Friday, 8 July 2016

Looking for the Lost Tirthankara in the Hindu Hill Shrine

The image of a Jain Thirthankara engraved on the large rock, which is believed  to have rolled down from the hill some centuries ago at the Thirumurthi Hills

Buy and offer Neytheepams for the Mummoorthies

Calls out a woman lamp vendor beside the Amanalingeshwarar Temple at Thirumurthi hills. Many devotees purchase the little earthen lamps from her, light and offer them to the Hindu trinity or ''Thir'i'murthies ' Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. But, as most believe, the name 'Thirumurthy Malai' indicates only the mountain of a Jain Tirthankara and not the Hindu trinity.

The Vedic religion followed the tactics of annihilating its rival faiths including Buddhism and Jainism just by incorporating their spiritual tradition into its pantheon. And that was how Lord Buddha, a man who campaigned against the meaningless rituals of Hinduism, was trumped up as the ninth 'avatar' of the Hindu God Vishnu! “ pointed out eminent archeologist R.Poongundran, who is also the former Assistant director of Tamil Nadu Archeology Department.

Leading a team of history enthusiasts to the places Kalandhai, Karapadi, Anaimalai and Thirumurthy Hills in the 'Varalatru Ula' ( Historical trip) organised by The Vanavarayar Foundation recently, the archeologist explained:

Lord Shiva is called ' Amana Lingeshwarar ' only at a few places in the Kongu region including Karapadi and Thirumurthy Hills and nowhere else in Tamil Nadu. With Jainism flourishing in these regions, the monks of the religion, who would stay in caves, wearing no clothes, had been called 'Amanars'. When such spots were later converted into Hindu shrines, the name indicating the nude Jain monks was given even to Lord Shiva, who, at last, came to be called ' Amana Lingeshwarar' “

A carving on a huge rock, which is worshiped by the devotees as 'Mummurthy' or 'Thir'i'murthy' at the hill shrine, is only a Jain Tirthankara and not the Hindu trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva! Evident to this, ancient Jain literary works in Tamil like Soolamani and Seevaka Cinthamani describe the Jain God Aruhan as ‘Thirumurthi’ “ writes Kovai Kizhar, the first historian of Coimbatore, in his book Kongunadum Samanamum.

The huge rock, on which the carving of a Tirthankara appears slanted, is believed to have rolled down from the hill during a flood some centuries ago. When closely observed, the engraving portrays the Tirthankara with two Samendras( The ones who wave fans to the deity standing with their ‘Samarams’ or Fans on both sides to Him).

R.Jegadisan, a popular epigraphist, who organised the historical trip, said:

The carving of a Tirthankara on the huge rock hints at the fact that certain Jain monks must have lived somewhere in the forests of the hill. However, their spots of stay are yet to be discovered”

However, unaware of this history, Velayudha Pandithar, a Tamil scholar, later wrote a Sthalapurana on Thirumurthy Temple, linking it with a Hindu myth“ informed Poongundran.

Legend has it that the three Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, while visiting Anushya Devi, wife of sage Athari Maharishi, at her home in Thirumurthi Hills, asked her to serve them food without wearing clothes. They asked her to do so only to test her ‘Prativrathayam’ (Devotion to her husband) However, as she prayed to her husband in mind and came unclothed, the Hindu deities got metamorphosed into three innocent babies, whom she breastfed and put them to sleep in cradle. The Sthalapurana states that this was why the place came to be called as Thir’i’murthy Temple (A Shrine of three Hindu Gods)

Link to my article in The New Indian Express

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