The Speciality of the Puraana-s
Unlike the Upanishad-s, which contain deep and direct inquiries into the Supreme Truth, Brahman, the Puraana-s are repositories of scintillating stories, often highly incredible, some appearing even absurd, yet most of them presenting, camouflaged in story forms, different shades of the psychological and spiritual aspects of man. The various Gods, who represent the diverse aspects of Reality, are brought down to the earthy human levels, showing several human frailties and problems, yet remarkably expressing the transcendental. While the reader is aborbed in the much fascinating story element, in that very mood his mind is lifted and brought in contact with the sublime and the spiritual, the stories spontaneously taking flights to perch on high philosophical peaks.
The composers of the Puraana-s who had profound insights into human nature, were aware that the refinement of human mind could only be gradual. A technique of discriminative imagination is effectively employed to bring the conditioned human mind in touch with the life-transforming spiritual values. This equips one for higher contemplation. Some of the stories, which would appear as mere hyperbolic imagination, have profound inner meaning, which will be revealed to the seeker.
The Puraanic approach can be compared to that of the surrealistic style in painting. They disturb us, nourish our faculties of imagination, help us break the patterns of routine thought and give us solace, reassurance and joy by pointing out the higher potentials of life. They have often utter disregard for the time and space factors. Birds, animals and men can be seen freely engaging in serious discussions on the mysteries of existence.
The Puraana-s are like vast oceans that hold invaluable gems and a lot of worthless dross too, and the same is characteristic of the human mind also, With a masterly technique, the Puraana-s bring these two contrasting characteristics of our mind to our awareness. They are repositories of traditional sciences, high philosophical knowledge and devotional hymns potent with immense spiritual power. We should bear in mind that the puraana-s were written in a period when the major section of the people masses did not have the facilities for education --as we have today. Only a few engaged themselves in intensive studies, while the commoners were literate enough to read the Puraana-s or listen to them with rapt attention. This enabled them to imbibe the spiritual values.
Today the scene is different. While the Puraanic stories and the symbolic forms of Gods have been inspiring generations of common people to awaken the spiritual values latent in them, in our times, because of the dearth of research efforts for an updated reassessment, we do not get a proper perspective of their deeper import. They have become a subject of ridicule for people, especially for those who are trained in a West-oriented education. Although the Puraana-s are still read and enjoyed as masterpieces of imagination and story telling, if we probe into their profundities they would oft'er scope for updated and renewed understanding, which will be in tune with the intellectual trends of every age. Such a reassessment of the Puraana-s would give the modern man a greater insight into life.
The Bhoothanaathopaakhyaanam, the Puraana on Dharma Shaastha
The Bhoothanaathopaakhyaanam is the main Puraana related to Dharma Shaastha or Ayyappa. Dharma Saastha is also known as Bhoothanaatha, because from Him -the Supreme Reality - evolved the Pancha- bhootha-s, the five elements, or the five phases of evolution from the subtlest to the grossest, as Aakaasa (the physical space), Vaayu (the gaseous stage), Aghni (the fiery stage, or the stage of chemical combination), Apa (the stage of liquidity) and Prithvi (the stage of solidity).
In this Puraana also there is a mixing of mythology and history regardless of the time factor. But the message is what matters. Let us have a glimpse of the salient points the Puraana tells us about the Dharma Saastha concept.
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are described in the Puraana-s as the three major divine aspects of Reality associated with creation, maintenance and dissolution of the universe. These Divinities, granting the prayer of a Rishi-couple Athri and Anasooya, took a partial manifestation as their son, Datta. The consorts of the Divinities also thereupon took a partial manifestation as Leila, the daughter of another great Rishi. Datta eventually married Leela and after living a few years of conjugal love, he wanted to renounce the worldly life and engage in spiritual disciplines to transcend his conditioned being \and to be one with his greater existence.
But Leela would not agree to this. She wanted to continue the life of mundane pleasures in the company of Datta, who tried to convince her that one can never find lasting contentment in a lustful life, But Leela was adamant. An enraged Datta cursed her to be born as a Mahishi, a senseless she-buffalo. In turn she also cursed him to take birth eventually as a buffalo to satisfy her desires, In course of time, Leela took birth as a bizarre creature with the head of a she-buffalo and the body of a woman as the daughter of an Asura (a demon). She was very powerful because of her divine origin, but very dull-witted because of her buffalo nature, She did intense penance and propitiated Lord Brahma, who granted the ,boons she desired for, such as that powerful creatures very much like herself would emerge out of all her hair follicles whenever she wanted and that she could not be killed except by one who was born out of a union of Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva, which was thought to be an impossibility. '
Having obtained this boon, she struck terror in the heavens, the abode of Deva-s (godly beings) and drove them and their king Indra away. She placed herself on the throne of Indra as the ruler of the heavens. The oppressed Deva-s prayed to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for their intervention. Thereupon, Datta, who had emerged out of the combined power of the Trinities as their partial manifestation, now assumed, as the result of an earlier curse of Leela, the form of a handsome buffalo, the Sundara Mahisha. Consequently Mahishi fell in love with Mahisha., They lived together for some time in the heavens and then Sundara Mahisha lured her away down to the earth to live in the forests. This gave some relief to the oppressed Deva-s.
It was during this period, Sage Durvaasa, who was well- known for his impulsive and vitriolic temper, cursed Indra and the Deva-s, who had enjoyed perennial youthfulness, to be subjected to old age, as Indra had offended the sage by not showing due respect to a garland presented to him by the sage. Their heads turned grey and wrinkles appeared allover their bodies. The panacea suggested for regaining youth was the drinking of a special nectar Amritha to [.1be obtained by the churning of the Ocean of Milk (Ksheera-saagara). The Deva-s prevailed upon their arch enemies the Asura-s (demoniac forces) for help to perform the herculean task of churning the milky ocean using a huge mountain as the churning rod. Several novel and astonishing things emerged from the ocean when the churning progressed and in the end when a pot with the precious nectar, Amritha surfaced, it was quickly snatched away by the Asura-s.
Seeing the plight of the Deva-s, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a beautiful enchantress called Mohini and approached the Asura-s. Everyone of them got infatuated with her. She asked them to close their eyes, agreeing to marry the one who would open the eyes last. While the Asura-s thus remained closing their eyes, Mohini left the scene carrying away the pot of Amritha, which she handed over to the Deva-s. On seeing the enchanting form of Mohini, Lord Siva himself fell in love with her and from their union a son was born to Mohini. This was Dharma Shaastha, who was destined to kill Mahishi, according to the boon given to her by Lord Brahma that only the one born from the union of Siva and Vishnu could kill her.
In several Puraana-s the story of the churning of the Ocean of Milk finds a place. But only in the Bhaagavatha and the Skanda Puraana-s there is a reference to a son, who was born out of a union between Shiva and Vishnu. Skanda Puraana gives the name of the son as Saastha. The story of Shaastha is elaborated further in the Bhoothanathopaakhyaanam.
According to this Puraana the child thus born to Shiva and Vishnu was destined to kill Mahishi and he was placed by the Deva- s on earth on the banks of the river Pampa, where Mahishi was living along with Sundara Mahisha. During this time, Raajasekhara, the king of a small kingdom Pandalam (in south Kerala), was engaging himself in a hunting expedition. When he was moving along the \banks of the river Pampa, he saw a crying child in a secluded spot.
He took the child to his palace and brought him up as his foster son. The child was named 'Ayyappan'. ( We refer the name as 'Ayyappa' since this form is more popular in English writing).
The Annihilation of the Time Factor
As usual with the Puraanic approach, here also scant attention is given to the time factor. As mentioned earlier, the Puraana- s can be compared to a surrealistic painting which has a subtle message to the human mind rather than conveying any factual information. Also, the Puraana-s deal with spiritual facts that transcend time and space. By placing the child born to Shiva and Vishnu on the banks of Pampa, to be discovered by the king of Pandalam, the Puraana simply annihilates the time span between the unknown mythological past and the 10th century A.D. when the kingdom of Pandalam is supposed to have come into existence! Mythology here gets blended with history. The child, who was named Ayyappan, grew up in the palace under the affectionate care of king Raajasekhara, who had no son of his own. The boy proved himself to be a genius and mastered the Veda-s and the martial sciences quickly. His spiritual power was expressed when he miraculously cured his Guru s son who was born blind, deaf and dumb. The childless king was happy that he could find a worthy heir to his throne. Then, an unexpected turn occurred. The queen became pregnant and delivered a son.
The prime minister of Pandalam disliked the idea of the king installing Ayyappa as the heir to the kingdom. For, he considered the boy to be an orphan and also a potent threat to his authority. He tried several ways to do away with Ayyappa, but failed. At last he instigated the queen to feign a severe illness and the royal physician to prescribe that the only remedy was a certain medicine to be taken along with the milk of a leopard. The brave youth Ayyappa volunteered to go to the forests to fetch the leopard's milk. The minister was certain that the helpless boy would never return and would be killed by the beasts.
During this period, Mahishi was living in the forests forgetting everything else, engaging herself in a lustful life along with Sundara Mahisha. Meanwhile, being deceived by Vishnu in the form of Mohini, the Asura-s were aghast and depressed. They rushed to Mahishi and implored her for help. They told her how she herself was enticed from the heavens by Sundara Mahisha, who was a creation of the three Divinities for that purpose. Meanwhile, Sundara Mahisha disappeared and rejoined the three Divinities. Realizing her folly, Mahishi became terribly furious and rushed to the heavens with thou~ands of creatures like herself who emerged from her hair follicles. They devastated the kingdom of Indra.
It was then the boy Ayyappa reached the forests to fetch leopard's milk tor the queen. The Deva-s came down and took refuge at the feet of Ayyappa, because being the son of Shiva and Vishnu, he alone could destroy the terrible Mahishi. Ayyappa accompanied them to the heavens. He caught hold of Mahishi by her horns, lifted her and hurled her downwards. She fell near the river, Azhutha. Lying there incapacitated, and having had the divine touch of Ayyappa, she immediately recollected her original divine nature and sang in praise of him. As the compassionate glance of Ayyappa fell on her, there emerged out of her bizarre body an extremely beautiful Goddess, now worshipped as Goddess Malikappurathamma in Sabarimala.
Thereafter, Ayyappa returned to the kingdom of Pandalam, riding a huge leopard and accompanied by a host of ferocious beasts. The people were flabbergasted at this incredible sight. The king, the queen and all others realized the divinity of Ayyappa and all of them prostrated before him. Ayyappa imparted to them spiritual wisdom about the meaning and destiny of human life. The king prayed to the Lord to bless them with his everlasting spiritual presence in a temple to be dedicated to him, for showering his Grace to millions for generations to come. That would be especially necessary in the present Iron Age (Kali Yuga) when people would increasingly tend to be self-centred and materialistic, bringing much disharmony to life. The king implored Ayyappa to bless all by assuming himself. the aspect of Kali-yuga-varada, the spiritual power that would protect the people from the evil propensities of the Iron Age and guide them in their striving for spiritual liberation. Thereupon, the Lord suggested a holy spot and advised the king to construct a temple there. The Lord assured him that the temple would ever be vibrant with his Divine Presence and then He disappeared.
Eventually the king constructed a temple in the 'deep forest of Sabarimala as suggested by the Lord. During the consecration the idol there was the presence of great sages like Agasthya,. Parasurama and others. It was sage Paras-hurama who installed tht idol of Lord Ayyappa seated in the Yogic pose Veeraasanam ani showing the mystic sign of Chinmudra by the right hand.
This is the Puraanic version. As we have already mentioned, the Puraana-s were composed by sages to convey deep spiritual messages enveloped in stories. The Bhoothan-aathopaakhyaanam must have been composed basing on some of the ancient Puraanic themes and connecting them with some historical incidents. This Puraana also contains highly potent hymns and Manthra-s that help spiritual intensification.
Symbolism of the Puraanic Story
Before we examine the historical points of view, separating them from mythology, let us have a brief look into the message of the above-mentioned Puraanic story.
Datta and Leela have a divine origin. Yet, having been born in a conditioned human state they are forgetful of their divinity and immerse themselves too much in the evanescent worldly pleasures and fail to contemplate on the glory of their higher potential and make no effort to realize them. Although at a stage Datta gets satiated for with the mundane life, and wants to inquire about the real nature , himself, Leela pulls him back. This causes a downfall to both of them. In such a state of degradation, a man can be compared to a wild buffalo, which is a dull-witted and impulsive animal, but very powerful and capable of causing considerable destruction. The dullness suppresses man's goodness and higher values, makes him self-centred and oppressive. Yet, the divine potencies within patiently await an occasion to express themselves and liberate man from the thraldom of his senses.
The story of the churning of the Ocean of Milk is a symbolic representation of the inner conflict between man's positive and negative aspects. When he makes a conscious effort to know the nature of this conflict, he will be able to participate them very much as the Deva-s and Asura-s were participated in the churning of the Ocean of Milk to get Amritha, in a creative effort for the evolutionary unfoldment of his potentials. Amritha is knowledge of the Self which is eternal, and the realization of that knowledge makes one immortal and ever youthful. But, if he is not vigilant, the negative aspects would become dominent and the wisdom would be suppressed bythem. Then he would miss to get Amritha, as signified by the Asuras taking it away.
In such a situation one must incessantly keep a prayerful mood to imbibe the Divine Consciousness, as symbolized by the helpless Deva-s praying to Lord Vishnu. And when the constant reflection on the divinity within ripens, like a magical touch of an enchantress, represented by the incident of Lord Vishnu assuming the beautiful form of Mohini, the divine power would become dominant and stupefy -the negative powers and render them helpless. Man is then elevated to Divine Consciousness, which is eternally youthful.
In the Bhoothanaathopaakhyaanam Mahishi is represented as the very leader of the demoniac Asura-s, the divisive negative tendencies of the human mind. She has obtained a boon trom Lord Brahma that only a son born from the union of Shiva and Vishnu would be able to kill her. Eventually, Dharma Shaastha was born. This birth of Dharma Shaastha out of the union of Siva and Vishnu is symbolic of the emergence of the Advaithic awareness in man by the realization that Vishnu, Siva, all other Gods and whatever that exists are essentially one and the same Reality, Brahman. This is the awareness that can destroy the demoniac and divisive dullness Mahishi -that overwhelms the celestial realms within man. Dhafhla Shaasthare-presents this supreme blissful awareness' and therefore He is also known as the 'Thaaraka Brahman' -the Liberating Awareness of the Self .Such awareness brings the ultimate destruction of ignorance, and the conditioned human consciousness embraces its transcendental and unlimited oneness represented by Dharma Shaastha, the Thaaraka Brahman.
The legend tells us that by the divine touch of Ayyappa, there emerges from the body of Mahishi, a beautiful Goddess. This symbolize the fact that everything fundamentally is divine and it is the distraction of the mind that evil and pain. Evil can be transcended by reinforcing the inner goodness and constant reflection on one's Divine Reality. When one thus gets refined through constant struggle, trial and error, fall and elevation, divine intervention inevitably takes place at some stage, bringing about total transformation and spiritual liberation.
A Glimpse of History
Let us now set aside the Puraanic story and have a glimpse into the historical aspect.
Pandalam was a small kingdom between Chengannoor and Adoor in Kerala. The descendants of the dynasty, and the palace are still there. According to some historians the kingdom had its beginning around 904 A.D. when a scion of the declining Paandya kingdom of Madurai in Tamilnadu took refuge in Kerala when attacked by the Chola-s, and established the kingdom of Pandalam.
Connecting the historical links, mainly derived from the, Ayyappan Paattukal, old Malayalam songs on Ayyappa lore, it is said that Rajasekhara, the king of Pandalam, who probably lived around the 12th century A.D. went on a hunting expedition in the deep forests of the Sahya ranges. Hearing the cry of a child, the king went in search and saw in a secluded spot a child, and a Yogi nearby in deep meditation. As the king held the crying child in his hands, the Yogi opened his eyes. He advised the king to take the child to his palace. The childless king was very happy and named his foster son as 'Ayyappan'.
It was a period when a terrible brigand leader called Udayanan, had come with his hordes from the Tamil regions beyond the borders, and dominated the whole fertile region on the Kerala side of the valleys of the Sahya mountain ranges. There used to be flourishing trade between the Tamil region and these places in those days. The temple of Sabarimala where Dharma Shaastha was worshiped from the very ancient past was on the route along which these merchants had travailed. These traders and pilgrims used to frequent the temple for worship, and they bestowed many valuables as their offerings. Udayanan and his hordes plundered this temple and killed the priest. The son of the priest escaped. He wandered amidst the mountainous regions awaiting an opportunity to wreak vengeance upon Udayanan.
Udayanan, in one of his marauding expeditions, reached up to the kingdom of Pandalam. He attacked the palace, plundered it and abducted a princess. While the burglars with their booty were travelling through the mountain routes, the son of the priest and his followers made a lightening attack on them and set the princess free. He eventually married the princess and they settled in an inaccessible forest region near the present Ponnambalamedu, engaging in intense austerities and meditation. They earnestly Prayed to Lord Dharma Saastha for a son who would be able to fight Udayanan, destroy him and liberate Sabarimala temple. Their prayer was answered and the child whom king Rajasekhara took away was the one thus born to them on the auspicious Makara Samkrama day when the Malayalam month of Dhanu gives way to the next month, Makaram (around January 15th). The Yogi whom the king saw, at whose advise he took the child to his palace, was the father.
(It ma.y be noted that in the Puraanic version. Ayyappa is depicted as the son of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. He was placed on the banks of Pampa by the Deva-s and was destined to kill Mahishi. The temple was established at Sabarimala as suggested by him. But, according to the historical view. Ayyappa was the son of the above mentioned Yogi and, as described below. his mission was to liberate the already existing Dharma Saastha temple, of Sabarimala. from the grip of the oppressive tyrant, Udayanan. After the liberation, as the following account reveals, Ayyappa vanishes in front of the Dharma Shaastha idol and thus becomes one with Lord Dharma Saastha).
Ayyappa grew up in the palace. Even in childhood several extraordinary spiritual faculties became manifested in hi)11. The childless king wanted to install him as his heir. However, when the queen delivered a son, the prime minister and the queen conspired to do away with Ayyappa. He was sent unguarded to the forest to fetch leopard's milk to treat a feigned illness of the queen. When he returned riding a leopard, accompanied by a host of terrible beasts, his divinity was confirmed. Realizing it, the king and others prostrated beforehim.
Now Ayyappa set out on his spiritual mission. Though only of fourteen years of age, he proved his mettle both as an accomplished warrior and a born Yogi. According to the old songs called Ayyappan Paattukal, Ayyappa went first to the nearby kingdom of Kaayamkulam and there he defeated Vaavar, described to be a Muslim and a pirate who along with his band used to plunder the sea-faring traders. Later Vaavar himself became an ardent follower and one of the chief lieutenants of Ayyappa during the war against Udayanan.
There is also a version that Vaavar was a medicine man who treated the soldiers of Ayyappa and followed him. For his army, Ayyappa organised soldiers from the small kingdoms of Kaayamkulam, Thekkumkoor, etc., and set out for Erumeli, a strategic point from where he would start his war mission against Udayanan and liberate Sabarimala temple. Udayanan had established formidable fortresses in inaccessible mountain terrains from where he could chase away all those who would venture to invade the regions he had usurped. For the Muslim soldiers led by Vaavar, Ayyappa established a place of worship and the present mosque in memory of Vaavar is believed to be located at that place.
Other chief lieutenants of Ayyappa were Kochu Kadutha and Valia Kadutha. It was a well organised army that was led by the three lieutenants. A warrior of Yogic stature, Ayyappa postulatep certain spiritual disciplines for his army which would not only equip them with an invincible physical strength but also refine them for the fulfilment of the very destiny of human life -spiritual liberation . And this discipline was not intended only for a particular set of people of a particular age, but for generations to come. These spiritual disciplines, of course, assume a greater relevance today in our tension-- ridden times and millions of people follow them during the season of pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
It was a spiritual discipline that extended for a period of 41 days before the auspicious Makarasamkrama day, when the Malayalam month Dhanu gives way to the month of Makaram. The army assembled at Erumeli ten days before the Makarasamkrama day. The soldiers carried the war materials, the provisions and also the needed materials for the performance of spiritual observances. Before setting out for war, an energetic and enthusiastic war dance, 'Petta-thullal', with a spiritual orientation was conducted. It was the first ever Petta-thullal, which is followed every year as a relevant ritualistic dance. All the social and religious distinctions among the soldiers were erased by all of them wearing blue or black clothes and smearing their faces with charcoal. They brought the provisions from the Erumeli market (Petta means market and Thullal, dance), bundled them in blankets and suspended them on long rods, the ends of which rested on the shoulders of a set of two people. Before the Petta-thullal began, they prayed at Kochambalam, the small Shaastha temple. From the small Shaastha temple they danced their way to the accompaniment of drum beats to the place of worship of the Muslim lieutenant Vaavar and his followers. From there, they proceeded to the Valiambalam, the bigger shrine of Dharma Saastha, where the Petta-thullal was completed.
Udayanan had established a few strong fortresses in the thick forests between Erumeli and Sabarimala, reinforcing his dominion over the whole area. The three main forts were at Inchippaara, Thalappaara and Karimala. Inchippaara, located beyond the river Azhutha was surrounded by deep trenches. On -reaching the thick forests, Ayyappa and the army took rest at the place Kaalaketti and planned the strategies for the attack. While crossing the river Azhutha, all members of the army were instructed to carry a big piece of rock. By filling the trenches with these rocks they crossed them, and led by Vaavar made a surprise attack on the Inchippara fort, which was guarded by Udayanan's ferocious chieftain Puthussery Mundan and his band. He was defeated and killed by Vaavar. In a simultaneous attack, the Thalappaara fort was also conquered. Subsequently the soldiers led by both Vaavar and Kochu Kadutha entered the fort of Karimalawhere the formidable Udayanan and his men were camping. In a fierce battle they were routed and Udayanan was killed. The fort was smashed to the ground. Thus the whole region was finally liberated from the marauding oppressors, who swayed by egotism, believed that their physical might was supreme.
The first phase of the mission of Ayyappa was thus over, that is, the liberation of a great center 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 centers 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 Uda.yanan. For this purpose, physical force reinforced by spiritual powe1; 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 incar-nations 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 J 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 Saastha in a Sabarimala. On the way they left all their weapons under a banyan d 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 Shaastha arrived and there appeared a great Yogi at that time. He was none other than the son of the priest of the temple (slain by Udayanan), who was the father of Ayyappa. The Yogi consecrated the new idol of Dharma Saastha 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 bccamc onc with Dharma Shaastha, mcrging with thc Advaithic oneness of Thaaraka Brahman. Therefore the devotees make is no distinction between Dharma Shaastha and 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 spiritua1 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 centers 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 Shaastha and 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 worshiped as Dharma Shaastha and later as Ayyappa, This view is based on the fact that Shaastha is one of the synonyms of Buddha, and the word Saranam, a usual Buddhi~t expression, is found in the popular invocatory devotional slog.n related to Sri Ayyappa worship: "Swamiye saranam Ayyappa"- O Lord Ayyappa you are our refuge.
FROM their knowledge of the supreme harmony of Brahman, the Supreme Truth, the Causeless Cause of everything, the ancient sages devised diverse means of spiritual pursuit suited to the psychological stages and temperaments of different individuals to bring the freedom of that harmony to human life. Man's further evolution achieving freedom from his limitations was the aim of their science of inner evolution.
Their approach is based on the biological fact of human individuality. In insect societies such as that of ants, etc., individuality may not mean much and in higher animals it is rudimentary. Man, the most evolved being on earth, has a distinctive personality that varies with individuals. He has to make an evolutionary effort in