Ayyanar ! Appan !

My buddha interest beginned, when I was curious about my family god (Khula dheivam) “Ayyanar” to whom my fore fathers worshiped  for centuries. All my findings and routes about "Ayyanar" took me to "Ayyappan" and "Ayyappan" to "Buddha" !

This post is not intended to question the faith or harm the sentiments of any devotee nor is it to disprove a popular view. It contains a bunch of arguments which appeared logical to me, majorly collected from internet and partly based on my observation, which gives an alternate perspective on the South Indian God ‘Ayyappa’.

There are quite a number of scholars who have given evidences to the fact that Sabarimala was actually a Buddhist shrine and Ayyappa was actually Buddha, rechristened during the revival of Hinduism and the subsequent exile of Buddhism. I took some time to reflect on this findings and I request the readers to believe or accept following findings after application of your mind

Dharma Sastha

“Dharma Sastha”, the alternate name by which Ayyappa is known, suggests in similar lines. “Dharma” is a word which is of utmost importance to Buddhists. “Sastha” is a widely used synonym for Buddha.

The 'Saranathrayam' of Buddhist disciples “Budham Saranam Gachami; Dharmam Saranam Gachami; Sangham Saranam Gachami” meaning “To the Buddha I go for refuge; To the Dharma (Buddhist teachings) I go for refuge; To the Sangha (Monks) I go for refuge” portrays Buddha and Dharma as destinations for ones refuge.

Saranam Saranam Aiyappa !

The chanting of Ayyappa devotees wherein they repeat the word “Saranam” (means surrender) is also interesting. There is no other Hindu God who is associated with the chanting of Saranam whereas it is an integral part of the Buddhist chants. Buddha invited all religion & caste people to surrender in his buddhist path, in the time where vedic religion ( today’s hindhu religion) was exclusively for brahmins, upper caste kings & business men in BC 2500."Guruve Saranam" lyrics in famous tamil ayyappa song shows that guru refers to buddha.

41 days austere life

The pilgrimage to Sabari, in itself thought to be an act of tremendous virtue by the Ayyappas, involves a lot
of austerities to be followed by them. It is well known that there are 18 steps that are to be climbed only by those who observe these austerities. But it is little known that these austerities are similar to the vows,
known as ashta-shilas, taken by Buddhists. This point should also demonstrate how the traditions persist
though the labels change.

Caste discrimination

Another interesting aspect to notice is the egalitarian nature of the Sabarimala temple. Devotees here are never differentiated on the basis of religion, caste or color. Everyone wears the same dress and addresses each other as “Ayyappa” or in other words each devotee considers each other as the God himself. This again isn’t in line with the Hindu system of differentiating people, but more similar towards the Buddhist principle of equality.

Ayyanar is god for crores of indigenous tamils in south india and worshipped by every community in the region without any caste discrimination. This shows that ayyanar worship was not originated in any particular caste or group of people and it must have been followed by most of the communities except vedic followers.

Role of Ayyappa in Hindhuism

Ayyappa does not show his presence in any of the mainline Hindu scriptures, which are of aryan origin. This is obvious as Ayyappa was a south indian God, who was absorbed into the Hindu mythology. Later Hindu works added him as Hariharaputra (Son of Vishnu and Shiva) who was born out of the love between Mohini(Vishnu) and Shiva. The folk story of Ayyappa portrays him as the prince of Pandalam dynasty, the Pandalam King having adopted him on finding him as a baby in the shores of river Pampa. It is probable that the folk story was absorbed into the later Hindu scriptures, adding the missing link of the birth (story of Mohini and Shiva).

Avalokitesvara Bodhisatva

Avalokitesrvara Bodhisatva

Ayyanar statue - Chennai museum 

Ayyappa’s  legends speaks about him having a Muslim friend called Vavar who has helped Ayyappa. This also underlines the above fact, as Islam religion originated in mid AD 600s whereas most of the Hindu scriptures were composed in the BC era. The legend of Ayyappa must have originated at a time of religious harmony between Muslims and Hindus. The era of Pandalam Dynasty (1200-1500AD) of which Ayyappa’s legend is based on, also suggests the same.

It is interesting to note that Ayyappa is just one among the several dravidian Gods including Tirupati Balaji, who convincingly seem to be rechristened forms of Buddha.

The Amshumabhedagama, Suprabhedegama and Karanangama, notable among the description is that Lord is seated on a pitha..." with his left leg hanging down the seat and the right one folded and rested upon the seat vertically. On the knee of this latter leg should rest the elbow of the stretched left arm. In the right hand there should be a vajradanda, which is crooked stick (note the vajra a characteristic weapon of the Boudha Bodhisattva)..."

Manigandan ! Mani padme hum !

"Maṇi padme hūṃ" is the six-syllabled buddhist mantra particularly associated with the four-armed Shadakshari form of Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan Chenrezig, Chinese Guanyin), the bodhisattva of compassion. Mani means "jewel" or "bead" and Padma means "the lotus flower", the Buddhist Sacred Flower. One of ayyappa's name is manigandan.

Pandalam Kingdom

The Iyyappa temple in Sabarimala was built by a Pandalam king. The Pandalam dynsasty is an offshoot of the Pandya dynasty of Tamil Nadu. And the Pandalam king who built the Iyyappa temple was not a Hindu. He was a Buddhist. Srilankan buddhist historical work “Mahavamsam” talks about buddhist sinhale king marrying buddhist pandya king’s daughter. This shows that unlike chola who built lot of saivait temples, set of pandya rulers followed buddhism in their rule.


Iyyappa has the vajradanda, a crooked stick in his right arm. The vajra is a characteristic weapon of Bodhisattva. Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, is one of the most important and popular Buddhist dieties. Although he originally was conceived of in a Mahayana context, he has been worshipped under different names and in different shapes in nearly every form of Buddhism in every country Buddhism has entered. Avalokitesvara first appears in Indian Buddhism. He is originally mentioned as one of a number of bodhisattvas. These bodhisattvas are personifications of various attributes of the Buddha.

Sabarimala and TaktSang buddhist Monastery in Bhutan                                                              

Buddhist monasteries are generally located deep inside the forest, on mountain tops etc where they can lead an austere life peacefully and far from civilization, unlike Hindu temples which are mostly located in populated areas. Sabarimala is also located far inside the forest, in the middle of 18 hills in Western Ghats, the area coming under the Periyar Tiger Reserve. TaktSang buddhist Monastery in bhutan says that Guru Padmasambhava, who propagated Buddhism in Bhutan came to this place riding on a Tigress. Taktsang literally means “Tigers Nest”. Ayyappa’s legend also has a mention of him riding back home, on a tigress.

Government records

A report dated June 5, 1881, submitted by the Peishkar (head of the district administration) of Trivandrum, V. Nagam Aiya, to Maharaja Visakham Thirunal, pointed out that the temple at Chitaral in Vilavancode taluk (this place too is now in TN) was a Buddhist place of worship. The Maharaja recorded this comment on it: “Your description is correct. The Vedic followers have appropriated and adapted this Buddhist temple as they have done with many others. What you call muni is nothing but the figure of Buddha Gautama”. (Nagam Aiya, well-known as the author of the Travancore Gazetteer, belonged to Thirunelveli area of TN).

Early Hindu literature has no mention of Ayyappa

This deity which is very peculiar to the Dravida country does not appear to have been known to the region
north of Godavari. In no early Sanskrit work is the deity mentioned. Even the dictionaries do not record this
name and give its origin.

Buddha in today’s Hinduism

 The Vedic community could not even fabricate a credible lie for the origin of the sabarimala temple it took over. It didn’t need a good story because there was a slavish population ready to swallow any lie it dished out.

Though Buddhism disappeared from the South, it integrated into the southern culture. Buddha had become reincarnation of Vishnu. Some sects have replaced Balarama or Parasurama with The Buddha in the ten incarnations of Vishnu. The worship of Sathanar, Ayyanar, Dharma Raja and Bodhi Raj are old Buddha worship. (Notice the words Dharma, Satha, Bodhi etc)

Some names of people that I encountered in South tamilnadu:

Arasa Guru - Bodhi tree is arasa maram. Prince (son of arasan) gauthama renounced to become buddha.

Munisamy - Buddha is called Chakyamuni, munivar from chakya dynasty.

Satthanar - Dharma "Sastha".

Ayyanar - Ayyan refers to father buddha.

Vinayakar - Buddha's teachings are called "Buddha vinayams". Please link arasa maram (bodhi tree) with vinayakar, we still do "buddhi" signage for vinayakar statues, Tamil epic poem manimeghalai calls the heroine of the epic"Vinayaki" who preached buddha's vinayams in cambodia, java etc...

Some of my clicks on Ayyanar, Ayyappan, Sastha.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing .. I was pondering about it since I thought ayyanar was buddha.some said ayyanar is ayyappa and you showed it with proof. Appreciate your efforts