Lord Ayyappan

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Ayyappan is the Hindu god of growth, particularly popular in Kerala. He is a synthetic deity, the son of Shiva and Mohini – the female avatar of Vishnu. Ayyappan is also referred to as Ayyappa, Sastavu, Hariharaputra, Manikandan, Shasta or Dharma Shasta. The iconography of Ayyappan depicts him as a handsome celibate god doing yoga and as an epitome of Dharma, who wears a bell around his neck. In the Hindu pantheon, his legends are relatively recent but diverse. For some, he is also an incarnation of the Buddha. He is honored by some Muslims in Kerala, with legends wherein Ayyappan defeats and gains worship of the Muslim brigand Vavar. In the Hindu tradition popular in the Western Ghats of India, he was born with the powers of Shiva and Vishnu to confront and defeat the shape-shifting evil Buffalo demoness Mahishasuri. He was raised by a childless royal couple and grows up as a warrior yogi champion of ethical and dharmic living. In the South Indian version, Ayyappan images show him as riding a tiger, but in some places such as Sri Lanka he is shown as riding a white elephant.

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