The empty wine bottles and broken glass pieces found beside the antique Navakanda statues (portrayal of persons beheading themselves) that were thrown outside the Vijayapuri Amman Temple in Vijayamangalam in Erode district, stand witness to the apathy of the temple authorities in preserving the rich heritage of the shrine.
It is also painful that neither the temple priest nor the people of Vijayamangalam are aware of the historical value of the statues portraying the Navakandam - the act of beheading oneself as sacrifice to Kottravai, the female deity of victory, worshipped by ancient Tamils.
Though animal sacrifice is now prohibited inside the shrine, which is administered by the Padaithalai Gounders, a clan of the Kongu Vellalar community, the Navakandam statues throw light on the age old practice of human sacrifice in the shrine. Also, with the Goddess Vijayapuri Amman being the family deity of the ‘Padaithalai’ Gounders, She must be the Kottravai, worshipped by the soldiers before they set off to war. Nonetheless, the Tamil Goddess was later incorporated in the Hindu pantheon, getting renamed as Kali, Durga, Sakthi and so on.
Substantiating the point, a stone inscription at the nearby Nageshwarar Temple dating back to the period of king Abimana Veera Chola of 12th century AD, says that Vijayamangalam had a shrine for ‘Neeli’ - a deity synonymous with Kottravai.
Further, in order to portray Kottravai as a Hindu Goddess, the shrine’s history was linked with the epic character Vijayan from Mahabharatha (Arjuna). It fabricates a new story that Arjuna handed over his bow to the Vijayapuri Amman here and lived incognito at Viradapuram (Dharapuram). The temple also has a sculpture illustrating the scene of Arjuna handing over his bow to the deity.
Though Vijayamangalam was an ancient settlement of Jains, the Navakandam statues still found at the Vijayapuri Amman Temple, throw light on the Jains’ choice of settling there, propagate their doctrine of non-killing and work towards the abolition of human and animal sacrifice.
Murugesan, the traditional Pandaram priest (a non-Brahmin Saiva mendicant) of the shrine, informs: “Vijayapuri Amman is the family deity not only to the Padaithalai Gounders, but also to the Navithar, a community of barbers and Uppilya Naicker, whose ancestors were credited with constructing the Danaicken fort, which was later submerged under the Bhavani river.”
Perur Jayaraman, a noted historian of Coimbatore, said, “ The city with its two localities named ‘Uppilipalayam’ - one at Avinashi Road and the other near Singanallur, reminds the contribution of the Uppiliyar, who were skilled in digging wells and constructing mud walls in Coimbatore ages ago.”
Compiled by: B Meenakshi Sundaram
Source: Vijayapuri Amman Kovil - Epigraphist R Jegadeesan