At a time, when certain political movements raise a hue and cry against religious conversions in the country, it is a wonder they still maintain silence on the acts of their parental outfits in bringing even Gods of an alien faith into theirs. And one such 'converted' deity is ‘Amana' Liingeshwarar’ whose shrine is located at Devanampalayam near Negamum in Pollachi.
Though the God is now worshiped as Lord Shiva, the prefix ‘Amana’ in its name not only connotes the deity being nude, but questions whether Lord Shiva has ever been portrayed as a God wearing no clothes in any Shaivite literature.
On the other hand, the deities in the Digambara sect of Jainism were nude. Substantiating this, Soolaamani, a classical piece of Tamil literature, describes a Jain God as Aniyaathum Olithikalum Aaranangu Thirumurthy, which means the God, who possesses the natural, dazzling beauty despite being nude. Also, with the meaning of Digampara being ‘Sky-clad’ or ‘Naked’ the Jain ascetics, who belong to the Digambara sect of Jainism, shun all their properties and wear no clothes.
The Amanalingeshwarar Temple, which is located atop a rock in the middle of a dried up river at Devanampalayam, must be a Jain shrine over 700 years ago and could have been converted into a Shaivite shrine sometime during the rule of the later Cholas in the Kongu region. Moreover, as the name of the Chola king Vikrama Chola III, who ruled the Kongu region between 1273 A.D and 1303 A.D, finds mention in some of the dilapidated stone inscriptions, one can assume that the shrine was consecrated after it witnessed the conversion from a Jain temple to a Shiva shrine.
Standing witness to the consecration of the temple in 1302 A.D, an inscription reads that a Vellalan (Agriculturist) had donated a Thirunilaikaal (The chief pillar supporting the temple tower) for the shrine. Besides, an inscription starting with the word Thirukatraliyil… meaning ‘In the temple built of stone’ throws light on the history of the shrine’s development from a brick-built temple to a stone-built one.
Moreover, the inscription has also recorded the names of several people like Cholan Devan, Ekkan Kovanana Neethibalan, Devan Kesuvan, Devan Bemmaan,Santhanana Kothupichi Cholan and Kovan Poovan as the ones who made several gifts to the temple. With the mention of these people hailing from a village called Kuruneeli, the inscription proves a close relationship between the village and the shrine.
But, when you look for the village Kuruneeli near Devanampalayam, you can come across one by its name now corrupted to ‘Kurunallipalayam’. Also, in the research on the etymology of the village’s old name Kuruneeli, a definite answer is yet to be arrived, since Neeli has different meanings as ‘Mother’ ‘Durga’ and ‘Parvathy’. What’s more, Neeli also means ‘A demoness ’ !
Sources: 1) Kongunadum Samanamum - Kovai Kizhar
2) Devanampalayam Amanalingeshwarar Koyil – Epigraphist .D. Sundaram
Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3652184