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Symbolism In The Story Of The Birth Of Ayyappa

As per Hinduism, Ayyappa was born as a result of a union between Mohini (avatar of Vishnu) and Shiva. Part of the story of the birth of Ayyappa is found in the Srimad Bhagavata Purana. There is deep symbolism attached to the birth of Ayyappa.

Story Of Birth Of Ayyappa

Legend has it that demon Mahishi got the boon that she will be killed only a child born from the union of Shiva and Vishnu. Mahishi, who believed that she is invincible and immortal, inflicted terror in the world.


Vishnu then took Mohini Avatar to distribute the nectar received after the churning of ocean and to save Devas from the tyranny of demons. Mohini also rescued Shiva from demon Bhasmasur.

Shiva who heard about the beauty of Mohini wished to see Her. Vishnu then appeared before Shiva as Mohini. On seeing the divine beauty, Mohini, Shiva instantly fell in love with her which finally resulted in the birth of a child through the thigh of Vishnu. This child was Lord Ayyappa.

In due course of time of Ayyappa annihilated demon Mahishi.

Symbolism In The Story Of The Birth Of Ayyappa

Ayyappa is known as Sastha and Harihara Putra. He is born out of the divine union of Shiva and Mohini. Thus Ayyappa represents both spiritual (Shiva) and materialistic world (Mohini). 

Ayyappa is the deity of Kali Yuga. In Kali Yuga there is no morality. Everything will be corrupted. Greed, power and lust rule in this era. Mind of man is constantly oscillating between materialism and spiritual life. Mind is constantly tormented by the pain of sins committed to fulfill desires.

Ayyappa is armed with both spiritual knowledge and materialistic knowledge. He wipes the tears of his devotees by fulfilling their wishes and also by reminding them about the blissful spiritual world. This is the reason why many staunch and true Ayyappa devotees give up everything after a particular period of life and begin a life only dedicated to Ayyappa.

In Kali Yuga, physical and mental sickness is common. Ayyappa as the son of Shiva and Mohini first satiates the desires of a devotee. Then the devotee is shown the futility of the never ending desires. Then Ayyappa opens the blissful world of spirituality – the world of oneness.

We out of our ignorance constantly limit the power of nature. There is only one single Supreme Truth. The various forms are the result of the play of this Supreme Truth. Shankara and Shankari are one. Shiva and Vishnu are one. Ayyappa thus symbolically embodies this supreme truth. Various forms are for devotees. When there is self realization there is only one single form.


Demons symbolically represent limited knowledge. Until we are able to realize the truth of oneness of all animate and inanimate we live in fear. Fear is the result of another being. When we are overpowered by fear we limit our knowledge of the Supreme Truth. This is when boons like only a child born of Shiva and Vishnu can kill me are asked. The Supreme Being out of kindness then plays the divine leela to show the ignorant that anything is possible. 



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