Aiyanar – The Guardian God of All Villages

Hey guys, today we are going to look at a very unique deity from the villages of South India. This figure sitting on the horse is known as Aiyanar and is considered as the protector of village people. As you can see, he looks quite fierce with a fascinating head dress, holding a shield in one hand and a knife in the other. Look at where his leg is, it is resting on the head of one of his body guards – showing the complete submission of this bodyguard to the deity Aiyanar.

These type of depictions are common in villages where the Gods are symbols of absolute power. What is interesting is that he also has 2 dogs in the front. Look at how ferocious they look and even their skin looks almost like they have seen a lot of action. This deity is usually portrayed as a very manly figure reeking of masculinity. The main deity is male, sporting a large moustache, both his body guards are male. His dogs are also male and so is his horse. This is a typical symbol of total dedication to fighting and war, like a team of spartans.

What is interesting is that Aiyanar is also known as Aiyapan in other parts and generally women are not allowed to touch this statue or enter his temple premises. In ancient statues, Ayyanar is depicted with a band known as Yogapatta on his knee. There is usually a trident placed in front of this deity. Ayyanar shrines are usually located at the peripheries or boundaries of villages. This statue is probably about 15 feet tall, but there are much larger statues of Aiyanar placed in other villages. Aiyanar figures are also seen outside India and Sri Lanka, recent excavations have revealed that Aiyanar was also worshiped in other Asian countries – many terracotta Aiyanar figures were excavated.
In some temples, he is shown holding a crooked stick instead of a knife. This weapon is called Chendu in ancient Tamil language – this is a whip like weapon. Also, in remote areas, there are depictions of many other Hindu gods and saints underneath him, to show that he is superior to all gods. In other temples, he is shown as a guardian to other Gods. So, what is the origin of this deity?

He is supposed to have been a real figure who came from Mount Kailash, the sacred mountain which is considered the home of Lord Shiva. He traveled to South India and protected the villages of South India. Even today, there are many villagers who worship him as the main deity. These village groups are sometimes referred to as the Aiyanar Cult. Their rituals are quite different from other Hindu rituals. Sometimes, they choose a person and push him or her into a trance like state. Then this person would become a vessel of this deity and would be able to answer the questions about future or even talk to human beings who passed away.

Praveen Mohan

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