A Glimpse of History (Continuing) ( 10 )

18/12/2011 History of Lord Ayyappa

The first phase of the mission of Ayyappa was thus over, that is, the liberation of a great centre of spiritual power from the demoniac forces. Spiritual Power, in fact, does not need human help for its liberation. For, it is always free and is the source of everything including man. But when its great centres of expression that subtly help man to realize his greater potentials get dimmed because of the evil in man, they have to be revived to their pristine glory to benefit man again, and this was what Ayyappa did by liberating the temple from Udayanan. For this purpose, physical force reinforced by spiritual power, was used. Conquest of the evil tendencies of a physical nature has thus to be effected by employing the positive and creative strength of physical power itself, guided by Divine Consciousness. This is what several Avathaara-s, the Divine incarnations do.

The conquest of negative physical and mental trends is intended to reinforce the individual and society for realizing the higher spiritual potentials. Now Ayyappa decided to give training to his followers to intensify the spiritual orientation that has been given during the period of the war of liberation, because spiritual evolution was the way to human freedom.

To celebrate the conquest of evil, a sumptuous feast was arranged on the banks of river Pampa and oil lamps were set afloat in the river symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness. This illumination called Pampa Vilakku is conducted even today as an important ritual connected with the pilgrimage.

Ayyappa and the soldiers now climbed the mountain Neelimala and proceeded to the holy shrine of Dharma Sastha in Sabarimala. On the way they left all their weapons under a banyan tree, for, arms were no more relevant in the further striving to reach the spiritual dimensions within. They reached the holy shrine located on a hillock in the centre of a vast open space surrounded by the mighty peaks of the Sahya ranges. Hearing about the triumph over Udayanan many people including the kings of Pandalam and the Paandya kingdom had also reached there.

The whole atmosphere was charged with intense piety. It was going to be a historic moment, the great resurgence of a powerful centre of spirituality. The auspicious occasion for the consecration of the new idol of Dharma Sasthaarrived and there appeared a great Yogi at that time. He was none other than the priest”s (who was killed by Udayanan) son, who was the father of Ayyappa. The Yogi consecrated the new idol of Dharma Sastha on the pedestal. Then, as all the assembled were standing there with folded hands immersed in intense devotion, a flash of light emerged from Ayyappa’s body and merged into the idol. And Ayyappa disappeared. Ayyappa became one with Dharma Shaastha, merging with the Advaithic oneness of Thaaraka Brahman. Therefore the devotees make no distinction between Dharma Sasthaand Ayyappa.

In such instances, mythology and history have a subservient place and they are relevant only to that extent of serving to convey the deep spiritual message involved. It is futile to assess the message itself in terms of mythology or history, as the message points to facts that transcend both. The great sages discovered that spiritual power is the very basis of the universe. Man stands at such an evolutionary stage that he can with his conscious effort activate this power to realize his greater potentials for spiritual expansion and freedom. The divine personalities like Ayyappa showed us the way for self-evolution through scientific methods of spiritual cultivation. They established and reinforced centres of spiritual power to serve mankind as beacon lights in his evolutionary advancement. Special spiritual disciplines were prescribed for that purpose which are followed even today in the Sabarimala pilgrimage. It is such guidance and power that draw millions to holy places like Sabarimala. And the all-encompassing spiritual power is further activated by the devotion of millions. Trying to gauge the mystery and power of such places with our yardstick of history and limited reasoning is like trying to empty the ocean with a napkin.

However, there has been much debate and discussion on the possible origin and blending of Dharma Sasthaand Ayyappa concepts. There is a view that Ayyappa is an altered Buddha. According to this view, after the decline of Buddhism in Kerala, Buddha idols were worshipped as Dharma Sasthaand later as Ayyappa. This view is based on the fact that Sasthais one of the synonyms of Buddha, and the word Saranam, a usual Buddhist expression, is found in the popular invocatory devotional slogan related to Sri Ayyappa worship: “Swamiye saranam Ayyappa” – O Lord Ayyappa you are our refuge.

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