Ayyappan is the Hindu ‘God of Growth’ and is the son of Shiva and Mohini — the female avatar of Lord Vishnu. He was born with the powers of both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu to confront the shape-shifting buffalo demoness known as Mahishasuri. Ayyappan is particularly popular in Kerala and other places near it. Ayyappan is also deity in Buddhism. Ayyappan is also known by many other names such as Hariharaputra, meaning the son of Harihara, ‘Hari’ being a name given to Lord Vishnu and ‘Hara’ being a name given to Lord Shiva. Another name he is known as is Manikanta, ‘Mani’ meaning precious stone and ‘Kanta’ meaning neck. Ayyapan is also considered as the same deity as Ayyanar, because of their similar origin, by some but others disagree with this.
Ayyappan’s weapons are the bow and arrow and his most iconic attribute is the bell; this is because he wears a bell around his neck. Ayyappan has many different mounts across Hindu cultures. In the South Indian version, Ayyappan is depicted riding on a tiger, whereas in the Sri Lankan he is depicted riding on a white elephant. The most significant festival dedicated to Ayyappan is Makaravilakku.