As legend has it Ayyappa was born out of the union between Vishnu (the female energy Hari) and Shiva (the male energy Hara) to defeat Mahisha – Mahishasura’s sister, who swore to revenge the gods upon her brother’s death. Consequent on her rigid tapas Brahma gave her a gift as per which she could be killed only by a child born from Vishnu and Shiva (she laid account with the impossibility of such event). The child was born in heaven, but the gods hid him on earth so that Mahisha could not find him till he became older.

When Ayyappa grew up he fulfilled his destination – fought with Mahisha and killed her, having thereby ridden heaven and earth from the daemon.

The cultic center of Ayyappa is the Sabarimala temple situated in the western Kerala mountains.
Ayyappa is mostly adored by men (because he was fighting with Mahisha – a woman) nevertheless the girls who have not yet grown to womanhood as well as the women who have already come to the menopause are also allowed to participate in the rituals. The most important period for Ayyappa worship is a yearly celebration that lasts 41 day in December and in January when the pilgrimage to the mountain temple Sabarimala takes place. The pilgrims undertake austerities for all these days and on the eve vestured in black they get through the symbolic ceremony of their burial and temporal initiation.

Before coming inside the temple a pilgrim would break a coconut against one of the steps of the stairs leading to the temple, what stands for the full dissolution in Ayyappa. The temple should be visited every year during eighteen years until one breaks a coconut against each of the holy steps of the stairs.