Shasta also known as Sri Dharma Shasta is a famous Hindu god. Lord Ayyanar and Lord Ayyappa are the forms of Sri Dharma Shasta. In some ancient Hindu texts, the incarnations and the significance of Lord Shasta is mentioned.
Shasta is believed to be the son of Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu. The great Shaivite saint Sri Appar praises Lord Shasta in the Tevaram text, a great Shaivite text, during the 7th Century AD.Similarly the other Nayanmar Saint Sri Tirugnanasambandar also praises Shasta as one of the Chief attendants of Lord Siva.
The Shasta worship is practiced in India for many years, and he is widely worshipped by the people with his two consorts Purana and Pushkala. Lord Karuppan, Veeran and Kathavarayan are also considered as the avatars of Lord Dharma Shasta.
Lord Ayyappan is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Dharma Shasta, and in his Sabarimala Temple, all the pujas are performed in the name of Shasta, since both are considered as one and the same. As per legend, Lord Shasta had incarnated as Swamy Ayyappan to kill the evil demoness Mahishi, in order to protect the Divine Devas and the people in the earth.
As per Ramayana, during the time of Lord Rama’s exile, he went to the present place of Sabari Mala, and there he met Mata Sabari, who had offered fruits as food items to Rama. After some time, when Rama was passing through the Sabari Mala forest, there he saw a divine person doing meditation. On seeing him, Lord Rama had enquired. The divine person had said that he is Shasta, and then, both of them were discussed about spiritual matters, and after some time, Lord Rama had left that place.
Lord Shasta was born as Lord Ayyappan in Kerala, and he was adopted by the Pandalam King. As per the wishes of his evil minded step mother, Ayyappan went to the forest, to fetch the milk of the tiger. Lord Indra became a tiger, and with a group of other Devas, who have also transformed themselves into tigers, he went to his kingdom. On seeing Lord Ayyappan riding in a tiger, and followed by a group of tigers, the queen felt ashamed for her cruel act, and asked Lord Ayyappan to apologise her. Lord Ayyappan had forgiven her mistake, and at his young age itself, he went to the Sabarimala forest, and made it as his permanent abode.
After some time, a temple was built by his foster father Pandala Maharaja, and still now, the Ayyappan temple at Sabarimala, attracts large number of devotees, especially during Sabarimala season (Mid of November – Mid of January).
Some of the famous Dharma Shasta Temples are as follows:
1. Dharma Shasta Temple at Salem, Tamil Nadu.
2. Dharma Shasta Temple at Kottayam, Kerala.
3. Shasta Temple at Thirunelveli.
4. Dharma Shasta Temple at Thrissur, Kerala.
5. Sri Dharma Shasta and Guruvayurappan Temple, Pammal, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Let us worship Lord Dharma Shasta who is the Lord of Dharma, and be blessed.