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History Behind Mahishi Samharam
The prowess of an offspring born out of the amalgamation of the two forces of strength and sagacity depicted by Shiva and Vishnu can better be imagined. But how such an amalgamation is possible and what was the necessity for such an incarnation? The ways of God are inexplicable. When we go through the Hindu Puranas rather deeply, we can find that the Almighty has appeared on earth not only in his 'ten' avatars but also in other forms, sometimes combining together the powers of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. The typical example of such a fusion of the powers was the incarnation of Sri Dharma Sastha. Let us now see the reason and significance behind this incarnation. Once, when the Trinity took up the human form as a child to Athiri Mahishi and Anusuya couple, named Datta, the consorts of Trinity also took human form and were born as the daughter of Maharishi Galava, came to be known as Leelavathi. She was married to Datta. After enjoying mundane pleasure for a while forgetting the purpose of their birth in the world, Dattacame to remember the object of their birth and wanted to withdraw from domestic life and go for ascetic life in the forest.
As my Gurunathar used to say passion - thy name is woman’, Dragged under the influence of maya and mundane pleasures, Leela did not like him to leave her and wanted to continue his conjugal life for some more time. Determined to move for Vanaprastha, Datta cursed Leela to be born as Mahishi (she-buffalo), as she blocked his way with her relationship as his Mahishi (wife). In turn, Leela also cursed Datta that he would be born as a Mahisha (he-buffalo) and become her consort, when she would be born as Mahishi. Leela took the birth of a Mahishi in the family of Asuras, as sister of Mahishasura, who was killed by Goddess Chandika parameswari, To avenge his death, Mahishi propitiated Lord Brahma and obtained the boon that she would rule over Devaloka and her end would not come except at the hands of one born of Hari and Hara and who had spent l2 years of servitude to a mortal. Armed with the boon and the supernatural conditions for her death, which is otherwise impossible in the normal course, she conquered the throne of Devaloka. The defeated Devendra followed by Devas went to Trimurthis praying for succour. The Trinity joined and one out of them Sundara Mahisha was formed in the shape of a buffalo. As ordained by Maha Vishnu, Sundara Mahisha went to Devaloka and Mahishi, who became enamoured about him, followed him down to the nether world = Padhala – leaving Devaloka. We have to take a message from this episode. These Trinity-consorts are worshipped over nine nights during Navarathri festival; yet when their combination as Leelavati was overpowered by lust and passion, the worshipable form gets denigraded to the status of being called a buffalo and gets lost in Padhala-loka, a place for the devils. Though the absence of Mahishi provided temporary solace to Devendra and Devas, a permanent solution could be possible only with the birth of a child to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, as per the boon granted to Mahishi who alone could put an end to her. Owing to the great oppression practiced by
Mahishi, not only on this earth but on the whole Universe, the Gods felt compelled to seek help of the Almighty and the Almighty Sastha came down in human form to put an end to the misery of the Universe. Only explicitly towards this objective alone, Lord Shiva and Vishnu communed and begot a child Hariharaputhra and it is an irredeemable sin to think of ulterior motives behind this episode, to the denigration of Gods. Lord Shiva is one who conquered Kama Deva, and who tried to draw His attention towards Dhakshayani, for the welfare of the mankind. His conquest over lust is so great that Lord Shiva burnt Cupid to flames. So, it is impossible even to imagine that Lord Shiva was lured by the damsel Mohini.
Besides, He also knew fully well that Mohini was none other than Lord Vishnu. By logic, Vishnu is considered to be one of the four Shakthi aspects of Shiva and this prompted Shiva to commune with Lord Vishnu. To fall in line with the nature of law for begetting a child, one must be a Pumsha and the other must be Prakrithi. This was scrupulously followed by Lord Vishnu taking the form of Mohini. What had happened was only an enactment of the Trimurthis, who are vested with Trikalajnanas. The message from this incarnation is very lucid. For the Lord, nothing is impossibe under the Sun. The purpose of an incarnation is for destruction of evil forces and protection of good souls and to provide ultimate redemption to even those who sinned but repented at last, taking refuge in Him. So many instances could be narrated from the Puranas. One striking example is of- Narasimha Avatar, which surpasses all imaginations and perceptions. To annihilate Hiranyakasipu, who obtained a boon with many subjective clauses and impossible conditions for being killed, the Lord conformed Himself to all the conditions and specifications stipulated by the demon and appeared before him in Nara-Hari roopa (Man-lion form) and killed him. This act has served not only the purpose of annihilation of evil forces, but also provided ample credence for the immense faith child Prahlada had in the Lord's omnipresence.
After destroying the evil-force Hiranyakasipu, the Lord, at the request of the tiny child Prahlada, redeemed his entire ancestry including the sinned one. What could not be achieved by might, was accomplished by simple devotion. This is so in the case of Mahishi as well. In order to avoid death, she put forth impossible conditions against the
nature of law. But the Lord circumvented all her conditions and begot a child only to put an end to her. The birth of a child to Lord Vishnu and Shiva was made feasible as a consequence of Lord Shiva's desire to see Lord Vishnu as Mohini, which form Lord Vishnu had taken at the time of churning of the milky- ocean.
The Lord Sastha was not brought into this world like any other being, viz., born out of wedlock. That the Lord is born to Lord Shiva who was captivated by the brilliance and
beauty of Lord Vishnu as Mohini is only a story told for the common man who has not developed his learning beyond understanding the superficial aspects of life. But he has full faith in the Holy scripts and words of holy men and so he never questions the authenticity of this statement. But only the so-called rationalists who believe that they are the only knowledgeable, stake their claims to unknown fields. They are ‘not elevated to the extent of understanding the philosophy that Lord Sastha is an incarnation, caused by projection of Divine Will. Knowledge, renunciation and compassion are qualities personified as Lord Shiva. Charm, mercy and protection of the weak from the wicked are the traits attributed to Lord Vishnu. The tejas emanated from the unification of the serene jnana of Lord Shiva and merciful charm of Kripalu Vishnu, when comprehended by human eyes, appeared in the form of an incarnation called Sastha. The incarnation of Sastha also confirms the doctrine of Hari - Hara Abedham. That is, there is no difference or superiority/inferiority clash between Lord Shiva and Vishnu and both are two aspects of the one Supreme. Saivism and Vaishnavism are combined in Sastha worship. Ayyappa devotees carry coconut filled with cow's ghee to Sabari Hills under the belief that the ghee-filled coconut symbolizes Hariharaputhra, Coconut with three eyes denotes Lord Shiva. Sri Mahalakshmi resides on the hind portion of the cow. So, ghee, the quintessence of cow's milk is thus Vishnu's aspect. When the ghee is poured into the coconut, there is an amalgamation of Lord Shiva and Vishnu, thereby representing the incarnation of Sastha.
The Paramathma, Tharaka Brahmam — is known by different names in this incarnation. AYYAPPAN, AYYANAR, MANIKANTAN, BHOOTHANATHAR, PARAYA GOPTHRU, ARYA DHATHA are some of the names. People call him ’Arya - Appa', ARYA meaning 'father' to be revered and 'appa' is an affectionate form of addressing a child. 'Ayyappa' is only a colloquial form of Arya Appa. Ayyanar also means the same. The Lord is to be worshipped with reverence and affection. When Sastha came to the world from Kailash at Shiva's bidding, He was found on the banks of River Pambha with a bell tied round His neck. So, He was called 'Manikanta' during his human term of twelve years. Because He is always surrounded in attendance by Bhoothakanas, He is called BHOOTHA NATHA. Besides, He is the Lord for Pancha Bhoothas also. His name as per His Moola Manthra is 'Paraya Gopthru'. The Lord taught mankind that the only Dharma to be adhered to is to seek refuge in Him. So, He is called DHARMA SASTHA. Coming back to the story aspect, Lord Sastha grew under the guidance of Lord Shiva at Kailash. He got wedded to Poorna and Pushkala, which will be explained in detail at the concluding session, and has His Abode at Kantha Mala, ruling all over the worlds.In course of time, Lord Shiva advised Sastha to go to the world and fulfil the other condition of Mahishi, to be a servitor of a mortal for twelve years, only after which Mahishi could be killed. Accordingly, Sastha assumed the form of a small child, came down to the earth and was found on the banks of River Pambha in the wild forest, by the King of Pandalam, where he had gone for hunting. The King had no children till then. The halo of light around the child attracted him and the child was taken to the palace, named Manikanta and reared up as a Prince. With the merciful blessings of Santhana-dhayaka Sastha, the queen gave birth to a child. This attribute to Sastha may be termed as superstitious to the modern men. But they cannot deny the fact that even now, in this millenium, those who are craving for a child, after a lapse of long years of matrimony, by worshipping and making offerings to Sabari Hills Sastha, begot a child of their choice; The two were brought up as equals, although the Lord was the apple of the eyes of everybody in the palace.
I enjoined in the customs of olden days, Manikanta and his younger brother were sent to Gurukulam for pursuing studies on all spheres which included Vedas, Archery, fighting and art of war. Manikanta excelled all others in every aspect. When the curriculum (gurukula vasam)l came to an end and the boys had to depart for their homes, Manikanta politely asked his Gurunatha how much Guru Dhakshina he had to pay. (Fees to be rendered to Guru on completion of the course). Guruji, being aware of the divine incamation of Manikanta, refused to accept anything and was overwhelmed that he was termed as 'Gurunatha' to the Tharaka Brahmam. However, the Guruji's wife pleaded with Manikanta to eradicate the handicap suffered by her son who was a dumb, blind and suffered impaired hearing. The Lord, with all mercy, touched the boy with His Magnatic divine hands, moving His hands over the boy from head to foot. Sanctified by the divine touch of the Lord, there was a divine spell on the boy, he opened his eyes, as if waking up from slumber, turned to his mother, prostrated before her crying 'Oh Mother'. All the physical disabilities vanished at one stroke at Manikanta's holy hands. Gurunatha, seeing this miracle, went out in a state of ecstacy, forgot himself, forgot for a moment that it was the Lord Tharaka Brahmam standing before him in the form of a small child, emotionaly blessed the Lord: "Let you be ruling over all the fourteen worlds, seated on golden throne studded with stones adorning yourself with all valuable garments and ornaments, forever" Manikanta obediently assumed the blessings of His Gurunatha as an instruction to him, and requested Guruji not to reveal His identity till his mission in this world was fulfilled. Then He returned to the palace. Such episodes may be termed as fiction by the modern world. But, it is no gain-saying that many devotees get cured of their uncurable ailments, and physical disabilities, by the healing medicinal effect of His ghee -prasad, through its application and comsumption, even today.
Everyone in the Kingdom experienced a state of bliss in the company of Manikanta, except one, that is the Dewan of Pandalam Palace. From day one of Manikanta's entry into the palace, the Dewan had a deep dislike for him, but for whom the Dewan would have had the opportunity of ruling the land. The Dewan tried several times with several plans to get rid of Manikanta but failed miserably. As time passed, when the King decided to crown Manikanta as his heir-apparent, the evil minded Dewan became jealous and poisoned the mind of the queen, typical to the role of Manthara’ in Ramayana poisoning the mind of Kaikeyi. In connivance with the queen, the Dewan hatched a plot to extinguish Manikanta. According to this plot, the queen should pretend to suffer from acute headache, the court physician would prescribe tigress' milk as the only remedy, which Manikanta would volunteer to bring and thus he could be killed by the wild animals in the forest, with the result the queen's son could ascend the empire. The plot worked on ‘dotted lines. When the King was in a fix and caught between love for his wife and profound affection towards Manikanta, the Lord consoled the King and undertook the expedition single-handed. The King gave the child an Irumudi, the first half containing three-eyed coconut representing their family deity Shiva, to protect the child from wild animals and ensure a safe trek, and in the rear half put some savouries and food-stuff for the child's consumption enroute. It is on this analogy, we are also carrying Irumudi on our heads to Sabari Hills in an identical fashion. The Lord leff the palace, on obeisance to the words of his father, as Rama did in Ramayana. The Lord is another manifestation of Rama indeed; One evening, enroute, all the eatables having been exhausted, the Lord, felt hungry and stood before a small hut, to get some food. The inmates, an old couple from the Karanthaiyarpalayam dynasty (in Kallidaikurichi), received the Lord with all love and affection, kept him on their laps, and gave a handful of milkfood. That small off`ering made a mighty magic: Just as Lord Krishna who was satisfied with the offering of a particle-remain of a green-leaf stuff by Dhrowpathy; again satisfied at a handful of puffed rice from the hands of Kuchela, and as Rama who was satisfied with the fruits fondly offered by huntress Sabari, as Lord Shiva satisfied with the offerings made by Kannappa Nayanar, so did Manikanta - satisfied with the offering made by the old couple, appeared before them giving His Viswaroopa Dharshan. He further off`ered them His holy stick and flag (Kambu and Kodi in Tamil which spelt together comes Kambangudi colloquially), and blessed their dynasty with a special place and status in His Kingdom. irrespective of the quality or quantity, whatever is offered heartily to the Lord with piety and devotion is considered the best offering to the Lord.
This is the greatness of Annadhanam, which is considered as the most befitting offering to the Lord. In Ayyappa worship, Annadhanam is of great significance. That is why, it is being arranged individually, at home, or collectively after mass prayer, and all along the route to Sabari Hills. The greatness of Annadhanam needs no special emphasis and can never be under-estimated. In this Kali Yuga, all the living beings are attached to food (Anna - Kosamaya Prana) and hence participation in Annadhanam, by one and all to the best of their mite, voluntarily by way of rice, dhall, provisions and donations, will lead
everyone to the Lord’s Kingdom, there is no doubt about it. The descendents of Kambangudi dynasty are a living legend even now, who bear ample testimony for the greatness of Annadhanam.
After blessing the old couple, Manikanta went into the thick forest. By this time, Sundara Mahisha left Mahishi, andshe returned back to Devaloka, creating troubles to Devendra and Devas. Weak people who see this terrible woman merely will die. Her oppression became so intolerable that Devas and Rishis descended to the earth and waited on Lord Manikanta in the forest with a prayer to fulfil the object of his mission. They took Him to Kanthamala and performed Abhishega Aradhana and profitiated Him with hymns and prayers. Overwhelmed with their prayers, Lord Sastha, the divine incarnate, entered the Devaloka on an auspicious Full Moon day with the shining 'Uthiram' star on the ascendency, during the month of Panguni (Meenam) Vasantha Ruthu, to slain demoness Mahishi. The day on which the Lord entered Devaloka for destruction of evil is considered as the Birth Day of Birthless and Deathless Sastha, the Supreme Master of the Universe. Enraged by the attrocities perpetrated by Mahishi on Sages and Devas, against all norms of Dharma, the Lord felt that the yagnas and dharma should not be marred by the scruple. He caught the demoness Mahishi by her horns and threw her down to the earth. She assumed protean forms and showered stones on the god-child. She could not be seen and she did great mischief by her power of assuming various forms from shedding of her Blood drops and also of remaining concealed from view, She retaliated the attack but was easily overcome by the Lord's extraordinary prowess. Then she realised that the victor standing on her body was none other than Hariharaputhra, at whose hands she was destined to attain salvation. The Lord danced on her body and Mahishi died. Lord Shiva and Parvathi came on their riding bull and tethered it to a tree, and witnessed Mahishi Mardhanam, the destruction of evil, this place is now called Kalai Ketti. Sabari Mala pilgrims who have haunts of evil spirits, offer coconut and camphor at Kalai Ketti for their relief.
When the evil spirits in her disappeared, Mahishi was transformed into a beautiful damsel, Leelavathy, who craved pardon for all her past misdeeds and took refuge in Him.
Dazzled by the bright youth, she also pleaded with him to marry her. Manikanta could not accede to her request, firstly because he was engaged on an errand to save the life of his step-mother, the queen of Pandalam, and secondly he was destined to be an astute bachelor in the Avatar of Manikanta. When she persisted, Manikanta told her that He would marry her only when no Kanni Ayyappan (devotee on maiden venture to Sabari Hills) visited Sabari Hills. Such is the faith the Lord has not only in His vow to continue as a Brahmachari, but more so that His Devotees will not let Him down in His determination. However, He promised that she would be worshipped by His Devotees with equal fervour, as Manjambika, even though not as His consort on a palace, on the left side to his Shrine.
The mortal remains of Mahishi started growing out of bounds, and the Lord placed some pebble-stones to inter and arrest the mortal. Even now, novice (Kanni) pilgrims are asked to deposit there, the pebbles picked up by them from -the · Azhudha river bed, enroute to Sabari Hills. Thus came the end of Mahishi, the evil force. Despite her sins, she attained salvation. As my Gurunathar used to put it, 'even the worst sinner in the earth has got the merciful blessings of the Lord, because the Lord wants to redeem each and every soul'. Not only this, Mahishi had the rarest privilege of the lotus feet of the Lord dancing on her body - the touch by the very feet of the Lord will absolve one of all sins. And, she deserves unconditional and absolute pardon not only from the Lord, but the entire devout world, but for whose boon, such incarnation would not have taken place for the emancipation of the entire mankind.