F A Q's

Q-1: Ayyappa being a brahmachari (bachelor), why are you drawing ayyappan kalam along with his wife and son?

A: Ayyappa is not a brahmachari. It is true that the famous Sabarimala Ayyappa being a brahmachari, it is a deep-rooted belief that Ayyappa is a bachelor. At the same time, in the three famous temples connected with Sabarimala viz. Aryankavu, Achankovil and Kulathoopuzha, Ayyappa is worshiped in different bhavas of child, married and aged respectively.

Though the god is one and same, we worship Him in different names and as different deities as per moorthy bhava. We can see in so many temples even the same deity is worshipped in different forms at different times. In the same way, though the moorthy is one and same, sangalpa/bhava may defer from deity to deity.

In hundreds of temples like famous Thiruvullakkavu (Thrissur Dt.), Chammravattam (Malappuram Dt.), Thrikkunnappuzha and Thakazhi (Alleppey Dt.), Ayyappa/Sastha is worshipped as grihastha (married), with wife Prabha and son Sathyaka. In so many temples, two small siva-linga type stones can be seen both sides of Ayyappa. They are nobody else but the wife Prabha and the son Satyaka. In Thanthra Samuchhayam, considered to be the basic text (Agama sasthra) followed in Kerala temples, Sastha/Ayyappa is portrayed as grihastha with the dyaanaslokam: "snigdhaaraala visaari kuntalabharam…….Prabha Sathyakasppaayad parswayugam suraktha sakalaakalpam smared Aryakam".

AApart from the above, Ayyappa is believed to have two consorts viz. Poorna and Pushkala, the belief which is more prevalent in Tamil Nadu.

Q-2. Ayyappa being pulivahana,why are you drawing kalam as aswavahana?

A. That is a usual question being asked whenever aswavahana kalam is drawn. It is as per the legendary story of Sabarimala that Ayyappa came to Pandalam Palace sitting on a tigress along with a herd of tigers to have milk as desired by rani of Pandalam. That story is of Sabarimala alone. It does not necessarily imply to other temples making generally Ayyappa as pulivahana. Each temple may have its own story and legend.

Ayyappa/Sastha is aswavahana. In any Ayyappa temple, for all pooja purpose, vahanam is reckoned as horse and not tiger. In the famous slokam of Sankaracharya "aaroodhaproudha vegam pravachita pavanam tunga tungam turangam….."Ayyappa is portrayed as aswavahana. In other dhyana slokams like "aswavahana aaroodham ......harihardmaja", Ayyappa as depicted as aswavahana. No dhyaanaslogam can be traced out illustrating Ayyappa as pulivahana. In dwaja stampams, respective vahana of the deity is put atop. In no Ayyappa temples, tiger can be seen at the top of a dwaja stampam. It will be, no doubt, of horse. And also, in old mural painting, Ayyappa can be seen as aswavahana and not as pulivahana.

As per another version, elephant was the vahanam of Ayyappa. The bhajan song 'madagajavaahana mahaamate Harihara soono namastute', which is familiar for Malayalees, points to that line. As per the background story of thiyyattu, ("…..bibhranam karapankajairmadagajaskkandhadhi roodham vibhum…."), Ayyappa made Ganapathy as his vahana without knowing who is he and what relationship he has with him). Later, he came to know that Ganapathy is his elder brother and hence changed his vahana as horse, giving seat to Ganapathi at his right side.

Q-3. Is Ayyappa, Sastha himself or an incarnation (avatharam)?

A. There is an argument that Ayyappa is the kaliyuga avatharam of Sastha. Ayyappa was said to be born and brought up as the son of Pandalam king and as such, Ayyappa is the incarnation of Sastha who was born in the krita yuga. Being an age old belief, one cannot say the argument is incorrect or vice-versa. Even then, another version can also be analysed.

While taking list of the Ayyappa temples keeping a cut off line at Thrissur, one can very easily find that the deities of famous temples towards north of Trichur like Mulankunnathukavu, Cherpulassery, Mundamuka, Chammravattam, Chammrakulangara, Chendamangalam, Malamakkavu, Kulappurathukavu, etc. are known as Ayyappa. In the same way towards south, deities of Arattupuzha, Thiruvallakkavu, Chathakkudam, Thakazhi, Thrikkunnapuzha, Achankovil, Kulathupuzha, Aryankavu, etc., are generally known as Sasthas. Exception may be there. Is there any difference between Mulankunnathukavu, Chammravattam, Cherpulassery Ayyappans from Thiruvullakkavu, Arattupuzha, Thakazhi, Thrikkunnappuzha Sasthas? No. Is there any connection to these Ayyappas and Sasthas with Sabarimala story. No. Sastha, Aryan, Aryakan are generally the Sanskritised names of this Kerala god and Ayyappan, Ayyan, Appan are his Dravidian names as in the cases of Kannan for Krishna and Andavan for Subrahmanya. While Dravidian names are generally used towards north of Thrissur, Sankritised names are used towards south. These are the synonyms of the Kerala god and one can see no difference between Ayyappan and Sastha in bhava/sankalppa.

Q-4. Are Ayyappa and Vettekkara one and same?

A. No. Ayyappa is Hari-Hara puthra and Vettekkara (Vettakkorumakan), Siva-Parvathi puthra. Ayyappa was born in krita yuga out of the divine union of Siva and Vishumohini and Vettekkara was born in dwapara yuga out of the divine union of Siva-Parvathi who appeared incognito as hunter (kiratha) before Arjuna for giving paasupathasthram. While Ayyappa is considered as sathwikamoorthy, Vettekkara is roudra moorthy. Though both are archers and always bearing bow and arrows, Ayyappa's most important weapon is kaduthila and Vettekkara's - churika.

Ayyappa and Vettekkara are in one way brothers born to Siva in Vishumohini and Parvathi respectively in two yukas i.e. krutha and dwapara. As per one of the main dhyaanaslogam, Vettekkara is illustrated to be the son of Siva-Parvathy in disguise of hunter. In another dhyaanaslokam, Vettekkara is portrayed as Hunter god Siva himself.

Ayyappa and Vettekkara are war gods of Kerala. Of them, worship of Vettekkara is limited to Kerala alone. Ayyappa is worshipped in Kerala and Taml Nadu alike and to an extent, the whole of South India.

Q-5: What is the distinguishing feature of kalamezhuthu from mural painting?

A. Though both are sister idioms, kalamezhuthu is in the stylised form viz. bhoothavadivu while mural painting is in the realistic form viz. chitravadivu.

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