Muthappan - Vishnu or Siva?

Muthappan is Vishnu. Muthappan is Siva. Muthappan is both. Muthappan is the God of all Gods.
Call your favourite God, you are calling Muthappan. Wherever the name of God is uttered,
in whatever form worshipped, it is His worship, says Muthappan.

"Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanthi" (Truth is one, wise men say it in many ways). It is Advaita. The path may vary, but all paths lead to the one and the same Paramatma, whether it is Vishnu, Siva, or any other God. It is generally believed that Valiya Muthappan (Thiruvappana) is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, whereas Siva took the form of Cheriya Muthappan (Vellattam). For devotees this makes no difference. They derive the same spirit from both and generally call both as Muthappan. It is only the imperfect intelligence that mistakes them as many.

Muthappan’s farewell words to Vanavar at Kunnathurpadi after the festival convey a message. "Sri Palazhiyil Sri Ananthanmel pallikkurupu kollan pokunnu Vanavare" (Going to sleep majestically on Ananthan in Palazhi). This clearly shows that Thiruvappana is the incarnation of Vishnu. The salutation to Valiya Muthappan by Chertiya Muthappan is also thought-provoking: "Sri Palazhi nathanaanu nammude Nanaru" (Thiruvappana is Palazhinathan - ruler of Palazhi). So also Thiruvappana calls Vellattam as: "Sri Kailasa vasanakum nammude Cherukkan" (Cherukkan - Vellattam - is the resident of Sri Kailasa). Vellattam describes Himself as "Perumpambu kutukkuvacha prakaram moordhavil valachu kettiyiripporu veshakkarananu Muthappan" (Muthappan is dressed like one having a circled big snake on his head). It reminds of Sivaroopa. From these descriptions, it is clear that Valiya Muthapan is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and Cheriya Muthappan that of Siva.
Siva symbolizes `jnana’ and Vishnu protection. In the worldly context, protection is the work of the kings and the concept of Thiruvappana is that of Rajadhirajah (emperor). Not without reason, Muthappan left home dressed like a `vedarajah’. Since He is functioning as the king - the protector of all - He is `alankarapriyan’. The very look of Thiruvappana is majestic. Siva needs no `alankaras’. His attire is tiger skin and body is smeared with ash. The Vellatta roopa is simple. Unless one combines `jnana’ with strength, no progress can be achieved. Gita says "Yatra yogeswara Krishno yatra Partho dhanurdharah, tatrasrir vijayo bhoothir dhruva nithir mathir mama" (Success is where there is Yogeswara Krishna and Partha with the bow). Whenever the Lord desires to perform His `leela’ for the good of the world, invariably, He combines these two virtues.

There are about 38 `theyya kolams.’ It is thought-provoking why Muthappan has reigned over all other theyyams. Perhaps, the unique combination of the powers of Vishnu and Siva might be the most important factor. The same combination has made Lord Ayyapa equally popular. Muthappan and Ayyappa have galvanized the lives of people through centuries in Kerala with exceptional power

Lord Ayyappa and Lord Muthappan

Ayyappan has reigned supreme mostly in South, whereas Muthappan has his sway in north. Now their influence has grown by leaps and bounds and transcended beyond the state’s boundaries. The word `Kaliyuga Varadayaka’ is applicable to both. Both are `ayonijas’. Ayyappan is Hari-Hara Nandanan. History, myth and mysticism merge into a happy mould and the thin layer of `Saiva-Vaishnava’ differences vanish in both cases.

Ayyappan came to save the good from the tyranny of the demoness Mahishi, the sister of Mahishasura, who was killed by Chamundi Devi. Only Vaishnava-Saiva combination could kill Mahishi. Muthappan fought against the then rulers who oppressed the downtrodden and the tribals, uplifting their lives to higher planes. Ayyappan was the foster son of Pandalam King Rajasekhara and Muthappan of Ayyankara Vazhunnavar and Padikkutty Antharjanam. Rajasekhara received Ayyappan from the banks of Pampa river, Antharjanam from `thirunettikkallu’ of the Eruvassi river.

Ayyappan had to leave the Pandalam palace under a palace intrigue. Muthappan left home under compulsion from the orthodox community around Vazhunnavar. Caste, colour, creed or geographical limits do not build barriers to reach their abodes. For Ayyappa `darsanam’, one has to undergo 41-day `vrita’, insisting on the purity of both body and mind. For Muthappan, only devotion counts and no outward restrictions are observed.

There are thousands of Ayyappa temples in and outside state. But the shrine at Sabarimala remains unique as the abode of Ayyappa. So is the case with Muthappan having any number of `madappuras’ here and outside but `devasthanam’ at Kunnathurpadi remains the `aaroodam’ of Muthappan. Lakhs of devotees throng Sabarimala during the `mandalapooja’, same is the case at Kunnathurpadi. The season for Ayyappa and Muthappa worship is also almost similar. One significant aspect of Muthappan worship is that the interface with God is real. Devotees converse, complaint, plead, demand and take liberty even to scold like a close friend. In response, He listens, guides, pacifies, solves and assures them of His omnipresence. It is natural that the legend of Muthappan happened in Malabar, where `theyyams’ (Gods) directly converse with the people. Theyyams are not common in South. Hence Ayappa took the form of deity to bless the mankind.

There is an `uralkuzhi theertham’ atop Sabarimala. There is one at Kunnathurpadi named `Thiruvankadavu’ from where water is taken for Padi rituals. The most important offering to Ayyappa is `neythenga’ (coconut filled with ghee). It is symbolic of the destruction on one’s third eye of `ahankaram’, removal of `samsarajala’ and filling the human mind with the pure ghee of `bhakthi’. For Muthappan, `madhu’ (toddy) [click to see more] is offered with the same spirit.
In both cases, devotees climb the hilly terrain to have `darsan’. The message is very clear. One has to undergo a hard and strenuous path to attain the divine bliss. Ponnambalamedu connected with Ayyappa is the place where the Lord is supposed to be worshipped by Devas. Aadipadi, the original abode of Lord Muthappan is such a place where only Devapujas are performed. Ayyappan devotees seldom part with the `sarana mantra’ - Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa. As far as Muthappa is concerned, no songs in praise of Him, no chanting of `saranam’, but only deep-rooted devotion to see, talk, touch and hear the God in living form before them. One may wish in their hearts of hearts to hear the reverberating sound of `Om Muthappaya namah, Saranam Muthappa’ or `Mukteswaraya namah’ from the lips of devotees to make the similarities perfect