Sabarimala: Temple Legend
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Lord Ayyappa is the presiding deity of
Sabarimala temple. There are many popular stories associated with Him among
the devotees. The stories differ, but there are certain common elements:
According to legend, the King of Pandalam found a baby lying in the banks of
river pampa. As the King had no heir to succeed, the child was considered as
a god-given gift and was thus named Ayyappa. So the baby was brought up as a
prince. One of the major events associated with the Makaravilakku festival
is the procession of the Thiruvabharam (holy ornaments) of Lord Ayyappa from
the Sastha temple at Pandalam.
Ayyappa lived in the Pandalam Palace as the son / savior of the King.He had
super-human or divine knowledge, wisdom, and courage and loved the King and
his people.He protected the King and the kingdom from the attacks of
enemies.At the end of His life in Pandalam, He vanished into the forests and
is ever since worshiped at the Sabarimala temple.
The most popular and widely accepted story tells that Lord Ayyappa had His
human sojourn as the son of the Raja 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, and was surprised to find a resplendent infant there.
The beautiful baby with radiant face wore a bead ('mani') around his neck.
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 grew into a boy well versed in academic
lore and martial arts. 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 a deep dislike for Manikantan, and
made the innocent Queen believe that ill would befall her if Manikantan was
crowned Yuvaraja and that the kingdom actually belonged to her son.
They conspired 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 tigress as the only cure. The King 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
Days later, Manikantan entered the palace precincts riding a fierce tigress
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 happiness, grief, fear, wonder and 'bhakthi' (devotion to God)
and self-surrender, the king prayed 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 only his son. 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 saviour 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'. To
the King who is by now mentally cleansed and completely immersed in 'bhakthi',
Lord Ayyappa said: "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
The 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
There are various tales connected with Lord Ayyappa: the 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 Vavar, bringing the tigress's milk,
accomplishing His divinely destined mission of annihilation of the demoness
Mahishi, eliminating the forest-thug Udayanan, bestowing moksha on Sabari,
blessing His foster-father with moksha and so on. Legend also goes to say
that Manikantan was the incarnation of Lord Dharma Sastha. 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.
( Courtesy: Wikkipedia)