In South India, the term ‘Appa’ signifies ‘father,’ and ‘Ayyan’ conveys a title of reverence. Consequently, the name represents a venerated senior deity in the region. Interestingly, the term ‘Ayyappan’ is notably absent in the South Indian versions of medieval-era Puranas, prompting experts to postulate that Ayyappan might have its origins in a different cultural context. An alternative theory connects the Malayalam word ‘acchan’ and the Tamil word ‘appa,’ both of which mean ‘father,’ to Ayyappan, suggesting ‘Lord-Father’ as a plausible interpretation. This hypothesis finds support in other names for the deity, such as ‘Sastava,’ a term with Vedic connotations. The Puranas also contain references to ‘Dharmasastha’ and ‘Sastha’ as Hindu deities.
Lord Ayyappa, also known as Ayyannar, bears the appellation ‘Hariharasuta,’ signifying the offspring (‘Suta’) of Hari (Lord Vishnu in his Mohini avatar) and Hara (Lord Shiva). Among his other well-known names is ‘Manikantha,’ which derives from the fact that he was found in the wilderness adorned with a ‘Mani’ (jewel) around his ‘Kantha’ (neck). Additionally, ‘Dharmasastha’ alludes to righteousness, while ‘Sastha’ is a common epithet for a teacher and guide.