Ayyapan (Aiyanaar) worship began in Germiston in the 1950’s and in Pretoria in the 1970’s where the Pretoria Bhajanai Mandram was established. The process of building a temple, The Ayyapa Kshetram, was begun in 2001.
The Ayyapa Puraanam (Legend)
The story of Ayyapa, involves the legends of :
1. Chandikadevi (Mahadevi, Shakthi, Durga,) who destroyed Mahishasura
Mahishasura, an arch demon, performed severe austerities to propitiate Lord Brahma and was rewarded with the gift that no male would be able to destroy him. He became a tyrant and practised cruelties on Devas (Gods) in the celestial world and saints on earth. The Devas appealed to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu who created Chandikadevi who, being female, was able to destroy Mahishasura.
2. Hariharaputhran who destroyed Mahisi (demoness with head and qualities of a buffalo).
[son of Lord Vishnu (Hari), in his female form as Mohini, and Lord Shiva (Hara)]
Mahishasura’s cousin, Mahisi, sought vengeance for the death of Mahishasura and performed severe austerities to Lord Brahma in order to receive the boon that no one born of man and woman would be able to destroy her. Then she created greater havoc than Mahishasura among the Devas and saints. Once again the Devas appealed to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu who produced the child, Hariharaputran (Hari –Vishnu, Hara-Shiva, putran-son) who grew up as Manikanda, the son of King Rajesekhara Pandian, ruler of Panthalam in Kerala, India. The King who was childless found Hariharaputran in a forest and adopted him. He regarded the child as a gift from God and named him Manikanda. When Manikanda was still a young boy, the Queen gave birth to a son and after this wanted to get rid of Manikanda to ensure that her own child would succeed to the throne. The Queen’s ministers advised the Queen to claim she was suffering with acute, incurable headaches that could only be cured by tiger’s milk. Manikanda offered to obtain the milk and the Queen and her ministers believed he would perish in the effort.
Manikanda went into the forest and the saints there appealed to him to destroy Mahisi, the demoness who was inflicting the most dreadful cruelties upon them. Not being the child of a man and woman, Manikanda was able to destroy Mahisi with his bow and arrow. His purpose on earth was thus accomplished but before he dematerialised, he rode into Panthalam on a tiger, followed by hundreds of tigresses (Devas in the forms of tigresses). He revealed himself as Dharma Saastha (Dharma-Protector, Saastha-Ruler of the Universe). The King, Queen, Ministers and all the people begged his forgiveness. He shot an arrow into the forest and it landed at the summit of Sabarimalai (Mount Sabari). The King promised to build a temple there. Ayyapan Dharma Shaasta, (Hariharaputran, Manikanda), then dematerialised. The King built the Holy Pathineddu Padi temple, which faces East and has eighteen steps leading into it.
The Number Eighteen
Eighteen has special significance for worshippers of Ayyapan. Being a multiple of 9 it represents perfection.
Festivals for Ayyapan worship are in January around the time of Thai Poosam, but in some areas take place in June and November.