Neelakesi (Tamil: நீலகேசி) is a Tamil Jain epic. Tamil literary tradition places it among the five lesser Tamil epics, along with Naga kumara kaviyam, Udhyana kumara Kaviyam, Yasodhara Kaviyam and Soolamani. It is a polemical work written as a Jain rebuttal to the Buddhist criticism in the Great Tamil epic Kundalakesi.
Neelakesi (lit. The blue haired one) tells the story of the female jain monk (a jain version of the demoness Palayanur Neeli of Tamil folklore) of the same name, who was a rival preacher of the Buddhist protagonist of Kundalakesi. According the epic, when animal sacrifices of a temple of the Goddess Kali in Panchala are stopped due to the influence of Jains, the Goddess despatches the local deity/demoness Neeli to seduce and destroy the Jain monk responsible for it. However Neeli herself is converted to Jainism by the monk. Neelakesi as she is renamed, travels the country indulging in philosophical debate with rhetoricians of other religions. She debates and defeats several Buddhist rhetoricians like Arkachandra, Mokkala, Kundalakesi, Moggallana and even Buddha himself. Neelakesi also defeats votaries from other schools of philosophy including Samkhya, Vaisheshika, Mimāṃsā and Lokayitaka. The story of the epic mainly serves as a framework to present these debates and extol the tenets of Jainism.
The epic and its commentary by the Jain saint Vamanar, quote extensively from Kundalakesi to counter the Buddhist arguments. Since the original text of Kundalakesi itself has been lost, the fragments cited in them have served as the main source for reconstructing parts of Kundalakesi. The name of the epic's author is not known. The epic is made up of 10 Charukkams (chapters) and 894 Viruttam meter stanzas. It has been dated to the later half of 10th century CE. Vamanar's commentary of Neelakesi shed light on the religious controversies of that period and also mention the names of many other Jain literary works (now lost) like Anjanakesi, Pinkalakesi and Kalakesi.
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