They reached the street where the devadasis lived and entered every house. Each time they looked inside the crowded houses they saw a devadasi dancing and singing affectionately with a Siva devotee wearing kondrai flowers. ‘Today it won’t be possible to find an available devadasi,’ they thought, and returned to the palace to tell the king.
The king listened to what his guards told him and became angry. Looking at his ministers he said, ‘Is it the doing of the Lord that my words should fail? Is there any defect in our pujas? Is it proper to tell that sangama who spoke so clearly that we can’t get him a lady because there are none available?’
The ministers said: ‘O prosperous one! Stop worrying. We, your humble servants, will bring back a beautiful devadasi. Give up your anxiety.’ Arriving at the street of the devadasis, they saw the amorous play inside the houses and they addressed the devadasis who had perfumed their rounded breasts:
‘On this street where there are crowds of lotus-eye ladies living closely together, if there is one lady who can satiate the lust of the wise man who has approached our king, she will have bracelets, ornaments made of rubies and tinkling anklets; she will always eat food with six flavours along with ghee, curds and milk.’
After hearing what the ministers had said, the ladies humbly replied, ‘We have already been paid by these devotees to stay with them all night. After this night is over, we will do what you say.’ The ministers were much disturbed and reported what the devadasis had said to the king.
The king said, ‘Why is this insignificant thing becoming so difficult for us?’ He grew sad and his mind was filled with anxious thoughts. ‘Is this the working of the Lord’s grace? I will fulfil my promise to the sangama who has appeared before us as if He was Siva Himself.’ So saying, the king took his bow and quickly went to the street of the devadasis.
He spoke to them in the following manner: ‘A flag has been hoisted on high so that those who come here will know that whatever they ask for will be given. I will give this kingdom to the devadasi who will help me avoid breaking my word to the beautiful sangama who has come today.’
‘I will give her elephants, horses and as much gold as she wants. She will have a palanquin inlaid with pearls. If she satisfies the desire of the Venerable One, I shall give her the great sceptre of authority to govern this ancient land. I shall serve her and she shall become my own mother.’
‘All the rishis who are knowledgeable in the Vedas say that among all worldly pleasures, this is the highest. Therefore, come ladies. If you can remove the desire of the sangama who has come to our land, and in return you ask for my life, I shall give it.’
The ladies humbly replied, ‘Abiding by your laws, O Lord, we have already accepted the gold to have pleasure with these pure devotees. What else can we do?’ The king of this land became ashamed and went back to his famous palace.
When he got home two of his wives, Nallamadevi and the young generous Sallamadevi perceived the change in his moon-like face. Prostrating at his feet, they said, ‘O Lord who can rule [the whole of] this ancient world! What is the reason for your sadness? Please tell us.’ Then Vallalan, who walks the path of purity, replied to them:
‘Today a venerable man approached this prosperous king desiring pleasure with a woman having deer-like eyes. In accordance with his request, I tried to get a devadasi but none is available in our city. Because of this I am distressed.’ After listening to the king, the younger wife began to speak.
‘O king who has made a promise to the devotee suffering from lust, we don’t know what is on your mind. If you think that I, the younger wife, should offer myself to him, then I shall do so.’ The king, who was blessed by Lakshmi, rejoiced in his mind. He looked at his wife and said, ‘O noble lady, you will go with the devotee into a room and remove the suffering inflicted on him by the formless Kama.’ Then the good king informed the venerable man.
A queen of King Vallalan is mentioned in a epigraph dated 1335, but her name is not legible. He may have had two queens, but if he did, there is no record of the second one.
In the Vallalan Gopuram, over the western entrance, there is an image of King Vallalan with a queen by his side. In the sixteen-pillared mantapam outside the temple, the second pillar on the south side has carved on it the ganda-berunda, the imperial emblem of the Hoysalas. Facing north there is a statue of King Vallalan’s queen, standing on a projecting platform, supported by lion’s heads. She appears to be past middle age and stands with her hands folded in supplication to a statue of Siva and Parvati, seated on a Nandi.
Sallamadevi immediately bathed in perfumed water, dressed up beautifully and went inside the room. There she skillfully played the vina and sang melodiously. But when she came close to the Supreme One and looked at Him, she saw that the One who wore the rudraksha beads was deep in meditation.
Then, thinking that she would make the Venerable One happy, she took perfumed water and sprinkled it over His dazzling form, speaking to Him in a pleasant manner. When He didn’t even open His eyes to look at her, she hesitated a moment and then began to speak.
‘O Lord, alas, is it proper that the king’s promise should be uttered in vain?’ Then the beautiful lady placidly bent over and embraced Him. At that very moment Paramasiva turned into a baby and, to make her happy, began to cry.
When Siva became a child and was crying loudly, the king, thinking that this was the Lord’s doing, came quickly, took the child in his arms, embraced it and lovingly kissed it on the forehead. But just as the king was so immersed in bliss, that Immaculate One disappeared.
‘O Lord, will we ignorant ones know the working of Your divine will? O embodiment of Truth! You who have three eyes! You who are the Vedas and the Lord of the Vedas! Pure One! Is it to test us that You have appeared in the form of a child and then disappeared? What is our destiny now, O Great One?’ The king, along with the queen, lamented in this way.
Then the king’s heart weakened. As he was crying out loudly, Iswara, who is praised by the excellent tapasvins, appeared mounted on the bull with Parvati, all surrounded by Siva ganas. Brahma and Vishnu followed them. In this way the Lord gave his darshan to the prosperous king dwelling in Aruna. The king prostrated and prayed with fervour:
‘O Origin of Everything, I surrender! O luminous One who can protect devotees on earth, I surrender! O Lord wearing the crescent moon and the Ganga in Your pure, lustrous red matted hair, I surrender! O Immaculate One, bless me with a son to carry my sceptre and rule with justice.’
‘O handsome king, listen! I myself became your son. Hence, at the time of your death, I will perform the vedic ritual for you.’ So saying, the One bearing the crescent moon blessed the king and returned to Kailash. Thereafter King Vallalan ruled the land with great virtue.
Siva’s promise to ‘perform the vedic ritual’ ‘at the time of your death’ is still remembered and commemorated every year in Tiruvannamalai. In the month of Masi the temple priests read out the news of King Vallalan’s death to Arunachaleswara. His image is then carried in a procession to the village of Pallikonda Pattu, about three kilometres from Tiruvannmalai, for the performance of the king’s annual sraddha rites. The connection between this village and the life and death of King Vallalan is no longer known. It is unlikely that he lived there since his palace is thought to have been located about a mile to the east of the main temple. Until about a hundred years ago the last remains of what was reputed to be his palace could still be seen there, but around the turn of the century the land was levelled and cultivated and the railway line from Villupuram to Tirupati now runs across the site.
King Vallalan continued to rule until 1342. His final military campaigns were waged against the rulers and generals of Madurai. The Delhi Sultanate had overcome the Pandya dynasty there and had installed its own ruler. In 1330 the ruler of Madurai declared independence from Delhi and gave himself the title Sultan Jalal-u-din Hasan Shah. Ten years later he was murdered by his chief minister, Udauji, who then took office as the next Sultan. Shortly afterwards he decided that the time was ripe to launch an attack against the Hoysala territories to the north. He marched his army to Tiruvannamalai where King Vallalan was waiting for him. In the ensuing battle the Madurai troops were gaining the upper hand when a stray arrow struck Udauji and killed him. This effectively ended the battle, for the Muslim troops retreated leaderless back to Madurai.
Taking advantage of the ensuing disorder in the Madurai kingdom, King Vallalan decided to attack the fortress town of Kannanur, the former southern capital of the Hoysala kingdom. The family had not controlled it for many years, but with the Sultanate of Madurai looking to expand its territory, King Vallalan anticipated that it would be a useful bulwark against the expansionist ambition of the Madurai Sultan. In 1340-41 he besieged the fort for six months. At the end of that time the defenders asked for a cease-fire so that they could consult the Sultan of Madurai about the terms of the surrender. The new Sultan, Ghiyas-ud-din, ignored the cease-fire, marched a hastily assembled army of 4,000 to Kannanur and made a secret night attack on King Vallalan’s sleeping army, which was completely taken by surprise. King Vallalan’s besieging army was routed and the king himself was captured and taken as a prisoner to Madurai.
At first he was treated very well, but after Ghiyas-ud-din had persuaded him to part, not for the first time in his life, with all his riches, horses and elephants, he had him killed and flayed. Ibn Batua, an Arab traveller who happened to be in Madurai at the time, witnessed the aftermath of the execution: ‘His skin was stuffed with straw and hung upon on the wall of Madurai where I saw it in the same position.’ Thus ended, ingloriously, the illustrious reign of King Vallalan III. As he predicted, his utterly useless son lost his empire within a few years and the Hoysala dynasty came to an end.
Though he had no worthy heir ‘to carry my sceptre and rule with justice’ (v. 511), there was one man in his court who had all the characteristics and traits that he desired for his own son. That man was Harihara, one of his generals, and it was he who later became the first ruler of the Vijayanagar empire, the same empire that rapidly swallowed the crumbling, leaderless remains of the Hoysala kingdoms. Knowing what an able general and administrator he was, King Vallalan gave him increasingly wide authority over the affairs of his realm in the last few years of his reign. I think he eventually came to regard him as ‘the son he never had’, an attitude that the Arunachala Puranam indirectly endorses.
When Siva first appears in Tiruvannamalai, it is in the guise of a sangama, a term which primarily denotes a monk of the Virasaiva school. This branch of Saivism started in Karnataka around the twelfth century and later spread south, although its stronghold was and still is Karnataka. Because it is a strange term in a text such as this, I think it has a symbolic significance. Harihara came from a Karnataka family whose surname was Sangama. I suspect that Ellapa Nayinar, the author of the Arunachala Puranam, used this fact to weave an allegorical fable.
At a time when King Vallalan was probably pleading with God to give him a worthy successor, Harihara Sangama appeared on the scene and effectively took on the role. In the final verse of the Arunachala Puranam account (512) the ‘Sangama‘ announced: ‘O handsome King, listen! I myself became your son.’ Though he was not the king’s biological son, he became a son-in-law by marrying one of Vallalan’s daughters.
Harihara and his successors were fanatic militant Hindus who conquered and united most of South India, forced the Muslim invaders to retreat back to the north, and set up a stable dynasty that ruled for seven generations. King Vallalan would have been proud of them.