The Myth of Lord Ayyappa

24/10/2011 The Myth

The Story of Mahishasura

The myth teaches us that the people who live in Heaven are believed to be “Devas” and the people in hell (the world beneath or pathala) are “Asuras”. Devas are divine personalities while the Asuras are demons. Let me take you to those ages. “Ramba” and “Karamba” were the sons of “Dhanu”. Once both Ramba and Karamba undertook severe penance. Karamba had immersed himself up to neck-deep in water and Ramba in blazing fire to propitiate Lord Agni (the Lord of Fire). “Devendra”, the king of Devas has foreseen the danger to his throne. He assumed the form of a crocodile, and killed Karamba while in deep meditation. Ramba after realizing his brother’s fate got frightened and prepared to commit suicide. Lord Agni couldn’t stand by at this juncture as one of his most devout disciples was preparing to commit suicide because of what Devendra had done to Karamba. Therefore, Lord Agni appeared before Ramba and asked him what boon he wanted. Ramba requested for a son who would not be killed by Devas, Asuras or men. The boon was granted.

On his way back home, Ramba met a beautiful female buffalo. One should also remember that all Asuras were believed to have buffalo head. The male buffalo (male Asura) is called “Mahishan” and the female buffalo (female Asura) is called “Mahishi”. He fell in love with her at first sight and decided to take her home. They had to halt a night in a jungle during their trip back home. At midnight while Mahishan (Ramba) was making love with the Mahishi, another wild male buffalo got intervened and killed Ramba. The grief-stricken she-buffalo also gave up her life by jumping into the funeral fire of Ramba. It is a fact in the myth that once a boon is given, under any circumstances the boon has to materialize. Therefore a baby boy is born from the funeral fire of Ramba and the she-buffalo. The boy is later named as “Mahishasura”.

The Story of Enchanting “Mohini”

Mahishasura is brought up by Ramba’s relatives who trained him to be their king. Mahishasura was always looking for more power. He worshipped Lord Brahma and performed severe penance for a boon. The Lord is pleased and appeared before him. Mahishasura obtained a boon from Lord Brahma by which no men could kill him. After receiving the boon, Mahishasura began expanding his kingdom. Finally he entered the heaven and conquered Devendra. All Devas were then exiled from heaven. Devas approached the male Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, and pleaded for help. The male Trinity decided to consult the female Trinity of Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi. They decided to create a female character by name Durga who would possess the combined power of Devas and the combined beauty of the female Trinity. Durga provoked Mahishasura by her laughter to wage war with her. Mahishasura accepted the challenge and a fierce battle ensued in which Durga killed Mahishasura and his followers. The battle and Mahishasura’s murder are ritually performed in Kerala as “Mahishasura Vadham” even nowadays.

“Leela”, Mahishasura’s cousin decided to take revenge on Devas after realizing the horrible death of her cousin. The Mahishi also undertook severe penance and propitiated Lord Brahma and received a boon to the effect that she would attain her end only by a baby who could born from “Hari” (Vishnu) and “Hara” (Siva), two male characters. If such a baby is born, prior to possessing the power to kill her, the offspring must have served in a royal family for a minimum period of twelve years in an earthly kingdom. As part of her strategy, she attempted to provoke Devendra, the king of Devas. However, Devendra realized the danger up-front and approached Lord Vishnu for a solution. Lords Vishnu and Brahma created Datta, a male Asura to divert the attention of Leela from Devendra. Though the trick worked out temporarily, Devas decided to seek a permanent solution. But how could she be killed? The question could not be answered by anyone for a while.

Finally Lord Siva came to their rescue. As part of the solution, Devas invited Asuras to churn the ocean of milk called “Paalazhi” to recover “Amrutha” or nectar, imbibing of which would make one immortal. They chose the “Manthara” mountain as the churning stick and Vasuki, Lord Siva’s snake (Lord Vishnu used to sit as well as sleep on a similar mythologically significant snake called Ananda) as the churning rope. During churning, first came the worst poison, “Kalakootha”. Lord Siva, realising that the poison could destroy the whole world, tried to swallow it himself. Parvathi, his wife, in order to save her husband’s life, squeezed his neck to prevent the poison from going further down inside his body. The dark blue poison got stuck in his throat. Hence Lord Siva came to be called by another name “Neelakantan” (blue necked).

Then came the nectar. However, a quarrel broke out between Devas and Asuras in sharing the nectar. Devas could not afford to have all Asuras becoming immortal. Therefore Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a beautiful maiden woman called “Mohini” to entice the Asuras away from the nectar. That was how Mohini originated in the myth. Mohini successfully distracted the Asuras and led them away from the beach while Devas, without wasting any time. flew away to heaven with the whole of “Amritha”.

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