared on the banks of River Pampaa in the wild forest. King of Pandalam, Raajasekaran, had gone for hunting in that forest. The King had no children till then. The halo of light around the child attracted him and the child was taken to the palace. He named him Manikanth and reared up as a Prince. With the merciful blessings of Santaan Dhaayak Sasthaa, the queen also gave birth to a child of her own. The two were brought up as equals, although Manikanth was the apple of the eyes of everybody in the palace.

Maniknath's Education
Manikanth and his younger brother were sent to Gurukul for pursuing studies on all spheres which included Ved, archery, fighting and art of war. Manikanth excelled all others in every aspect. When the curriculum (Gurukul) came to an end and the boys had to depart for their homes, Manikanth politely asked his Guru how much Guru Dakshinaa he had to pay. Guru being aware of the divine incarnation, refused to accept anything and was overwhelmed with joy when he was termed as Gurunaath to the Taarak Brahmam. However, the Guru's wife pleaded Manikanth to cure her handicapped son who was a dumb, blind and suffered impaired hearing. Manikanth with all mercy, touched the boy with his magnetic divine hands, moving his hands over the boy from head to foot. Sanctified by the divine touch, there was a divine spell on the boy, he opened his eyes, as if waking up from slumber, turned to his mother, prostrated before her crying - "Oh Mother." All the physical disabilities had vanished at one stroke at Manikanth's holy hands.

Gurunaath, seeing this miracle, went out in a state of ecstasy, forgot himself, forgot for a moment that he was Taarak Braahmam, standing before him in the form of a small child. He emotionally blessed the Lord - "Let you be ruling over all the fourteen worlds, seated on golden throne studded with stones adorning yourself with all valuable garments and ornaments, forever." Manikanth obediently assumed the blessings of Gurunaath as an instruction to him, and requested Gurunaath not to reveal his identity till his mission in this world was fulfilled.

Kingdom's Deevaan Dislikes Manikanth
Then he returned to the palace. Everyone in the kingdom experienced a state of bliss in the company of Manikanth, except one, that is the Deevaan (minister) of Pandalam Palace. From the day one of Manikanth' s entry into the palace, the Deevaan had a deep dislike for him. The Dewan tried several times with several plans to get rid of Manikanth but failed miserably. As time passed, the King decided to crown Manikanth as his heir-apparent. Seeing this the evil-minded Devaan became unhappy because he wanted that the King's own son should become the King. So he poisoned the mind of the queen, as Mantharaa poisoned the mind of Kaikeyee in Raamaayan. So with the help of the queen, the Deevaan hatched a plot to kill Manikanth. According to this plot, the queen should pretend to suffer from acute headache, the court physician would prescribe tigress' milk as the only remedy, which Manikanth would volunteer to bring and thus he could be killed by the wild animals in the forest, with the result the queen's son could ascend the empire.

The plot worked. Now the King was in a fix and caught between love for his wife and profound affection towards Manikanth, but the Lord consoled the King that he should not worry about him, and he would safely come back with a tigress' milk. He undertook the expedition single-handed. The King gave the child an Irumudee, the first half containing three-eyed coconut representing their family Deity Shiv, to protect the child from wild animals and ensure a safe trek, and in the rear half he put some savories and food-stuff for the child's consumption en-route. (It is on this analogy, that the devotees carry Irumudee on their heads to Sabari Hills). Thus Manikanth left the palace, after an obeisance to the words of his father, as Raam did in Raamaayan. The old couple donated some Anna also, and Manikanth went into the thick forest.
By this time, Sundar Mahish had left Mahishee, and she had returned to Dev Lok, creating troubles to Devendra and Devtaa. The Lord entered Dev Lok. The day on which the Lord entered Dev Lok for destruction of evil is considered as the birthday of the birthless and deathless Sasthaa, the Supreme Master of the Universe. Enraged by the atrocities perpetrated by Mahishee on Sages and Devtaa, the Lord felt that the Yagya and Dharm should not be marred by the scruple. Mahishee was pushed down to the Earth and she was killed by the Lord in Bhoo Lok.

When the evil spirit in her disappeared, Mahishee was transformed into a beautiful old Leelavatee, who craved pardon for all her past misdeeds and took refuge in him. Dazzled by the bright youth, she also pleaded with him to marry her. Manikanth could not accede to her request, firstly because he was engaged on an errand to save the life of his step-mother, the queen of Pandalam, and secondly he was destined to be an astute bachelor in the Avatar of Manikanth. When Leelavatee persisted, Manikanth told her that he would marry her only when no Kannee Ayyappan (devotee on maiden) visited Sabari Hills. He promised that she would be worshipped by his Devotees with equal fervor, as Manjambikaa, even though not as his consort, but on a palace, on the left side to his shrine.

The mortal remains of Mahishee's body started growing out of bounds, so the Lord placed some pebble-stones to arrest the increase its growth. (Even now, novice (Kannee) pilgrims are asked to deposit there, the pebbles picked up by them from the Azhudha River bed, enroute to Sabaree Hills. Thus came the end of Mahishee, the evil force. Despite her sins, she attained salvation.
The remaining story of bringing Leopard to milk to cure his foster mother's stomach pain. It is told in the Sasthaa Varavu as --
"vararito, Manikanthn Vararitho, Bhoothatthan Muthalana
Bhoothangal kootiyae, Pulikal Kuttikale piditthu vilayatiyae,
Vararitho, Ayyan (Manikanthn) Vararitho…

The Queen realized her mistake. All understood the Divinity of the child. The leopards disappeared. The King wanted Manikanth to remain, with him, but as his mission was over, he desired to be in Dhyaan at Sabaree Malai. He told the king that the King could come to see him there any time. At Sabaree Malai he became Jyoti Swarop. On account of this after Deep Aaraadhanaa till the Karpoor Jyoti fades we recite
Bhootnaath sadaanaada Sarvabhoot dayapara
Raksh raksh mahaa bhaago Sasthredhabhyam namo namah

The King later constructed a temple there and then started the king's visit along with his followers, to Tiruvabharanam. Tiruvabharanam, as it is known, is on a separate route covering the distance in three days by walk. Even now see an eagle Vahanam of Vishnu follow the journey as an escort . In due course a small temple within the palace area is constructed for Sasthaa.



Sasthaa is also known as Ayyappan, Ayyanaar, Manikanth, Bhootnaath, Paraya Gopthru, Aarya Daataa. People call him 'Aarya-Appaa', Aarya means father or to be revered and Appaa is an affectionate form of addressing a child. Ayyappaa is only a colloquial form of Aarya Appaa. Ayyanaar also means the same. he is called Manikanthn also, why? When Sasthaa came to the world from Kailaash at Shiv's bidding, he was found on the banks of River Pambhaa with bell tied round his neck, that us why he got known as Manikanth.

The subject matter of Ayyappaa is classified under the three major heads--
Sasthaaa (as per Puraan)
Ayyanaar (as per legends) and
Ayyappan (as per traditional story based on historic events)

In various Puraan like Skand Puraan, Brahmaand Puraan, Lalitopaakshyaan, etc, it is said that Hari-Har Putra was born to Shiv and Mohinee (Vishnu) after Palazhi Madanam, which dates back to Krit Yug.

Sasthaaa had to be born out of the union of Shiv and Vishnu to kill the demoness Mahishee, because she was perpetrating atrocities in this world and in the nether worlds. She got a boon from Brahmaa that she should be killed by a child born of Hari and Har, that too after the child's undergoing servitude to a human being for a period of 12 years. So to fulfill the boon got by Mahishee and to destroy that evil force, Sasthaa was born of Shiv and Vishnu and had to grow as child of Pandalam King for 12 years.

Skand Puraan says that Sasthaa with his two consorts appeared before Indra and lndraanee to protect them. This appeared even before the avatar of Muruga. References of Sasthaa appear in various Puranas and Upa-Puranas spreading over the other three yugas, including Raamaayan and Mahaabhaarat. As the story goes, Hari-Har Puthra was wedded to Pushkalaa first and then won the hands of Poornaa subsequently. To comply with the boon of Mahishee, He took the birth of as a son to serve to a human being. He materialized himself the shape of a tiny child called Manikanth on the banks of Holy River Pambha, brought up by Pandalam King Raajasekhar.

Ayyappan / Manikanth healed the deaf and dumb boy of his Guru, gone to the dense forests as per evil designs of his stepmother, slain Mahishee, brought leopard milk for his step-mother and took to Brahmcharya Yog at Sabaree Hills. This was his incarnation as Brahmachaaree.

Kalai Kettee and Maligapurathu Manja Math?
He caught the demoness Mahishee by her horns and threw her down on the Earth. She assumed protean forms and showered stones on the god-child. She could not be seen and she did many great mischieves by her power of assuming various forms from shedding of her blood drops and also of remaining concealed from view, She retaliated the attack but was easily overcome by the Lord's extraordinary prowess. Then she realized that the victor standing on her body was none other than Hari-Har Putra, at whose hands she was destined to attain salvation. The Lord danced on her dead body after killing her. Shiv and Paarvatee came riding on their bull and tethered to a tree, and witnessed Mahishee Mardan, the destruction of the she-buffalo. This place is now called Kalai Kettee. Sabaree Maalaa pilgrims who have haunts of evil spirits, offer coconut and camphor at Kalai Ketti for their relief.

On redemption, Mahishee requested Sasthaa to marry her. Sasthaaa replied - "In this Avataar as Manikanth, I'm a Brahmachaaree. I shall opt to marry you when no Kannee Ayyappa (one who is trekking Sabari Hills for the first time`) turns up to the Hills. Until such time, you may join me in doing penance near my temple as Maligapurathu Manja Math.

Sasthaa is a Brahmchaaree as well as a wedded person. In the incarnation of Manikanth / Ayyappan /Dharm Sasthaaa, he is a Brahmchaaree, but worshipping Sasthaa with his consorts has been in vogue in Tamil Naadu and Kerala from time immemorial. In countryside temples spread over Tamil Naadu, Sasthaa is being called Ayyanaar with his two consorts. In Kerala too, Sasthaa is worshipped with his consorts for example Nooraanee, Thirunilay, Achankoil etc.

I will continue in Part 3. I have tried my best for clarity and continuity.

Legend narrated by Agastya to Pandalam King Raajasekhar in substance?
Sage Agastya narrated the King Raajsekhar of Pandalam that in his previous birth, he was a Braahman by the name of Vijayan Namboodiree. He had no child, so he went to the forest to get advice from sages living there for begetting a child; he was directed to approach a Tapaswinee and huntress Shabaree of Raamaayan times. Shabaree, who was waiting for Sasthaaa for her redemption, helped the Braahman, pointing out a waterfall nearby where the Abhishek water on Lord Sasthaaa was coming down from Kanthmaalaa to the Earth and advised him to have a dip in that water which would absolve him of all his sins and bless him with a child. She gave him a pot also to collect the water for taking bath.

As advised by Shabaree, the Braahman tried to collect the water in the pot, but by the force of water falling from the waterfall, the pot fell down with its upper half breaking open. A pool was formed by the water force. The Braahman, without loss of time, dipped into the pond and took his bath. When he came out, he was bestowed with the Darshan of Sasthaaa, as a small child. The Lord blessed the Barahman that he would beget a child in his next birth as King of Pandalam and He, the Lord Himself, would be born as his child. To fulfill that boon, Sasthaaa became the foster-son of Pandala King." Agastya Jee said.

Hearing this prelude, the King rejoiced and enjoyed a state of bliss. He was in tears of ecstasy on seeing his foster-son as the Lord in his cosmic form, yet, he could not help hiding his doubts on two points. With shyness and hesitation, the King reverentially sought clarifications from the Lord on the following two aspects. Narrating the entire episode, Sasthaa informed the King of Pandalam that he was none other than the King of Nepal and the father of Pushkalaa. The Lord served him for twelve years.

Aashyam Komalaa Vishaal tanam Vichitram,  Vyaasopansam Anioltthar Dhaam Hatam
Uttung Ratham kundam Kutil Drakesham,  Sasthaaar Vishtaa Varadam Sharanam Pravartye

Are there two Sasthaa - one worshipped at Sabaree Maalaa and the other worshipped at Nooraanee, Palakkad?
--Sabarimaalaa Lord Ayyappan or Dharm Sasthaa is a Brahmachaaree in a state of eternal bliss or Samaadhi.
--Nooraanee Sasthaa is mentioned with Poornaa and Pushkalaa meaning he has two wives. Poornaa and Pushkalaa - Shree Hari-Har Putra Swaamee is revered by all the community members from within the district.

Historical Legend About Ayyappan
Successors of Pandalam dynasty, Poonjar Palace and some other living generation add credence to this story. Some monuments, historical places of interest, folk songs in Malayalam put together vouch for this story. Ayyappan was a human being like us, whose living period dates back to 1125 to 1150 AD in Kerala

Legend of Udayanan
Anarchy prevailed in those days in Kerala. People around Pandalam lived in perpetual fear of attack by Udayanan and his gangsters, who were dacoits and murderers, who committed. They plundered the Sabari Maalaa Temple, destroyed it and broke the idol of Dharm Sasthaa. They also murdered the priest so that it would not be possible to conduct Poojaa there. Jayanthan, the son of the priest, distressed by the gruesome murder of his father, decided to take revenge by killing Udayanan and his band, and to rebuild and consecrate Sasthaa Temple at Sabari Hills. Later, he joined Udayanan camp and became his close and confidential accomplice.

Udayanan wanted to marry the Pandalam Princess but in vain. Therefore, Udayanan launched an attack on the kingdom and in the process abducted the Princess of Pandalam. He handed over the Princess to Jayanthan for safe custody but Jayanthan and the Princess escaped to Ponnanbalamedu. They lived together as husband and wife and begot a child -Ayyappan, as blessed by Sasthaa. Jayanthan educated and trained Ayyappan in all fields of religion, science and military art. Ayyappan became extra ordinarily brave and intelligent. At an appropriate time, Ayyappan joined the Pandalam king with a secret message from his father. The king gave Ayyappan full powers to rule the country.

To destroy Udayanan and his gang, Ayyappan prepared an Army and proceeded towards his hideouts. On the way, he had faced a trial of his strength with Vavar, a Sea Pirate from Arab. He conquered him and made him his friend.

Udayanan wanted to marry a girl born to a Kalaree exponent Cheramoopan. However, but the girl was dreaming to marry Ayyappan, so she refused to oblige Udayanan. Enraged by this, Udayanan conspired with a group of Chieftains to eliminate Ayyappan. He abducted Cheramoopan's girl and killed her. Ayyappan, with his army, marched through the forests, annihilated Udayanan's army. Finally, Udayanan was killed at Karimaalaa and Ayyappan's mission to kill Udayanan, ended successfully. After this, they proceeded to Sabaree Maalaa Sasthaa Temple, where Ayyappan's father Jayanthan and others were ready to install a fresh idol of Sasthaa.

At the time of Consecration of the idol, Ayyappan stood in silence and meditation. Amidst sounds of Sharanam, Ayyappan transformed himself into a stroke of lightning and got absorbed in the idol of Dharm Sasthaa, which is symbolically now being shown as Makar Jyoti from Ponnambalamedu, where Ayyappan was born. Thus, Ayyappan, the incarnation of Sasthaa was re-united with the original deity at Sabaree Maalaa.

To mark this event, it is presumed that Makar Jyoti is being symbolically shown from Ponnambalamedu, where Swamy Ayyappan was born. There is a shrine for Vavar (Arab pirate) also at Sabaree Maalaa to the right of first steps while climbing. A Muslim offers Prasaad there. This includes pepper, it means that Vavar arrival here with spices.

Ayyappan's two wives represent two paths (Maarg) to reach him. Poornaa represents Bhakti Maarg and Pushkalaa represents  Gyaan Maarg. Shree Dharm Sasthaa at Sabaree Hills is Nir-Gun Brahm and exists in undisturbed deep meditation. For getting boons for fulfilling our mundane wants, he has to be worshipped as Sa-Gun Brahm with qualities. As Sa-Gun Brahm, he is adorned with his Shakti.

Hari-Har Putra, the very implication of the name expresses that he is born of two Shiv and Vishnu. Hence, if the Lord has to function, he must be adorned with the Shakti aspects of Shiva and Vishnu, so Durgaa took the form of Pushkalaa and Lakshmee transformed herself as Poornaa. With the communion of the two Shakti, the aspects of Vishnu and Shiv undertake the protection of good and destruction of evils - the duties enjoined on them.

Kanthmaalai is Related to Sasthaa?
Dharm Sasthaa (see 8 Incarnations of Sasthaa) is a divine incarnate, born of Shiv and Vishnu, to slain demoness Mahishee. He is said to have his abode at Kanthmaalai, with His two consorts – Poornaa and Pushkalaa.

In various Puraan like Skand Puraan, Brahmaand Puraan, Lalitopaakhyaan etc, it is said that Hari-Har Putra was born to Shiv and Mohinee (Vishnu) after Palazhi Madanam, which dates back to Krit Yug. Skand Puraan says that Sasthaa with his two consorts appeared before Indra and Indraanee to protect them. (This happened even before the Avataar of Murugan). References of Sasthaa appear in various Puraan and Upa-Puraan spreading over the other three Yug also, including Raamaayan and Mahaabhaarat. In Kali Yug, Sasthaa descended on the Earth as Manikanth. Why? We may refer here the Avataar of Vishnu – as Parashuraam, he was a Brahmachaaree; as Raam, he was Ek-Patnee, as Krishn, he did Raas Leelaa with Gopikaa. Similarly, one of the facets of Sasthaa took to Brahmacharya as Ayyappan. A distinct line should be drawn between Sasthaa and Manikanth.

Marriage to Poornaa and Pushkalaa
Who were Poornaa and Pushkalaa and how are they related to Ayyappaa incarnation? Pushkalaa is supposed to be the daughter of Palinjaa Varman, who ruled over Nepaal. Poornaa is supposed to be the daughter of a king called Pinchak Varman who was supposed to have ruled over the Cocheen kingdom of Kerala. It Seems that Palinjaa Varman of Nepaal wanted to sacrifice his daughter Pushkalaa in search of immortality for himself. When Pushkalaa prayed to Lord Shiv to protect her. It is believed that he sent Lord Sasthaa to protect her. Lord Sasthaa saved her and also made king Palinj Varman leave out his ideas of getting immortality by sacrificing his daughter. The king requested Sasthaa to marry his daughter Pushkalaa which he accepted and he married her.

Afterwards the king Pinchak Varman of Cocheen. who went for hunting in the forest, was attacked by devils and ghosts. It seems that he prayed to Lord Sasthaa. Lord Sasthaa came and drove away the ghosts and devils. To show his gratitude the king Pinchak Varman also offered his daughter Poornaa to Lord Sasthaa, who married her also.

When king Palinj Varman knew about another marriage of Sasthaa, it is believed that, he cursed Lord Sasthaa, that he would be born as a human being in his next incarnation and would live as a Brahmachaaree.
According to Brahmaand Puraan, Poornaa was the sister of Upendra (Vaaman Avataar of Vishnu) and got married to Lord Sasthaa on Chitraa Poornaami day. 

There is also a story that Poornaa was the daughter of a king of Kaancheepuram called Shivapaal and it is believed that Lord Sasthaa got married to her in Kaancheepuram Temple. There is a temple for Lord Sasthaa along with Poornaa and Pushkalaa in Kaancheepuram too.

In Aryankav, Kerala, it is believed that a group of Sauraashtra weavers settled in Madurai, Tamil Naadu, were passing through the temple and at that time a girl with them called Pushkalaa (some say Prabhaavatee) attained maturity. They entrusted the girl to the priest of Aryankav and went to do their trade. By the time they came back, they found that the girl had got married to Sasthaa in that place. In memory of this event, even today the people of Sauraashtra community visits the Aryankav temple and celebrate the marriage of their girl to Lord Sasthaa, following Sauraashtra customs.

In Shankar Sanhitaa it has been told that Poornaa and Pushkalaa were born from two eyes of a great sage called Styapoornaa and they both did penance and got married to Lord Sasthaa.

Why Sasthaa Married Poornaa?
Although it may seem as a gross injustice committed by the Lord on Pushkalaa and her father., but it is not so. The ways of the Lord are, inscrutable. The significance of Poornaa and Pushkalaa wedding to Sasthaa is beyond one's perception and is rich in values and standards. It cannot be taken on par with the mean action of a common man driven by lust and passion. What transpired was only a drama.

The Lord wanted a reasoning to incarnate onto the Earth to serve a mortal, and hence this drama of marriage, curse and all that. In essence, Sasthaa wanted to fulfill the other condition of boon obtained by Mahishee to slain her after serving a mortal for 12 years. So Sasthaa accepted the curse as a boon and told the King: "As per my purpose of birth, I can annihilate the demoness Mahishee only alter my serving to a mortal for twelve years as a bachelor. Your curse has come as boon for me. Let you be born as King of Pandalam when I will take the human form as your child and serve you to heal your wounds."

How Mahishee was Killed?
We have already read about Abhishek Teerth coming from Kanthmalai Sasthaaa Temple. What is the legend behind Sasthaaa at Kanthamalai?
Mahishee's oppression became so intolerable that Devtaa and Rishi descended on Earth and waited on Manikanth, the forest, with a prayer to fulfill the object of his mission. They took him to Kanthmaalai (his abode), performed his Abhishek and propitiated him with hymns and prayers. Overwhelmed with their prayers, Sasthaa, entered the Dev Lok on an auspicious Full Moon day with the shining Uttar star on the ascendant, during the month of Phaalgun (Meen Raashi) - Vasant Ritu, to slay the demoness Mahishee.

Sabaree Maalaa Temple
Dharm Sasthaa himself had designed the shrine of Sabaree Maalaa; selected the spot for the shrine; installed by Parashuraam; and Agastya Rishi initiated the Poojas there. The Hill was named after the great Tapaswinee Sabaree of Raamaayan fame. The sanctity of the Sabaree Hill would be same as Vaaraanasee and the nearby Pampaa River would equal another Ganges in sanctity. Those who climb the Holy 18 steps with Irumudee on their heads are blessed with immortality and raised to the State of Nirvaan.

Sasthaa Temples
Arayankav Temple of Kerala, it is believed that he married Pushkalaa Devee (some say Prabhaavatee) of the Saurashtrian community and he is consecrated with his wives Poornaa and Pushkalaa in Achal Kovil Temple of Kerala. Legend says that the temples of Achan Kovil and Aryankav were consecrated by Lord Parashuraam himself much before the incarnation of Lord Sasthaa as Ayyappaa.



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Created by Sushma Gupta On 5/27/04
Modified on 06/02/13