Ayyanar, Aiyanar, Sastha or Saththan is a Hindu deity worshipped widely in South India and Sri Lanka. His worship is prevalent among Tamils, Malayalis and Sinhalese. Early history suggests that Ayyanar have also been worshipped in South east Asian countries in the past. He is mainly worshiped as one of the guardian deities of Tamil Nadu. The village temples of Ayyanar are usually found riding horses or elephants.
History of Ayyanar
Ayyanar is a Tamil adaptation of Aiyan, the chief deity of the rulers of Keralaand Tamil Nadu.
14th century Tamil version of SkandaPurana narrates the history of Aiyanar. Here Ayyanar, 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.
Appearance and Importance of Ayyanar
The famous iconography of Aiyan shows him alone, carrying a crooked stick in his right hand. Sometimes a whip, stick, sword can be seen in his hand. His mount is a white elephant. The horse is another mount seen in his temples. Some people say that the tiger is also identified as the mount of Sastha.
Sastha wears black garments and reddish garlands. His body is smeared with yellow paste and he carries a sword in his hand. 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. His general appearance in temples is that of carrying an arrow, bow, knife and sword.
Some records tells us that Ayyanar is accompanied by his two wives popularly known as Purana and Pushkala.
Ayyanar is regarded 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. Ayyanar images installed in villages are usually gigantic.
Tamil devotees did not differentiate between 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 and can be seen all over South India as well as Sri Lanka. Almost all villages of Tamil Nadu are having an Ayyanar Temple. Ayyanar shrines are usually located at the boundaries of rural villages and the deity is seen riding a horse with a sword. Kerala retains its Ayyanar temples as Sastha temples.Many castes of Tamil Nadu worship Ayyanar as their Kula deivam.
Lord Ayyanar is a guardian god and will protect us from all the evils. He is still riding his horse and coming to the streets to safeguard his devotees. Those who have strong faith with him, can be able to see him in their eyes and can worship him directly. If we have bhakti with him, definitely he will safeguard us from our enemies and give us a healthy and happy life.
Let us pray to Lord Ayyanar and chant his nama‘OM SREE AYYANARE NAMAHA’.