Ayyappa Descending on Earth

One day Mahadeva called His son and enlightened on him the purpose of his incarnation. It was mainly to annihilate Mahishi, a demoness who was perpetrating all sorts of atrocities against gods and maintained by virtue of the boon bestowed upon her by Brahma, according to which she could be killed by only one born of Siva-Vishnu combine. Siva transformed Dharma Sastha into an infant, tied a golden bell round his neck and left him on the bank of the sacred river Pampa, in the land known as' Pandalam'

A benevolent King called Rajasekhara who was very much liked by his subjects then ruled Pandalam. In spite of his wealth and valour he was aggrieved for he had no children. A King with no heir is obviously the most afflicted person in the kingdom. Acts of benefaction and supplications performed by the royal couple were all proved in vain.

One day the King was on his royal sport of hunting in the forest on the bank of the river Pampa. Exhausted after a tedious spell of hunting he longed for rest. He felt that he wanted to be left alone. So away from his retinue he reclined under the shade of a tree. The gentle breeze blowing along the cold limpid waters of the Pampa began caressing the fatigued King and he was slowly falling in a siesta, when incredibly he heard the wailing of an infant from the dense forest nearby. Soon he made his way towards the source of the cry. To his great astonishment, a forlorn infant was found lying on a rock on the bank of the Pampa. The boy was exceedingly beautiful with a brilliance emanating from him. The sight of the child evoked the parental instinct in the King and he longed to make him his own. But on a second thought he hesitated, for nothing was known about its parentage or lineage. He was at a loss to know what to do. Presently he found an old Brahmin coming up to him. He advised the King to take the child with him to the palace and look after him as his heir-apparent. The Brahmin affirmed that the boy was high born and that he himself world disclose his identity after twelve years. Not lingering further, the Brahmin disappeared. The king was immensely pleased and immediately returned to the palace with the boy. As the boy had a tiny bell tied round his neck he was named Manikantan (meaning one with a bell around the neck).

Manikantan was the apple of the eye of the royal couple. He grew up in the palace with pomp and pleasure. All rites and rituals befitting a Kshathriya prince were duly performed time to time on his behalf. He was tutored under the royal preceptor. Strangely enough, he proved himself to be an adept in all branches of knowledge, especially using weapons and horse-riding, within a period of forty-one days. Due to the unsurpassed skill and extraordinary intelligence evinced by Manikanta, his preceptor realised that the disciple was no ordinary mortal, but one endowed with divine powers.

The Acharya had a son who was not only deaf and dumb but blind too. The Acharya believed that Manikanta could certainly cure his son of his infirmities. Accordingly, when the crucial time of paying the Guru Dakshina came, the Acharya expressed his desire to the disciple. Manikanta unhesitatingly complied with the demand of his Guru, but requested him to keep it as a secret at least for a period of twelve years. Having completed his education, Manikanta returned to the palace. By this time the queen had given birth to a son. But the birth of the child caused no difference for the love and care for Manikanta on the part of the king and the queen. Both of the children lived together as brothers. Thus twelve years elapsed.

The King renowned for his adherence to justice and honesty wanted to install Manikanta as his heir-apparent. Dewan was summoned to him and instructions were given to make immediate arrangements for the investiture ceremony. The Dewan was ambitious and crooked. In fact he was nursing a desire to ascend the throne after the death of the King. The installation of Manikanda as the heir-apparent would obviously foil his plan. He reso1ved to get rid of Manikanta by hook or by crook. He made a few clandestine attempts against Manikanta's life, but in vain.

At last, he hit upon a plan. He made up his mind to play upon the maternal instinct of the queen. Manthara- Kaikeyi episode of Ramayana was repeated, He won over the queen to his side telling her that by installing Manikanta, the foster-son as the heir-apparent, the King was denying her own son his rightfu1 claim for the throne. He managed to convince the queen that what the King was trying to do was a blatant injustice to her and her son. Thus a conspiracy was hatched to do away with Manikanta.

The queen complained of suffering from a severe headache. Many renowned physicians were brought in to treat the queen; but how can a feigned illness be cured with medicines? In the meantime, a physician who was bribed by the wicked Dewan visited the palace. According to him, the queen's headache could be cured with leopard's milk. The King was in deep distress for it was humanly impossible to obtain the leopard's milk.

Manikanta who was aware of the Dewan's wicked plot consoled the King. He offered to fetch leopard's milk. Knowing fully well the dangers of the onerous ordeal, the King tried his best to dissuade Manikanta from this hazardous undertaking which involved the risk of life; but Manikanta would not give up. His insistence was so intense that the King at last couldn't help giving consent for the perilous expedition.

The King couldn't but contain his grief and made preparations for Manikanta's journey to the jungle. He got ready a cloth bag of twin-pockets and filled one of the pockets with a coconut and the other with some eatables. The coconut with its three eyes represented Lord Parameswara, the family deity of the King. The King placed the bundle on Manikanta's head with the pocket containing the coconut in the front and the other at the rear and blessed him for a successful return. He was also equipped with bow and arrows. Manikanta touched his father's feet with great reverence and departed alone for the forest. The King stood looking at the boy leaving with the bundle on his head till he reached out of sight and heaved a sign of great concern.

Manikanta soon entered into the forest. There he was greeted by Vapara, Katusabda, Veerabhadra, Koopanetra, Koopakarna and Gandakarna, the lieutenants of Mahadeva. The party then moved to the banks of Pampa river where some sages lived. They came and made supplications to Manikanta, who on his turn showered blessings on them. The sages who had attained mysterious powers by virtue of their long drawn penance, soon built a golden temple on a hill nearby and the throne of gold was established inside Manikanta and his retinue stayed there for days together in association with the sages. This hill, which is situated sixteen kilometers to the east of Sabari Hill is now known as Ponnambalamedu (the hill of Golden Temple). During his sojourn on Ponnambalamedu, Sribhoothanatha fulfilled the mission for which he descended on earth in the form of Ayyappa.