The king of Pandalam was a very religious man.He ruled well and the small kingdom of Pandalam was prosperous.He and his Queen lived happily but for one thing – the royal couple were childless.The Queen prayed to Lord Vishnu and the king prayed to Lord Shiva for a heir.One day,while hunting on the banks of the river Pampa,the king heard a small baby’s cry. He found a beautiful baby boy in the middle of the forest,abandoned.He thought the gods have blessed him with a son and took the infant home.The Queen was also very happy to receive the baby boy.He had a chain with a precious gem on his neck.Hence,they named him ‘Manikantan'(the one with a gem on his neck) and brought him up as their own child.
Before long,the queen conceived and a baby boy was born to the royal couple.Manikantan was educated and the king wanted him to succeed him to the throne.But after the birth of their own child,the Queen’s mind changed.She didn’t want Manikantan to inherit the throne of her husband.So,in order to get rid of him,she and the minister thought of a plan,she acted as if she had unbearable stomach pain.The royal physician was called and he ruled the breast milk of leopard as the only cure for her disease.Infact,the physician was also a party to the conspiracy to get rid of Manikantan.As expected,Manikantan offered to go the forest in search of leopard’s milk.The Queen and her associateds thought the leopard will finish off Manikantan.But Manikantan,who was no ordinary mortal brought back a big she-leopard to get milk for his foster mother’s stomach-ache.People panicked and the Queen herself ran for shelter.The king finally asked Manikantan to send back the ferocious wild animal to the forest.The queen was miraculously cured without the leopard’s milk.Manikantan who understood the situation;told the king that he is leaving the palace.He wanted to live in the forest on top of a hill,meditating.He requested his father to build a temple for him there and disappeared.Before leaving,he told his father that he can see him,if he visits Sabarimala,the place in the forest he selected as his abode.
While he was in search of leopard’s milk,Manikantan came across Mahishi,a ferocious demoness and killed her.She had a boon by which she won’t be killed by none other than the child of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.Manikantan was the child of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu(Vishnu’s incarnation as Mohini,a beautiful maiden).The king of pandalam was very sad that his son was leaving him but he understood that his son was divine.He built a temple on the top of Sabarimala for Manikantan as directed by him.People came to know that Manikantan was a god himself as he was able to kill the powerful demoness,Mahishi.They started worshipping him as Ayyappa,the Lord of the hill shrine,Sabarimala.As Ayyappa was a celibate young boy,only men and women below the age of ten or above the age of fifty can undertake the pilgrimage to Sabarimala.One has to abstain from non-vegetarian food ,be pure in body and mind and observe celibacy for 41 days if he is going on a pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
When Ayyapa killed Mahishi,she turned to a beautiful maiden,she asked Ayyappa,the Lord to marry her.(She was a beautiful maiden changed to a hideous demon as result of a curse.) Lord Ayyappa blessed her and promised to marry her in a year when there are no new pilgrims going to Sabarimala.She was to be known as Malikapurathama and changed to a goddess by Ayyappa.Her temple is on the way to Sabarimala temple .She is awaiting the day Lord Ayyappa marries her.(That is the legend.) She is also worshipped by all.Every year,thousands of new pilgrims come to Sabarimala. Ayyappa is a very powerful God,blessing his devotees and his devotees are growing in number day by day.