|The eternal boy god sits atop the hill of Sabarimalai, Kerala, protecting the forests from demons and wild malevolent spirits.
He was born when Vishnu, in the form of theenchantress Mohini, united with Shiva. This divine child was raised by a childless king. Soon after his arrival into the royal household, the queen gave birth to a son. As the years passed, the queen feared that the foundling who had grown up to be a wise, strong and handsome youth would usurp her own son’s claim to the throne. Feigning illness, she claimed that only the milk of a tigress fetched by a virgin warrior would cure her. Ayyappa immediately set out for the forest.
The queen’s plot to kill Ayyappa backfired. In the forest, he fulfilled his destiny and returned a god. After he had milked the leopards, he was attacked by a ferocious demoness called Mahishi. Ayyappa killed Mahishi and rode into his father’s kingdom on a tiger covered with the battle scars. The people cheered his return and begged him to be King. But Ayyappa renounced his claim to the throne and retired to the peak of Sabarimalai.
Every year, thousands of devotees make a perilous journey across forests and over hills to take refuge in the grace of this brave and magnanimous vira.
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