Trinity of Vedanta Texts

Chandran, Nanda (NBC) Nanda.Chandran at NBC.COM
Tue Apr 28 11:07:58 CDT 1998

Check out this article on the Trinity of Vedanta Texts :

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>From  Tue Apr 28 06:14:33 1998
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Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 06:14:33 -0700
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From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
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Subject: Vedantic Symbolism in the Worship of Swami Ayyappa - Part 1
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Vedantic Symbolism in the Worship of Swami Ayyappa - Part 1


        Religion is an expression of human desire to communicate with God and
Hinduism is no exception.  In Hinduism, avatars (manifestations of God)
establish the contact between humans and God.  Villages, towns, and
states affiliated to avatars became holy lands for pilgrimage.  Puranic
stories of primary and secondary Avatars became the tools to correct
decay of moral values and Hindu Traditions.  Customs and traditions that
may look superfluous have contributed to a clearer understanding of
Hindu heritage and Vedantic  Philosophy of life.  Demons and devils were
the creations of human mind and the presence of Divinity (Avatar) was
necessary to destroy the illusory creations.
        The avatar of Hariharaputra (son of Vishnu and Siva), was to destroy
Mahishi (a female demon).  The local name of Hariharaputra is Swami
(Lord) Ayyappa and his worship is more prevalent in Kerala and adjacent
states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Kerala was the stage for the human
drama of Ayyappa and that may explain the reason for the sectoral
worship.   Ayyappa is the manifestation of the combined energy source of
Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva.  The devotees of Ayyappa call him by several
favorite names which include, Dharma Shasta (one who established
Dharma), Manikanta (born with a bell on the neck), Boothanathan (master
of Lord Shiva's army consisting of Vapara, Katusabada, Veerabadhra,
Koopanetra, Koopakarna and Gandakrana).  The followers of all religions
worship Ayyappa including Hindus, Buddhists, Jain, Sikhs, Muslims and
Christians.  Ayyappa temples in Sabari Hills, Achankovil, Ariyankavu,
Kulathur and Thiruvullakkavu in Kerala attract more pilgrims than the
remaining hundred or more in the southern part of India.
        The Ayyappa worship represents a balanced blend of the diversified
beliefs and traditions of Shaivam, Vaishnavam, Jainism and Buddhism.
This article first describes the relevance of temples in Hindu worship
and then turns its focus to explain the symbolism of Ayyappa worship.
The local traditions behind the pilgrimage to Sabari Hills illustrate
and unravel the philosophical significance of associated  rituals,
beliefs and traditions.  This article aims to unscramble the hidden
treasures of hidden Ideals behind the Idols.   Any separation of the
ideals and idols is an illusion.  In the Advaitic theological framework,
if  ideals represent the Atman then the Idols are the visual image of
Brahman.  Their separation is an illusion and with the establishment of
Wisdom, the illusion gets dissolved!  In our daily life we quite often
meet strange people, strange foods, strange languages, strange roads,
strange buildings, etc.  There is nothing strange about the "strange"
and it just  indicates our ignorance!  Only Wisdom has the potential to
force our perception of strange to disappear.  When we have the wisdom,
we become more flexible to accept the same strange people, foods,
customs, rituals etc. without reservation.   A close scrutiny of   Hindu
rituals, recitations and the pattern of worships will help us to unravel
the hidden philosophy behind those habits.  It is however not strange
that we deliberately ignore our own ignorance and quickly charge and
blame our great grand parents as crude, ignorant and under educated!

>From  Tue Apr 28 06:16:34 1998
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Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 06:16:34 -0700
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To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
Organization: Personal
Subject: Vedantic Symbolism in the Worship of Swami Ayyappa - Part 2
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Vedantic Symbolism in the Worship of Swami Ayyappa - Part 2

Relevance of Temples in Hindu Religion and Culture
        Throughout Indian history, temples have exercised an enormous influence
on religious and social life, and traditions.  Famous Hindu temples such
as Somanathpur had enormous wealth and became targets of foreign
invasions.  The Hindu temple is a place of worship like any other but it
has unique features that elevate it to a greater spiritual excellence
and appreciation.  Orthodox temples are built according to Aagmas and
the sacred ones are located in higher altitudes on top of hills.
Elevated temples symbolize the importance of spirituality over worldly
life.   Kings and rich citizens in the community  provided generous
funds to the construction and maintenance of temples.  Temples have
contributed to the employment of architects, artisans, sculptors, and
laborers.  The shrines and icons have given peace to the frustrated
minds.  Music, dance and fine arts programs including religious and
musical discourses staged in the temples have encouraged musicians,
dancers, dramatists, artists and religious scholars.  The granaries of
temples were used to feed the hungry, and temple buildings have provided
shelters to both scholars and students.  Some temples were equipped to
provide medical services to the sick, elderly, and disabled.  Thus,
temples have provided a variety of religious and social services and
reinforced  economic and social welfare of the Indian society.  Hindu
temples in the U.S. and Canada act as cultural ambassadors and provide
spiritual and educational services to the Indian Community.

        The temple also portrays God in the cosmic form.  The statue of
Nataraja ( the dancing poses of Lord Siva) is a well-known example for
the artistic, scientific and philosophical significance of idols.
Hundreds of articles and books have been written about the significance
of the Nataraja's dance posture.  In the PBS show, COSMOS,  Professor
Carl Sagan asserts that the dance of Nataraja signifies the cycle of
evolution and destruction of the cosmic universe (Big-Bang Theory).  The
dance statue of Nataraja is a symbolic representation of Vedanta.  The
dwarfish demon crushed under the feet represents the demonic ego, within
which prevents humans to attain the inherent peace and bliss.  The
crushing of ego is necessary to regain the Supreme Bliss!  A complete
description is beyond the scope of this present article, and I will take
it up  separately.
        Vedanta, the starting premise of Hindu Religion, asserts that Brahman
(the abstract God) is the Absolute Truth.  The Brahman has multiple
roles to play: the creator, the mountaineer, and the destroyer all in
one.  Vedanta states that the universal soul, Brahman is eternal and the
individual human soul, Atman ultimately superimposes the Brahman.
Advaita recognizes the ultimate identity of Brahman (Universal soul) and
Jivatman (human soul).  Dwaita opposes Advaita on almost all points and
maintains the ultimate diversity of Brahman and Jivatman.  Visistadvaita
(qualified non-duality) maintains a crucial differentiation as well as a
fundamental identity.  The Advaita Vedanta is revealed by the sitting
and meditating pose of the Ayyappa Deity (replica of the presiding deity
of Sabari Hills) in the Sri Siva-Vishnu temple.  The temple brochure
explains beautifully the symbolism of the sitting posture of Swami
Ayyappa.  The Lord sits with his thumb and forefinger crossed in a
symbol of Chinmudra.  The thumb represents the Atman and the forefinger
is the Jeeva. There is no gap between the Atman and the Jeeva.  Inside
the sanctum sanctorum, devotees maintain single-minded concentration and
meditation, experiencing the highest spiritual consciousness by the
Darshan (vision) of Lord Ayyappa.
        The Hindu philosophy and logic provide unassailable strength to the
concept of the fundamental unity in the worship of a multitude of gods.
Hinduism is highly individualistic and Hindus love the freedom to
worship their personal choice of an icon (IshTa DevaTa) to visualize the
abstract Brahman.  The rapid growth of temples, gods, and rituals across
India and beyond represent the visualization of "Infinity" by the finite
"mind."   Even illiterate villagers are proud and enthusiastic to
elaborate on stories about their temple gods and their significance.
Such stories invariably are more adventurous and heroic t "Superman"
episodes, but with a divine touch.  The temple epitomizes God in a
spiritual form and the various parts of his body symbolizes
philosophical concepts.  It serves as the symbolic link between Human
and God, between Material and Spiritual and between Obvious and Ideal.
Names of the miscellaneous segments of the temple designate different
organs of the human body (Garbhagraha (Sanctum Sanctorum) represents the
human heart).
        The symbolism of temple worship is analogous to the modern
communication methods adopted by the computer industry.  They both
adjust to the diverse tastes and needs of the world. Only a small
segment of the general public really looks for sophistication and
special features.  The majority of the common folk  demand simple
illustrations and practical examples rather than lengthy logic and
boring intellectual debates!  The computer industry employs creative
graphic displays of "icons" to satisfy the general public.  Behind every
Icon on the computer screen, there is a complex computer program resides
on the hard-drive. The common folks don't pay attention to the logic of
the computer program and ask and look only for results and
functionality.    The Hindu symbolism strongly demonstrates its
disapproval of  "one-size-fits-all theory!"  Artistic temples with
idols, heroic stories, and colorful and meaningful  rituals demonstrate
this fact.  But only knowledgeable Hindus can grasp and unravel the
symbolism and unearth the philosophical and spiritual truths.  Puranic
stories create role models by dramatization of legendary events to
preserve social ethics (Dharma).  An ideal spouse, parent, offspring, or
teacher is orchestrated to help the society to conduct its daily duties
(Nithya karma).  Hinduism has perfected the art of symbolism as a
powerful media to teach complex philosophical ideas to the common man.
The communication of values using the Puranic stories in Hinduism could
be the origin for the modern case study procedures applied in  business
management institutions.

>From  Tue Apr 28 06:18:08 1998
Message-Id: <TUE.28.APR.1998.061808.0700.>
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 06:18:08 -0700
Reply-To: chandran at
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
Organization: Personal
Subject: Vedantic Symbolism in the Worship of Swami Ayyappa - Part 3
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Vedantic Symbolism in the Worship of Swami Ayyappa - Part 3

Puranic Story of Hariharaputra
        The episode of Ayyappa is described in "Brahmananda Purana," and also
in "Skandapurana."  The focus is on the symbolism of Lord Ayyappa and a
summary of the story is presented.  Ayyappa or Hari-haraPutra is the
divine avatar as a consequence of the union of Lord Mahavishnu's Mohini
avatar and Lord Siva.  This avatar of Hariharaputra was necessary to
destroy the evil demon Mahishi.  Baby Ayyappa was found on the shores of
the holy Pamba river by the heirless king of Pandhalam, Rajasekara, when
he was out on a hunting trip.  As the divine child was wearing a golden
bell around his neck, the king named him Manikanta, and adopted him as
his son.  Soon the queen had her own child. As the children grew up,
young Manikanta was loved and admired by all, and the queen started
feeling jealous and wanted her own child to ascend to the throne.  The
queen feigned a strange ailment which required tiger's milk, and
Manikanta took up the task of getting it for his mother.  He ventured
boldly into the forests, caught up with Mahishi and fulfilled the
purpose of the avatar by killing the demon.  The divine child returned
home triumphantly riding a tigress and the queen realized the Divine
nature of her foster son.  Prince Manikanta explained his divine
mission  to his foster parents and helped them to install his younger
brother on the throne and went to the crest of Sabari Hills to be there
eternally as the Meditating  Divine Yogi.  It is not important whether
the story is true or false.  The ideals reflected in the heroic and
unselfish actions (bringing tiger-milk and killing the demon) are more
        Where and when this story took place is anybody's guess.  Great number
of  temples in south India were built during the thousand years between
600 and 1600 A.D.  Lord Buddha had great influence in the down south,
especially part of the present Tamil Nad and Kerala.  At the same time,
both Siva worship (Shiva Siddhanta) and Vishnu worship (Vaishnavam) was
also popular.  There is historical evidence for intense rivalry between
the Siva and Vishnu worshipers and also between Siva and Jain
worshipers.  The  dramatization of Ayyappa is a typical Puranic story.
However, the associated rituals reflect the strong influence of   the
traditions from  Shivam, Vaishnavam, Buddhism and Jainism.  The name,
Dharma Shastha and the prayer song "Swamiye Saranam" strongly indicate
the influence of Buddhism in Ayyappa worship.  The Vrath and strict code
of conduct including the dietary restrictions (Vegetarian) can possibly
due to the influence of Jainism in the deep south.
      The seeker undertakes the pilgrimage to liberate the human soul
from the worldly possessions with great  determination, devotion and
dedication.   During the journey to Sabari Hills  the devotees recite
"Swamye Saranam; Ayyappa Saranam" (Thou protect me and I surrender). The
minds of the devotees are filled with the thought of Ayyappa and
devotees call and recognize each other by the name of Ayyappa!  Everyone
seems to dress alike, look alike, talk alike and think alike!  Every
devotee becomes a Karma Yogi, Jnana Yogi and also a Bhakti Yogi!  The
only Karma (action) left for the Devotee is to reach the Sanctum
Sanctorum of the Sabari Hill Ayyappa.  The Devotee has the wisdom to
dissolve the identity of Jeeva (Ego) by filling up the mind with the
name and form of Ayyappa. The Devotee  purifies the mind through total
dedication and surrender to Swami Ayyappa.  The perfect culmination of
Karma, Jnana and Bhakti Yogas is visible and the devotees don't care
which of the three is dominant over the other two.  Their level of
experience has already gone beyond  intellectual perception and
limitation.  Suddenly all plurality starts dissolve and the  ego starts
melt like the butter on the frying pan.   Devotees experience the taste
of Bliss and all of them merge to become ONE.  What they see, hear,
touch, smell and taste is Ayyappa and only Ayyappa.   All their desires
totally diverted with the  only desire to reach the Ayyappa Sannadhi.
The sound of "Swamiye Saranam!  Ayyappa Saranam!" fills the air and
resembles the recitation of  the famous  "Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja
Govindam, Bhaja Govindam Mooda Mathe." Sri. Sankara the great Jnani
expresses the same vision by saying "Adore the Lord, adore the Lord,
adore the Lord, Oh fool!"  The names and forms of Narayana, Shiva and
Ayyappa  may appear different for the naked eyes.  When the human
perception reaches higher levels beyond  physical limitation, the names
and forms disappears.  The devotees of  the land of Sri. Sankara
understood the perfect harmony between the Karma, Jnana and Bhakti
Yogas.  The Sabari Hills became a Concert Hall filled with the music of
Karma, Jnana and Bhakti and there was  perfect harmony.  The
performers, the performance, the experiencers were also the listeners
and they seem determined to experience the Bliss.

>From  Tue Apr 28 06:19:52 1998
Message-Id: <TUE.28.APR.1998.061952.0700.>
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 06:19:52 -0700
Reply-To: chandran at
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
Organization: Personal
Subject: Vedantic Symbolism in the Worship of Swami Ayyappa - Part 4
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Vedantic Symbolism in the Worship of Swami Ayyappa - Part 4

The Vedantic Pilgrimage to Sabari Hill Swami Ayyappa

     On Makara Sankranthi day, hundreds of thousands of people go to
foot of the hills to get a glimpse of the Divine Jyothi, a brilliant
light that raises over the Kantha hill (adjacent to the Sabari Hill).
Devotees consider this Jyothi to be a symbol of Lord Ayyappa, the
highest spiritual consciousness.  Nobody can either confirm or deny that
this is true.  Divine incidents are  unexplainable and are always beyond
human perception and imagination!
     The  Makarasankaranthi (Middle of January) is an auspicious day
correspond to the time period when sun passes the winter solstice (one
of the two points on the ecliptic at which its distance from the
celestial equator is greatest and which is reached by the sun each
year).  The pilgrims visiting on this occasion undertake strict and
rigorous preparations. They start with a 'Vrath' (pledge for religious
observance) lasting for forty-one days, starting from the middle of
November.  All wear black or saffron clothes and thulasi beads, and
strictly observe their daily rituals.  The devotees observe austerities
and self-control on those days.  They eat pious vegetarian food, drink
non-alcoholic beverages, and pray Swamiye Saranam.  Before starting the
pilgrimage to Sabari Hills, each devotee prepares an Irumudi (A bag with
two separate compartments, and with two knots) for the long and
strenuous journey through jungles.  The front compartment contains the
ghee-filled coconut and the other one includes food and personal
belongings.  The devotee walks by foot all the eight miles from the
shore of the Pampa river to Swami Sannidhanam (the open hall in front of
the Sanctum Sanctorum), crosses the eighteen steps and pours the ghee
over the idol of the Lord.

The Eighteen Steps to the Path of Liberation:
        The eighteen steps of the temple Sanctorum  represent the
necessary Spiritual Sadhana  to go Beyond human perception.   In an
earlier posting to answer a question from Sri. Greg Goode,  Sri.
Sadananda gave an interesting interpretation to the significance of
"Eighteen."  This is the symbolic path of the Realization of Truth and
potentially, there are infinite explanations. The eighteen chapters of
Gita appear to be the most pertinent  explanation of the  eighteen steps
of Sabari Hill Temple. While crossing each of the eighteen steps to the
Ayyappa Swami Sannidhanam, the Seeker expresses great determination to
relinquish the sensual perceptions one by one.  The necessary Sadhana to
prepare the mind, body and intellect to remove the sensory perceptions
are beautifully described in  the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad Gita.
The crossing of the eighteen steps symbolic completion of Sadhanas
stated in the eighteen chapters of Gita.

Chapter 1 :   The Seeker's status of mind - Confusion, Fear and
Illusion  -
                    Arjun takes the first step of getting help from a
Guru (Lord Krishna)
Chapter 2:    The Seeker asks the Guru to explain the Truth of Human
                        The famous dialog between Arjun and Sri. Krishna
(SthiTaPrajnA Yagna)
Chapter 3:    The Guru explains the path of  Karma Yoga.
Chapter 4:    The Seeker learns the principles behind the Sanyasa Yoga.
Chapter 5:    The Seeker understands the importance of  renunciation of
selfish desires.
Chapter 6:    The Seeker learns the Sadhana of Meditation to control the
Chapter 7:    The Guru teaches the Seeker the ways and means of living
without desires.
Chapter 8:    The Guru illustrates the importance of restraining the
nine-gated city of human body.
Chapter 9:    The seeker learns to diverts  the attention away from the
ego-centered consciousness
                     to the Divine Plane. (Yoga Sadhana of Sovereign
Mystery or Devotion).
Chapter 10:  The Guru teaches the Buddhi Yoga Sadhana to control the
Mind and the senses.
Chapter 11:  The seeker understands the essence of Bhakti Yoga Sadhana
and direct complete
                     attention to God while carrying out the duties.
Chapter 12:   The seeker learns to Devote and Contemplate and gets the
qualities of a True Devotee.
Chapter 13:  The Guru describes the qualities of a True Jnanai with
Total Wisdom.
Chapter 14:  The seeker learns the Sadhana of Perfection and the
qualities of a Perfect Yogi.
Chapter 15:  The Guru teaches the Yoga of Supreme Person to the Seeker.
Chapter 16:  The Seeker learns to acquire the True Human Nature with the
presence of Divinity.
Chapter 17:  The Guru teaches the fundamentals of the Yoga of the
Threefold Division of Faith.
Chapter 18:  The Seeker regains the memory and renounces the egocentric

I owe an explanation to those who may have doubts about the connection
between the eighteen chapters of Gita and the eighteen steps of the
Ayyappa temple.  The devotees of Sri Ayyappa believe that the Gita verse
66 in Chapter 18 is a direct reference to Dharma Shasta.

Sarvadharman Parityajya Mamekam Saranam Vraja;
Aham Twaam Sarve Papebhyo Mokshayishayami Ma Sucha

(Abandon Worldly Dharmas and Surrender to Me; I Shall Rescue You From
Sins and Sorrows).

The two lines of this verse is commonly present in all Ayyappa temples
and  the devotees consider the two lines as commandments of  Dharma
First commandment:  Abandon worldly Dharmas.  Dharmas refer to rules,
standards and laws imposed by society to guide material life.  The root
cause of material life is desires.  Sorrows, Sins and Attachments are
illusions of lower ignorant consciousness of mind.  Dharmas in essence
are the barriers of our liberation from Sorrows and Sins.
Second Commandment:  Surrender unto Me, I Will Rescue You From Sins and
Sorrows and Help you to reach the Highest Spiritual Consciousness.
Divine life is Real, Eternal and free from illusions of Sins and
Sorrows!  Liberation is impossible without Total Surrender to His feet.
He only can release us from the worldly ties.  The Lord assures His
Grace to liberate and ultimately to realize Brahman.  Dharma Shastha has
established this Eternal Dharma of realizing the Highest Spiritual

Symbolic Unification of Atman and Brahman:
The devotee is reminded eighteen times that worldly possessions hinder
the progress of liberation and finally reaches the sanctum Sanctorum of
Ayyappa Swami.   The forty-one days of Vrath is to force the mind to
withdraw from attachments to worldly possessions and to direct it toward
the Absolute Truth.  The walk by foot through the jungle symbolizes that
the path to spirituality requires greater efforts.  The coconut
represents the human body, the outer shell of the coconut symbolizes
ego, and the ghee is the Atman (human soul).  Coconuts have three eyes:
two eyes represent the intellect and the third eye is the spiritual
eye.  The Meditating Yogic posture of Sri Ayyappa  represents the
Brahman.  The rear compartment of the Irumudi symbolizes 'Praarabdha
Karma' (accumulated worldly possessions).  The devotee exhausts all the
worldly possessions during the journey. The devotee opens the spiritual
eye of the coconut, breaks the coconut and pours the ghee (Atman) onto
the idol (Brahman).  At this time, the devotee has detached the ego and
worldly possessions.  He or she has developed an attitude of total
surrender to the Lord (infinite love for the Lord).  The devotee begs
Him to grant the total Unity with the Lord.  This liberation of Atman
from Ego and Wordily Possessions is the Message of Vedanta in Symbolic
Language.  This Symbolism is flawless and complete.  What a beautiful
demonstration of the Artistic Perfection of Symbolism in the great land
of Sankara!

One of the main objectives of this article is to illustrate the hidden
treasures underneath the Hindu rituals, customs and traditions.  If we
take time and efforts to understand the spirit behind those  beliefs and
traditions it is possible to appreciate and understand the philosophical
significance.  The devotees with  great faith have neither questions nor
they seek  explanations.   Those who question the customs, beliefs and
traditions have the responsibility to take time to look and contemplate
for the answers.  When a westerner wants to know the connection between
the scriptures, philosophies, customs, beliefs and traditions, we should
also take time to explain to clear their doubts.  Such explanations with
contemplation can clear our doubts and doubts of our energetic and
enthusiastic children who were born and live outside India.  This moral
responsibility was visualized by the sages and Seers of the Upanishads
and they have provided the answers to almost all questions related to
human life.  The land of Sankara practices mystic festivals, pilgrimages
and rituals to explain the Vedantic Philosophy of Human Life to the
common folks of rural India.  Sankara understood the unity from such
diversities and Sankara's Advaita represents this total integration of
thoughts, beliefs, customs and traditions.  This integration is the
purest form of  human experience and it can  neither be explained nor
could be understood!


1.      "Essentials of Hinduism", by V. Krishnamurthy, Narosa publishing
House, New Delhi, 1989.
2.      "The Gazetteer of India, Volume 1: Country and people." CHAPTER Vlll:
Religion by Dr. C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar, Dr.Nalinaksha Dutt, Prof.
A.R.Wadia, Prof.M.Mujeeb, Dr.Dharm  Pal and Fr. Jerome D'Souza. Delhi,
Publications Division, Government of India, 1965.
3.      Swami Harshananda "All About Hindu Temples." Book, Sri.Ramakrishna
Math, Mylapore, Madras, 1991.
4.      A Parthasarathy, "The Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals."  Book,
Shailesh Printers, Bombay, 1983.
5.      Pampa Sangamam 90, "Ayyappa darshanam - A Souvenir"Travancore
Devaswom Board, Trivandrum, Kerala, 1991.
6.      Vaidyanathan, K. R. "Pilgrimage  to Sabari." Book, 1st ed. Bombay:
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1978.
7.      "Lord Ayyappan; the Dharma Shasta." Book, 2d ed.  Bombay, Bharatiya
Vidya Bhavan, 1966.

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