The king Rajasekhara who ruled the kingdom of Pandalam once went to the forest for hunting. There, he heard the cry of a new born baby, only to find a baby boy lying there in the forest. The baby was wearing a necklace made of golden bells around his neck. Legends say that God Shiva appeared in front of the king in the form of an old man, and advised the king to take the child to his palace.
The king took the baby to his palace, where he was well received by the queen too, as they didn't have any children of their own.
Since the baby was wearing a bell shaped necklace, he was initially called as Manikanta which means one who wearing bells in his neck. However, later he was named as Ayyappa.
The king and the queen brought up the child with so much of love and care. Later, the queen became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy. The two children grew up like brothers, in all the luxuries of the palace. However, when both of the boys have grown up enough to takeover the kingdom from their father, the queen began to worry. Even though the first son was an adopted child, he was the one who had the right to rule the kingdom, which the queen didn't want. She pretended to be seriously ill, and told prince Ayyappa that she could recover only if he would go to forest and bring milk from a tiger. She made her doctor tell everyone that it is the only medicine which could save the queen.
No one forced him, but the prince decided to go for the medicine, even though the king tried to prevent him. When he reached the forest, he found out a tigress who was feeding her kids. According to the legends, as soon as the tigress saw the prince, she came forward and bowed her head, and then accompanied him to the palace along with other tigers.