Ayyappan Moorthie: Symbolism


Symbology of our various Moorthies has been an area of Great confusion

For the uninformed, like the majority of us. But at the same time it has been thought provoking and a pointer to great philosophical, psychological and higher spiritual truths. Symbology has an integral part to play in both the worship and evolvement of a devotee, as it is thought provoking and a pointer to great philosophical and higher spiritual truths


No teaching can escape the use of symbolism. Our languages and the words they make up are symbols of another thought or object. The word cup represents something hollow that is able to contain something. But the word cup is not the vessel we are describing and one cannot drink some liquid from the word itself. The flag of South Africa represents the country South Africa but it is only a piece of cloth or paper on which one cannot live in. Similarly the moorthie or idol represents a philosophical ideal. When we look at a moorthie the various forms should invoke a higher principle of truth in our minds as we meditate and reflect on its hidden meaning.

The image of Dharma Saastha was prepared by Parasuraman and it represents the one who controls and rules over the whole world by protecting Dharma, the essence of righteous living. The moorthie as you see it   has two hands and its legs are folded and tied with a golden band. The deity sits on a lotus pedestal and He wears a crown.

The crown:   this is symbolic of Him being the king of kings (Raajaathi Raajan) or the God of all Gods (Deehvaathi Dehvan) as the crown has lower and higher circular contour.

The right hand is held in the Abhaya mudra posture and symbolises the fearlessness of a true devotee who has surrendered to the Lord (Saranaagathi) and the protection that the Lord offers to those who surrender totally to Him.  This posture is also called Chinmudra or Njaana Mudra and symbolises the union of Aatma with Paramaatmaa (represented by the index finger touching the base of the thumb) after the three impurities (malaas) of ego (aanavam), lust (karmam) and illusion (maayam), represented by the three fingers pointing away from the body, has been destroyed.

The left hand, with all five fingers, points downwards. This represents the five elements (He is called Boothanaathaa meaning that he is the lord who created and controls the evolvement of thee five elements (Panjja (5) Bhootham (element), that make up the material world we live in. The five elements are earth (solid), water (liquid), fire (chemical combustion), air (gaseous), and ether (space).

The lotus pedestal on which Dharma Saastha sits represents the world we live in. The lotus symbolizes the continuous evolution of all beings and things in the world. The lotus flower lives in dirty muddy water, grows in that water, dies in that water but never touches that water. More important it only grows and flourishes in this dirty, muddy water and it opens to the appearance of sunlight. This Symbology is very powerful and it means that we should rise above our petty indulgences in the chaotic world, represented by the growth of the lotus out of the muddy water, open our minds to enlightenment represented by the sun and expose our beauty above the mire of the material world.  The lotus pedestal is small in comparison to the size of Dharma Saastha. This symbolises the infinite nature (large) of the Lord as compared to the finite nature (small) of the world.

The Lord representing the Cosmic or Universal law of righteousness sits above the world.  This represents the independence of the law from the creator of the law, the Lord in the world- Dharma Saastha. This separation and independence is further emphasized by the Lords feet being tied with a golden band (Pattha Bantham). Understanding this Universal truth or laws pertaining to the laws of Dharma or righteous living is the gold, wealth of spirituality that we will attain, which is tied to the feet of God.

The garland of the Lord is unique in that it is made up of one single length of flowers. The garland begins at the right base of the pedestal near the right foot of the Lord, representing the material world and the site of the grace of the Lord, and goes around the neck of the Lord and ends at the left base of the pedestal near the left foot of the Lord. All spiritual activity starts and ends with successive births in the material world. At all times the grace of the lord, represented by the garland going around the neck of the Lord, is present.  The garland in this form represents the infinite grace of the Lord which is intimately involved in the spiritual effort and evolution process of all the devotees in the world as the flower represents the final, beautiful, complete evolution of the seed.

Finally the moorthie of Dharma Saastha looks very similar to a human being. This symbolises that the human birth is the highest form a soul could take in this world and is gifted with the power to know right from wrong, the gift of the intellect, and by this is able to became a follower of the law of Righteous living and verily became the  Lord of Righteousness if he so chooses.