Manikantan – Why is God Ayyappa Known as Manikanta?



One of the popular names of Hindu God Ayyappa is Manikantan. Ayyappa was first found by the king of Panthalam in Kerala during one of his hunting expeditions. The little boy who was lying alone in the dark deep forest had a jewel round his neck. Since he was found with this jewel he was named as Manikanta.
Another version of the story says that it was not jewel but Ayyappa was found with a small bell. In Malayalam 'mani' is the term used for small ghanta, or bell, and also for precious stone.
Ayyappa is a symbolic creation from a fusion of Vishnu and Shiva. Ayyappan is the son of Shiva and Vishnu who takes form as Mohini.
The queen of Panthalam sends Manikanta to the forest to bring leopard's milk to cure her stomach pain. The stomach pain was a method feigned by the queen to eliminate Manikantan and install her son as the next king.
Manikanta goes to the forest and returns to the palace riding a leopard, said to be Lord Indra Himself, with other leopards following.
The people who witnessed this divine event realized that Manikantan was no ordinary boy but a divine representative of both Shiva and Vishnu.