Aiyan with his consorts Poorna and Pushkala
|Other names||Hariharaputra, Ayyappan|
|Weapon||Chentu (whip), scepter, Arrow and Bow|
|Mount||White Elephant, Horse, Bull|
Ayyanar, Sastha or Saththan (IAST:Aiyaṉār, Śāstā, Cāttaṉ Tamil: ஐயனார், சாஸ்தா,) is a Hindu deity particularly praised in South India and Sri Lanka. His worship is prevalent among Tamils, Malayalis and Sinhalese. Some studies suggest that Ayyanar may have also been worshipped in South east Asian countries in the past. He is primarily worshiped as one of the guardian folk deities of Tamil Nadu. The village temples of Ayyanar are usually flanked by gigantic and colorful statues of him and his companions riding horses or elephants. The well known shrine at Sabarimala is actually a Sastha temple though its main deity Ayyappan has now developed distinctly from Ayyanar.
The Tamil word Ayyanār is derived from the root word Ayyan, a honorific used in a Tamil language to designate either respectable or elder people. Some people propose that Aiyan could be the Tamilized version of Sanskrit root Arya which means the same. There is a well known temple dedicated to Sastha situated in a village of Kerala, called "Aryankavu". Since Tamil Ayya sounds like the Pali equivalent of Ayya (Arya), the vice versa argument is prevalent. Another name of Ayyanar, Sastha, meets the same dispute. Although he appears as Sastha in Sanskrit scriptures, ancient Tamil records mention him as Chattan (சாத்தன்,Cāttaṉ). Though Śāstā is the term especially used to indicate Ayyanar nowadays, there are two other deities known in the same name. Buddha is also called Sastha and Brahma-Śāstā is another name for Murugan. Sastha is a generic Sanskrit term for a teacher.
There are very few evidences available to construct the origin and development of Ayyanar. Since Sastha is the synonym of Buddha, some researchers assume Chattan could have entered the Tamil country with Buddhism. Some others oppose this on the grounds that Ayyanar still retains his archaic Dravidian nature and is therefore a South Indian deity who might have been absorbed into the Hindu pantheon later in the name of Sastha. The earliest references to Ayyanar were discovered in the hero stones of hunting chieftains from Arcot, Tamil Nadu dated back to the 3rd century C.E. The phrase in the inscriptions which could be translated into "Ayyanappan; a shrine to Cattan" confirms that Ayyan and Chattan were the names of a single deity. A rock carving of a man and horse in the Isurumuniya Buddhist temple of Sri Lanka, is identified with Ayyanar. Sinhala buddhists of Sri Lanka praise him in the form of a folk deity called Ayyanayake to the date.
Sastha started to appear in Sanskrit sources from the 7th century CE after Brahmanda Purana. It narrates the history of Hariharasuta, son of Hari and Hara, who was born to Shiva during his copulation with Mohini, the feminised form of Vishnu, after the churning of the milk sea. Sivagama corpus of southern Shaiva Siddhanta including Pūrva Kāraṇa, Amṣūmatbhēda, Suprabhēda, also have many references to the iconography of Sastha. Other Hindu Saivite texts viz. Ishana Siva Guru Paddhati, Kulala Sastragama and Shilparatna explain his worship and iconography briefly.
According to Fred Clothey, Aiyanar is a Tamil adaptation of Aiyan, the chief deity of Ay chieftains who ruled parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the then Tamilakam. He also states that the term aayar meaning a cow herder and a protector is an appropriate appellation for both the Ay chieftains and their clan deity. Tamil Sangam literature often mention poets and traders with the name Chattan, who might have revered Sastha as their clan deity.
Tamil epic Silappatikaram, probably dated to the 4th century CE, records the temples and devotees of Cattan. Appar (7th century CE), Saivite Nayanar and one of the initiators of the Tamil Bhakti movement, praises Shiva as the father of Chattan in his Tevaram (Tirumurai, 4:32:4). Periya Puranam, a Tamil Saivite epic of the 12th century CE tells that Aiyanar at Tiruppidavur composed the Tamil song of Cheraman Perumal, a Nayanar-cum -Chera king (800—844 CE) which was revealed by him in Kailash. From the Chola period (9th century) onwards the popularity of Aiyanar became even more pronounced and so many bronze images of him are available from this period. Tamil Nighantus (proto-glossaries) such as Piṅkalantai (11th century CE) and Cūṭāmaṇi Nighaṇṭu (1520 CE) have explicitly recorded the characteristics of Sastha.
Kanda purānam, 14th century Tamil version of Skanda Purana narrates the history of Aiyanar in Maha chattan patalam which seconds the story told in Brahmanda purana. Here Ayyan, Kanda puranam tells, sends his chief commander Mahakala to protect Indrani from the demon Surapadman. Mahakala chops down the hands of Ajamukhi, sister of Surapadman, who tried to abduct Indrani for her brother.
The famous iconography of Aiyan shows him alone, carrying a Chentu (செண்டு, crooked stick) in his right hand. Sometimes a whip, stick, sword or scepter can be seen in his hand. While he manifests in a squat position, A meditation band known as Yogapaţţam or Vāgupaţţai will present around his knees and waist. Pingalantai Nighantu, Kanda Puranam and Chola bronzes describe his mount as a white elephant. The horse is another mount abundantly seen in his local temples. Some texts have mentioned the blue horse and bull as his mount as well. After the popularity of the Ayyappan cult, the tiger is also identified as the mount of Sastha.
According to Cūṭāmaṇi Nighaṇṭu, Sastha wears black garments and reddish garlands. His body is smeared with yellow paste and he carries a sword in his hand. In Kārana Agama, he sits on a throne with his right leg folded while his left leg is hanging down. He is usually depicted having blue or black complexion. Although his two armed form is common, some texts describe his forms with four or eight arms. Amsumadbheda Agama describes his four arms carrying Abhaya, Varada, sword and shield. In Ishana Siva Guru Paddhati, he is visualized as carrying an arrow, bow, knife and sword.
Other records on Ayyanar tell that he is accompanied by his two wives popularly known as Purana and Pushkala. Purna (on his right) is dark complexioned and carries Varamudra in her right hand and blue lotus in the left. Pushkala (on his left) is yellow complexioned and holds a noose in her right hand. Shilparatna describes him with only one wife called Prabha and their eight years old lad known as Satyakan
Folklore regards Aiyan as the guardian of the villages, riding on either an elephant or horse. He carries a bow and arrow to save his devotees. Pavadairayan, Karuppasamy and Madurai Veeran are his attendants. Aiyanar images installed in villages are usually gigantic and they are identical with the Bhuta like iconography of Sastha given in Subrabheda Agama. In rural areas, Aiyanar is often represented with an escort, usually composed of the god's vassals, sometimes comprising demons. Consistent with this practice, terracotta horses are usually placed outside the temple. These are given up to the god as steeds for his night time perambulations.
Connections with Ayyappan
A deity named "Ayyappan" is not recorded in any early Tamil/Sanskrit sources though the name Ayyappan appears as synonymous with (Vediya) Sastha in Tiruvalla copper plates of the 12th century CE and Kanyakumari Guhanathaswami Kovil Inscription.. Neither Ayyappa nor Sabarimala is known as a pilgrim spot in the Tamil region before the 1940s. According to researchers Eliza Kent, Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, the legends in the Ayyappa tradition seem to be "artificially mixed and assembled into a kind of collage" and "he should have emerged from a Dravidian god of tribal provenance".
There is a lot evidence to prove that the above mentioned Dravidian tribal god is none other than Ayyanar. Sabarimala Sthala Puranam, a recent purana explains that Ayyappan is the avatar of Ayyanar. Even the name Ayyappan reveals that it is the combination of Ayyan (Ayyanar) + Appan (father). Yogapatta bar around the knees of Ayyappan is the distinct character that can be seen in the Ayyanar statues of the Chola period. The horse mount of Aiyanar is still visible in the flag staff of Sabarimala Ayyappan temple. The synonym Sastha of Ayyappan is obviously the same as that of Ayyanar. Another important association is the presence of Karuppa samy in the worship of both deities.
Legend suggests that the image of Sabarimala Ayyappan was consecerated by Parashurama. However the Sanskrit inscription in the image says that it was installed in Kollam Era 1085 (1910 CE) by Prabhakaracharya. Tamil devotees did not discriminate Ayyappan with Ayyanar and they believe that Ayyappan is the avatar of Ayyanar. It can be noted that Sri Lankan Ayyanar temples are being converted into Ayyappan temples following the outbreak of Sabarimala pilgrimage of Sri Lankan devotees in recent years.
Many temples are dedicated to Ayyanar can be seen all over South India as well as Sri Lanka. Almost all villages of Tamil Nadu would have an Aiyanar kovil. Ayyanar shrines are usually located at the peripheries or boundaries of rural villages and the deity is seen riding a horse with a sword or whip. Ayyanar has both types of temples - temples constructed in Agamic style and non-Agamic open air shrines. Ayyanar in Agamic temple is usually called Sastha or Dharma sastha. Kerala retains its Ayyanar temples as Sastha temples. The attendant priest for Aiyanar is generally from the potter caste who fashions idols and clay horses, although it is not uncommon for priests from other castes to officiate in the Ayyanar temples. Many castes of Tamil Nadu worship Ayyanar as their Kula deivam.
Ayyanar and his two consorts, 15 - 17th century CE, Châlons-en-Champagne French Museum
Ayyanar sculptures at Gopichettipalayam
Ayyannar Car festival, Thungapuram
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aiyanar.|
- Rao, S.K.Ramachandra (1988). Pratima Kosha : A Descriptive Glossary of Indian Iconography. Bangalore: Prof.S.K.Ramachandra Rao Memorial Trust. pp. 206–210.
- Narayanan, Gita; Thiagarajan, Deborah (2001). DakshinaChitra: A Glimpse of South India. Madras Craft Foundation. pp. 40–41.
- Kulendiren, Pon (2012). Hinduism a Scientific Religion: & Some Temples in Sri Lanka. iUniverse. p. 188. ISBN 9781475936735.
- Mãrg, Volume 37, Issues 3-4. Marg Publications. p. 67.
- Pal, Pratapaditya (1986). "American Collectors of Asian Art". Marg publications. 37: 67.
- Christa Neuenhofer (2012). Ayyanar and Mariamman, Folk Deities in South India. Blurb Incorporated. ISBN 9781457990106.
- Mark Jarzombek. "Horse Shrines in Tamil India: Reflections on Modernity" (PDF). Future Anterior. 4 (1): 18–36. doi:10.1353/fta.0.0031
- Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. p. 54. ISBN 9780143414216.
- Indian Antiquary, Volume 2. Popular Prakashan. 1873. p. 168.
- Indrapala, K., The evolution of an ethnic identity: The Tamils in Sri Lanka C. 300 BCE to C. 1200 CE, p.#
- Smith, B. L., Religion and Legitimacy of power in South Asia, p.6
- Pathmanathan, S (2000). Reflections on a Heritage: Historical Scholarship on Premodern Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka: Central Cultural Fund, Ministry of Cultural and Religious Affairs. p. 88. ISBN 9789556131086.
- Williams, Joanna Gottfried; Hunnington, Susan L. (1981). Kalādarśana: American Studies in the Art of India Volume 9 of Studies in South Asian Culture. Brill. p. 67. ISBN 9789004064980.
- Cutantiran̲, Ā Vēluccāmi (2001). Temples of Nannilam Taluk: as iconographical masterpieces Volume 225 of Tamil̲p Palkalaik Kal̲aka veḷiyīṭu. Thanjavur Tamil University. p. 205.
- Sadasivan, S. N. (2000). A Social History of India. APH. p. 121. ISBN 9788176481700.
- Annals of Oriental Research, Volume 24. University of Madras. 1972. p. 380.
- Pestman, P. W. (1971). Acta Orientalia Neerlandica: Proceedings of the Congress of the Dutch Oriental Society Held in Leiden on the Occasion of Its 50th Anniversary, 8th-9th May 1970. Brill Archive. p. 116.
- Velu Pillai, A. (1980). Epigraphical Evidences for Tamil Studies. Ulakat Tamil̲ārāycci Nir̲uvan̲am. p. 113.
- Venkataramaiah, K. M. (1996). A handbook of Tamil Nadu. International School of Dravidian Linguistics. p. 317. ISBN 9788185692203.
- Subramanya Aiyar, V.M. "Songs with description of twelve holy composition". Thevaaram.org. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
- Williams, J., Kaladarsana, p.62
- Sivaraman, Dr.Akila (2006). sri kandha puranam (english). GIRI Trading Agency Private. p. 175. ISBN 9788179503973.
- Harper, Katherine Anne, and Brown, Robert L. (Eds) (2002). The Roots of Tantra. Albany: State University of New York Press.
- Sahi, Jyoti (1990). The child and the serpent: reflections on popular Indian symbols. Canada: Penguin Group. p. 194. ISBN 978-0140190816. Retrieved 1 July 1990. Check date values in:
- 'A Folk Deity of Tamil Nad' by L. Dumont, in Religion in India ed. T.N. Madan
- Tattvāloka, Volume 16. Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Educational Trus. 1993. p. 246.
- Poduval, R. Vasudeva (1990). Travancore Inscription: A Topographical List. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. p. 76.
- Kajaerholm (1984), p.3
- Eliza Kent (2013). Lines in Water: Religious Boundaries in South Asia. Syracuse University Press. pp. 80–83. ISBN 978-0-8156-5225-0.
- Ruth Vanita; Saleem Kidwai (2000). Same-Sex Love in India: Readings in Indian Literature. Springer Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 1137054808.
- Kent, Eliza F. (2013). Sacred Groves and Local Gods: Religion and Environmentalism in South India. OUP USA. pp. 79–119. ISBN 9780199895465.
- Devdutt Pattanaik (2000). The Goddess in India: The Five Faces of the Eternal Feminine. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781594775376.
- Mikhail Sergeevich Andronov (1996). A Grammar of the Malayalam Language in Historical Treatment. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 49. ISBN 978-3-447-03811-9.
- Johannes Bronkhorst; Madhav Deshpande (1999). Aryan and non-Aryan in South Asia: evidence, interpretation, and ideology; proceedings of the International Seminar on Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia. Harvard University, Dept. of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. pp. 177–178. ISBN 978-1-888789-04-1.
- "Animal carriers of Lord Shree Dharma Sastha". media4news. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
- Miller, Roland E. (1976). Mappila Muslims of Kerala: A Study in Islamic Trends. Orient Longman. p. 22.
- Dubey, D. P. (2000). Pilgrimage Studies: The Power of Sacred Places Issue 5 of Pilgrimage studies. Society of Pilgrimage Studies. p. 63. ISBN 9788190052030.
- Shutharsan, S. "Arikaraputtira aiyaṉār (Tamil)". Ourjaffna.com. Analaikkumaran. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
- Sivkishen (2015). Kingdom of Shiva. Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd. ISBN 9788128830280.
- Menon, A. Sreedhara (1978). Cultural Heritage of Kerala: An Introduction. East-West Publications. pp. 17–28.
- Mudumby Narasimhachary (Ed) (1976). Āgamaprāmāṇya of Yāmunācārya, Issue 160 of Gaekwad's Oriental Series. Oriental Institute, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
- Mark Jarzombek. "Horse Shrines in Tamil India: Reflections on Modernity" (PDF). Future Anterior. 4 (1): 18–36. doi:10.1353/fta.0.0031.
- Kajaerholm, Lars (1984). "Aiyanar and Aiyappan in Tamil Nadu: Change and Continuity in South Indian Hinduism" (PDF). Folk. Dansk Ethnografisk Tidsskrift Kobenhavn. 26: 67–92. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Valk, Ulo (2007). "Village deities in Tamil Nadu:Myth and legends". Asian Folklore Studies. 66: 179–199.
- Smith, B. L. (1978). Religion and the Legitimation of Power in South Asia. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-05674-2.
- Mark Jarzombek, "Horse Shrines in Tamil India: Reflections on Modernity", Future Anterior, (4/1), pp 18–36.
- Bayly, Susan (2004). Saints, Goddesses and Kings: Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society, 1700-1900. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-89103-5.
- Clothey, Fred (1978). Many Faces of Murakan: The History and Meaning of a South Indian God. Walter De Gruyter Inc. ISBN 90-279-7632-5.
- Karthigesu, Sivathamby (1995). Sri Lankan Tamil society and politics (PDF). New Century Book House. ISBN 81-234-0395-X.
- Morris, Brian (2005). Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-85241-2.
- Bastin, Rohan (2002). The Domain of Constant Excess: Plural Worship at the Munnesvaram Temples in Sri Lanka. Berghahn Books. ISBN 1-57181-252-0.
- Williams, Joanna (1981). Kaladarsana: American studies in the art of India. E.J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-06498-2.
- Roberts, Michael (2008). "Tamil Tigers: Sacrificial symbolism and `dead body politics'". Anthropology Today. 24: 22–23. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8322.2008.00587.x.
- Indrapala, K. (2007). The evolution of an ethnic identity: The Tamils in Sri Lanka C. 300 BCE to C. 1200 CE. Vijitha Yapa. p. 374. ISBN 978-955-1266-72-1.