Ayyapa — the son of two men
By Sagar Venkateshwar
(An excerpt from the book ‘The untold myths of India’ by the author)
Not long before the images of the Demon Mahishasura was still fresh in the minds of dwellers in three worlds. Well how could they even dare to forget him? After all it took the combined might of the Gods to create Devi Durga who would then go on to fight him for nine days, clinching victory on the 10th day which everyone ceremonially celebrated as ”Dussehra”. All the denizens were happy, for the so called evil demon was finally vanquished and peace returned to the three worlds — Bhoolokam (Earth), Devalokam ( Heaven -Abode of the gods) and Pattalam ( The netherworld), except for one who wasn’t.
Mahishi had every reason to be upset. Don’t let her innocent eyes sparkling over the horizon fool you. She is the sister of Demon Mahishasura. The heiress of his buffalo banner. When Mahishasura was killed and his empire he built started crumbling to pieces, Mahishi stepped forward to secure the buffalo banner. Unfortunately no one came forward to her call of help. Mahishi’s army was demoralized after their leader was killed. Mahishi didn’t have any boons unlike her brother who had the boon that he can be killed only by the mightiest of the mightiest. No wonder the gods got together to combine all their might and powers to create the mightiest. Somehow the rumours of her not having any boon reached Mahishi. She was furious. She was already gifted with shapeshifting powers. The power to take on any shape as desired, to manipulate her way through and cause chaos while she reaped her benefits made her no less dangerous. Even in her anger she saw the logic in those rumours. Her brother was killed in spite of the protection given by the boon. She decided that she would need immortality to take over the three worlds. After all that’s what everyone thinking to conquer the three worlds had on their to-do list. Gathering herself into one piece, she started doing penance invoking Lord Brahma. Well why not him of the trinity? Vishnu is known as the protector; moreover he might be in his six month sleep cycle called as Dakshinayan. Shiva is the destroyer, also known as “Bhola-shankar” — the one who responds as soon as he hears his name, but he isn’t famous for doling out immortalities. Brahma is the creator who has a soft corner for his creation. That was the thought process of Mahishi and got on with her task of calling on Lord Brahma.
After several days of penance which seemed like eternity, the Lord appeared before her in his all glory. With four heads, each facing one of the four directions resting upon a strongly built body he somehow appeared older than his age due to his white flowing beard. Maybe the toll of not having temples or worships was affecting him. Nonetheless he looked absolutely regal in the purple veshti draped around with a yellow angavastram. One of the hands carried the four vedas written on wooden barks know as “Thalapatragranthalu”, while one of the hands carried the famous rudraksha mala helping on with his penance. One hand carried the rare yellow lotus, while the other hand was free for movement during conversations. Inspite of having four hands you need one for conversations. On the other hand (no pun intended), Mahishi looked exactly opposite. She was surrounded by ant hills, with almost one made upon her. She looked thirsty and hungry for living only on air is not as easy as it sounds. Her face was covered with mud and dust, hiding its beauty. Yet her eyes spoke her determination to fulfill her dream at any cost.
“What makes you to bring down Brahma here? What do you want?” boomed Brahma’s voice in the surroundings.
“You do know my heart’s desire, don’t you my lord?”
“Er… Immortality?” asked Brahma doubtfully.
Everytime anyone prayed for the trinity, this is mostly on their mind in most of the cases. So it was no brainer for Brahma to guess this.
“No wonder Lord Brahma you are the greatest among the trinity. If you could grant me my heart’s desire we both can be back to our businesses” she said cheerfully, almost grinning from ear to ear.
Now Brahma was in a fix. He can’t just go on granting immortality to everyone. It’s not in his domain. It’s not in anyone’s domain. Even the Devas had to go through an whole ordeal of churning the milk ocean to gain the famed immortality. Yet he didn’t want to disappoint his devotee.
“My child. That’s one thing I cannot give you even if I wanted to. Instead you may ask for anything else!!”
Brahma said with a hint of apologetic tone. Now if I had been in place of Mahishi I would have asked for whatever I wish should become true. Well Mahishi was clever. She already considered the possibility that Brahma might refuse immortality.
“Lord Brahma, if you cannot grant me immortality then at least grant me that i would only be killed by the son born out of two men” smirked Mahishi
That request seemed strange for Brahma. How in heaven’s can two men give birth to a child, let alone not even considering in the biological perspective? It seemed nearly impossible. Lord Brahma thought it’s not a big request to be denied, plus he has already given his word that he would grant anything except immortality.
“Thathaasthu, my child. Use your boon well” and he disappeared into light giving more ammunition to the dual nature of light.
Armed with a clever way of saying she was immortal, Mahishi looked forward to create her empire, to make the buffalo banner fly high in all the three worlds. Buffalo is the personal sigil and vehicle of her brother, so much so that he came to be famously known as the Buffalo Demon.
*** The Devas, the denizens of Heaven flocked to the doors of Vaikuntam — the abode of Lord Vishnu. The gates looked mighty, at least 15 feet tall and adorned with intricate craftsmanship of Vishwakarma, the celestial craftsman. The Devas led by King Indra, the god of thunder passed through the fabled seven door to find Lord Vishnu resting gracefully on the bed made up of Ananta Sesha Nag in the midst of the milk ocean. Lord Vishnu looked calm and composed, his blue skin matching to the red angavastram. One of his four hands carried the conch and other one carried the destructive weapon in his arsenal, the sudarshan chakra. Goddess lakshmi was at the rear end, pressing her husband’s feet.
Lord Vishnu smiled and said “What brings you to my humble abode Lord Indra?”
“Prabhu, there’s nothing you already don’t know. After Mahishasura we thought there would be peace in the three worlds. Alas his sister, Mahishi armed with Lord Brahma’s boon started harassing everyone. Seems like no one is able to oppose her. We need you help my lord” lamented Indra with folded hands.
“Lord Indra, whenever the time comes Dharma would defend itself. Please don’t worry, everything would be alright”, Lord Vishnu said without losing his smile and composure. ***
Somewhere in the present day Kerala, Lord Shiva was meditating. Shiva`himself was an enigma, with all the ash smeared over his body, covered with tiger skin and keeping his third eye closed all the times. Sitting beside him was the three pronged trishul, the weapon of absolute destruction. Disturbing Lord Shiva during his penance is like signing one’s death warrant. Kamdev, the god of love learnt it the hard way. The surroundings in which Lord Shiva was meditating was so serene, not even the nature’s sounds could pierce the serenity. Suddenly there was light and sweet music enough to disturb the great Shiva from his penance. Shiva opened his eyes at the disturbance only to witness a beautiful sight.
Beautiful sight of a damsel enough to rekindle fire in a cold heart. She stood there with her perfect eyes twinkling over the voluptuous body and her lustrous hair swaying to the rhythms of the wind, inviting Lord Shiva for the dance of life. Before you start scratching your heads upon who that woman was who managed to entice the Great Lord Shiva, she is Mohini, the avatar of Lord Vishnu. The last time Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Lady Mohini is during the Ksheersagar Manthan ( The churning of the Milk Ocean). Out of their union was born a beautiful lad. But unfortunately neither the lord nor the lady stayed over to look after the upbringing of the boy. He was put in a basket and gently placed to the currents of the river. *** The boy was found by the childless king of present day Kerala kingdom, Pantalam when the king was praying on the riverbank for progeny to continue his bloodline.
As if an answer to his prayer, a basket carrying the child of Vishnu and Shiva presented before him. The king decided that it was a divine intervention and decided to raise this child as own. The queen was happy that she would finally experience the perks of motherhood, that someone would be running across the palace halls calling her with the sweet sound of “Amma”. The kingdom rejoiced for they finally have a prince and that prince was named “Manikanta”.
Everyone was happy except for one. The chief minister who planned to take control of the throne if the king died heirless was unhappy with the turn of events. He would bide his time only to strike at the opportune moment. While Manikanta grew up in the palace learning everything ranging from the scriptures to battle training, the royal couple had another reason to rejoice for. Finally they were blessed with a child of their own. Before the joy could be made lasting for a long time, the little prince was crippled. Only one person was happy at the turn of events, the minister. He can simply rule as the regent of the ill prince when the small obstacle in the form of Manikanta is taken care of. But joy never lasts forever, does it? Especially in the case of royal families where greed, jealousy rules over all. The same has started happening, when the evil minister started whispering in the queen’s ears. It was so effective when she got to know of the king’s plans to make Manikanta the king, she swore to make her son the same by hook or by crook. You might wonder why are they making hasty decisions about children who are barely 15. During those times, they were trained from an early age in the state affairs, martial arts and religious matters to a get a hold on their journey towards the throne. As luck would have had it, the second prince suffered a paralysis stroke and was paralysed from waist down. The royal couple were aghast by the turn of events and so were the citizens of the kingdom. Nonetheless the minister was quite at the turn of the events. One fine day, the queen was in her mourning state in her elegant royal mode, when she was approached by the minister.
“Your grace! We have found a cure for the prince’s condition. All it takes is tiger’s milk to complete the cure and the prince would be back to normal in no time. Tiger’s milk is said to be having amazing healing properties”, the minister spoke in a cheerful manner.
“Really? That’s the best news i have heard in ages! But who will get it? It is dangerous enough to go near a tiger. Not to mention a one which had cubs recently!!!” said the queen.
“Your majesty! Why don’t we ask the older prince to do the task? Our prince is the bravest and the skilled archer in this land. If there is anyone who could get it, it has got to be him.”
“You are right! After all I got nothing to lose and everything to gain, for the physicians claim that my son’s condition can never be improved”
Later that day, the queen summoned her foster son to her personal chambers. “Pranaam Amma! You have called for me?” said the young Manikanta
“Yes Manikanta! Remember that day you asked to let know if there is anything you can do to change your brother’s situation?
“Well there is one!”
“Please Amma! What should I do to get my brother back to normal? I would do anything”
“The minister has found out a cure which is connoted with tiger’s milk to nullify the effects of paralysis. Since you are the best archer man this kingdom has ever seen, I believe you are best suited to get the tiger’s milk for your brother” said Queen, working on her manipulation.
“That’s great news amma. In fact i would immediately start off” quipped Manikanta cheerfully.
Unfortunately he couldn’t recognise the sinister motive behind his task. If he dies in the mission, irrespective of the younger prince’s disability or not, younger prince would be made the king due to lack of any heir to succeed.
*** Meanwhile in the farther lands of the netherworld, the demon queen Mahishi was growing restless. It seemed fun for while, conquering the three worlds, scaring its denizens, being the queen, finishing the job her brother left off in the middle due to his untimely death. But she wanted to have “me time” away from all the protocol, grandeur and everything else official. She wanted to go amidst tall green trees, with wind riding in her face, taking her to a heaven that she knew was unconquerable. Luckily, she just happened to know such a place on earth.
*** Manikanta rushed off with his bow and quiver of arrows, to the forests on the outskirts of the kingdom, which are full of the royal beasts. He could feel the wind on his face, as he began his journey into the forest. He preferred to go alone as he didn’t want to risk anyone’s else life and he didn’t want his father to know, for his father may never have allowed it in the first place. In far off distance he saw a tigress nursing her cubs with no other tigers in sight. He approached cautiously towards her.
*** Mahishi felt free for the first time in ages. Temporary respite from all she achieved till date. She couldn’t remember a time where she came down to earth and it was not for conquering. In a distance she saw a tigress nursing her babies.
“These cubs would make great pets! Also the tigress fur can be used for making fashion statements”, she thought.
She also started to approach the beast with caution. She noticed a little boy, whose age couldn’t be more than 14 also approach the tigress with a bow.
“Who would this boy be for fearlessly approaching the tigress?” she wondered. “Oh! Boy! Who are you? What brings you to this jungle?"
“My Lady! I’m Manikanta. I’m the adopted prince of the Pantalam kingdom. I need this tigress’s milk to cure my brother. What brings you to these dangerous parts, my lady? You do know these are a bit unsafe?” said Manikanta.
Queen Mahishi was amused now. One the boy was walking into danger himself and he is asking her what she was doing near danger!! Either the boy didn’t know she was the danger herself or there’s something else behind the innocent demeanor, she thought to herself. She decided to humour him in typical mahishi style.
“I’m here to kill the mother, to make a new garment for myself. I’m totally bored of my current wardrobe. I totally need an upgrade” she quipped happily as if it was an awesome thing.
Manikanta was aghast. He knew the laws of jungle by heart and recognised mindless killing from an necessary one.
“I can’t let you do it”, he said boldly with all the courage he could muster against the towering demon queen.
“You want to stop me, do you?” she was totally amused now. “Why don’t you try?” she chidded.
She summoned her favourite sword. Manikanta didn’t speak a word. He simply loaded an arrow from his quiver into his bow, took an aim and shot it. She laughed off, for she knew the boon protected her. She was laughing, but when the arrow pierced her shoulder the laughter stopped.
“How is it even possible? I can’t be harmed!! I can’t be killed by none other than son of two men”
She was totally shocked at the turn of events, where she could feel the warmth of the blood on her arm. As if answering her thoughts a voice in the sky spoke — “Mahishi, in your arrogance you have failed to notice the simplest of the things. Manikanta is the son of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Your end is near. Mahishi clenched her tooth. She was surprised to see the determined look in Manikanta eyes after the akashavani (The voice from Sky).
That’s how a radio station got named as Akashvani in Indian native language. She couldn’t even fathom that a little boy would be her doom. She charged towards him in striking pose.
Before her sword could reach its intended mark, the arrow found its mark. An arrow pierced through her heart and she fell down, taking nothing she built with her as if it was all for nothing. That was the end of the reign of the demon queen. *** Rumours already started flying that Manikanta was not an ordinary man and he vanquished Mahishi alone. The denizens of the kingdom were surprised by the sight they saw. All of them made a queue to see what was going on. The king was also surprised to find his son riding a tiger. The queen was too numb to speak. She hoped that she doesn’t get caught in her own plot. The minister was nowhere to be found no sooner the rumours of Manikanta riding the tiger spread.
The king analyzing the situation correctly spoke — “Oh! Lord Manikanta! You are no ordinary human. Our kingdom is graced by your presence. Please accept the throne and guide us to our destiny”.
He bowed down as a token of respect even though Manikanta was years younger. “Oh Great King! I'm honored by your words and your hospitality! But your son is an able king to guide your people after you. I will take your leave now” smiled Manikanta and disappeared into thin air, without any theatrics of bright light which he still needs to learn from his fathers. The paralyzed prince came running towards his parents as if someone magically cured him.
The king profusely thanked Manikanta and proclaimed that he would build a temple for the Hari-Hara putra (Shiva and Vishnu’s son). Mysteriously an arrow fell down from the sky in a particular place on the sabri hills, where the divine architect of gods — vishwakarma built a great temple. The great temple still stands today as a symbol for hope and the legend of Manikanta or Ayyappa (Ayya + Appa — Son of two fathers) as he is known in the native language of today’s state Kerala.
About the Author:
The author grew up amidst stories since childhood. Fantasy and myths have always held a special place for him. Sagar Venkateshwar was born in Hyderabad and brought up in Visakhapatnam, India. He started his education from Pollocks School, Visakhapatnam. He completed his Btech in Electrical Engineering from NIT Patna. He is 21 years old, pursuing his MBA from IIFT Delhi. He loves to doodle in his free time whenever he isn’t reading or writing.