The Sons of Shiva
This Amar Chitra Katha issue is dedicated to the three sons of the almighty ascetic Lord Shiva. Ganesha, Kartikkeya and Ayyappan are widely revered deities whose legends and deeds have fascinated and humbled generations of Indians.
A strange and fascinating series of divine events led to the birth of Manikanthan, who had a glorious destiny. His devotees believe, at the end of a life full of dramatic events, Lord Parashurama himself sculpted and installed an idol of him in the hill temple of Shabari, deep in the forests of Kerala. There, as Lord Ayyappan, he is worshipped as the presiding deity of the whole range till today.
No traditional Hindu will launch upon a new undertaking without invoking Ganesha, for it is he, as Vighneshwara, prime remover of obstacles, who clears the path to success. The legends about the birth and exploits of this deity are many. Our story, however, is based solely on the Shiva Purana version. On the heights of Mount Kailasa, the divine household of Shiva and Parvati stood divided, for, Shiva came and went as he pleased and Parvati was irked by his intrusions on her privacy. Out of that divine dissension was born Ganesha, who rose to become perhaps the most lovable deity in the Hindu pantheon.
Karttikeya, the commander-in-chief of the celestial army, is also known as Subrahmanya, Skanda, Guha and Kumara. In the southern states of India, Subrahmanya is a popular deity even today. Among the Tamil-speaking people he is better known as Murugan. He is worshipped in the East, especially in Bengal, where women pray to him for worthy sons. Like Ganesha, he too is the miraculously born son of Shiva and Parvati. If Parvati created Ganesha, Karttikeya was the creation of Shiva, nurtured by Agni, Ganga and the Krittikas, each in turn.
A strange and fascinating series of divine events led to the birth of Manikanthan, who had a glorious destiny. According to Indian mythology, he is one of sons of the great Lord Shiva. At the end of a life full of dramatic events, Lord Parashurama himself sculpted and installed an idol of him in the hill temple of Shabari. There, as Lord Ayyappan, he is worshipped as the presiding deity of the whole range.
This lone temple on the top of the Shabari Hills, deep in the forests of Kerala, attracts millions of devotees from all over the country every year. They travel through dense forests full of wild animals, over steep hills and in inclement weather for a darshan (a glimpse) of Ayyappan on Maker Sankranti (a festival which falls on the 14th of January). It is said that the Lord comes down to the Shabari Hills on Makar Sankranti in the form of light to give darshan to his innumerable devotees and that he himself lights the temple lamp. Then, in a moving and beautiful ritual, the pilgrims partake of the prasad and walk backwards down the 18 steps, their faces turned towards the Lord shining with devotion and ecstasy.
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