Ayyappa and Vavar: Celibate Friends

  • Ruth Vanita


Ayyappa, also known as Aiyanar, Sastha, and Hariharaputra, who is today the focus of a major devotional tradition, emerged from the fusion of a Dravidian god of tribal provenance with the Puranic story of Shiva’s sexual interaction with Vishnu.1 For the story from the Bbagvata Purana, see p. 69.


Forest Dweller Compulsory Heterosexuality Foster Father Malabar Coast Normative Heterosexuality 
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  1. 1.
    For a discussion of dating the growth of the Ayyappa legend, see Radhika Sekar, The Sabarimalai Pilgrimage and Ayyappan Cultus (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1992), 19–27. Sekar inclines to placing the historical Ayyappan in the eleventh century but other scholars favor a somewhat later date.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, Siva: The Erotic Ascetic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), 253.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    P T. Thomas, Sabarimalai and Its Sastha: An Essay on the Ayyappa Movement (Bangalore: The Christian Literature Society, 1973), 11.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    It is interesting that K. R. Vaidyanathan, Pilgrimage to Sabari (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1978; 1992), 152–53, compares Ayyappa devotees to Arjuna who was chosen by Krishna as his special friend.Google Scholar

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© Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai 2000

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  • Ruth Vanita

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