There is no inscription that authenticates this proclamation but there are several that show that he was a major patron of all the services that the temple provided. Inscription 301, dated 1317, gives elaborate details of the activities he was supporting:
It is February 15th, 1317(7)…This gift was given…in favour of the God Annamalai Natha Deva and Unnamulai Nacci to provide for their personal decorations and for use in their shrines thrice every day, for the lamp festival on five full-moon days and for the great twelve-day festival in the month of Jyeshtha. This gift was to last till the sun, the moon and the stars
On the 22nd day of the month of Masi  he [King Vallalan] donated 10,000 pon to Annamalai Nayanar of Arunagiri and Unnamulai Nacciyar to provide for their food offering, for their personal adornment, for the lamp festival on five full-moon days and for various other services.
Of this 10,000 pon to provide for the food offering and the adornment three times daily to Annamalai Nayanar and Unnamulai Nacciyar, to provide daily for the food offering and adornment during the services instituted in the name of Vira Vallaladeva and to provide for lamp wicks in the night…366 days a
Here are some of the other activities which inscription 301 says the king supported:
1) 400 pon for two annual processions of the deities through town.
2) 474 pon for food for various temple servants.
3) 647 pon for temple utensils.
Inscription 302 gives details of other activities that the king supported in the temple. They include: reciters of the
Vedas; suppliers of water; servers of areca nut; those who made paste for the body; incense burners; umbrella makers; works on a
mantapam; washermen and barbers; bringers of water; feeding rice to brahmins; providing milk; endowments for festivals, etc.
King Vallalan was determined that his endowments would last for ever. At the end of epigraph 301 he appended the following ominous curse:
…the worship and the construction work should continue to be performed without diminution as long as the moon and the sun endure. One who destroyed this gift or disturbed it would incur the sin of one who had killed a brahmin on the banks of the Ganga and would be considered to be the husband of his own mother.
All in all, the epigraph records donations of 33,000
pon made by the king to the temple. This is the largest amount donated by any single person up till that time. The money was all collected from villages in the surrounding region, a list of which is given in the epigraph. Since the amount was collected locally, it demonstrates indirectly that King Vallalan was based in a region that had a prosperous economy, and that he was running the country in a reasonably competent manner.
What, though, is one to make of this astonishing generosity when money was always needed for military campaigns? Two plausible explanations present themselves:
He was fulfilling his duties as a Hindu monarch by liberally supporting and endowing a famous temple in his capital city.
He wanted something very badly from God and was prepared to pay a small fortune to get it. It should be remembered that few
pujas are done out of an unconditional love of God. Mostly, the performers or donors want grace,
punya, blessings or material benefits.
Apart from his endowments there is not much evidence among the scanty biographical facts that are available that he was a pious or spiritually minded man. He was, of course, a militant upholder of Hindu nationalism and fought fiercely against all Muslim attempts to gain hegemony over the South. These activities, though, needed no
pujas; he was quite able to achieve them through his own efforts. One tends to go to God for the things one cannot achieve by oneself, not the things one can. The one thing that King Vallalan wanted but couldn't produce himself was a worthy successor.
The Arunachala Puranam is undoubtedly a hagiographical account, written two centuries after the event, in which facts are happily mixed with exaggerations and fictitious events, but there may be a kernel of truth in its basic thesis: that the king wanted a competent successor and was willing to empty his treasury in the hope that God would provide him with one.
More evidence of his patronage of the temple can be found in the next verse and in the epigraphs that support it:
[Someone asked:] 'The jewelled mantapam and the compound wall in the temple are deteriorating. O Lord, give us funds to repair them.' The king gave 2,000
pon with great devotion and said, 'Renovate them properly'. In addition, 50,000
pon were given to endow maths throughout the land.
One surprising omission from the epigraphs is any detailed reference to the major building works that King Vallalan is believed to have undertaken in the temple. The
gopuram on the east side of the fourth prakara is named after him, and it is generally accepted that he was responsible for its construction. This is a curious omission for a man who liked to boast about his achievements, right down to such minor expenditures as six
pon to some officials who performed services in one of the mantapams.
Only relatively minor sums are allotted to building works in the nine epigraphs that date from his reign. Inscription 301, for example, has a grant of 400
pon for 'a variety of construction work', while later the same inscription notes a gift of 800
pon for 'the worship in the temple and for construction works including the wall'. This may be the wall, mentioned in verse 466, that needed to be repaired. It is certainly too small a sum to build the major wall that abuts the Vallalan Gopuram.
The only clear reference to work on a gopuram comes at the end of epigraph 302, dated 1341. There it is stated: 'for the temple works including the building of the
gopuram and the enclosure wall built by Tiruppal.' This is a damaged inscription in which the text before and after this statement is missing. There is no mention of the sum involved - if it was a large amount it would indicate that a major work was in progress - nor is it mentioned which
gopuram or which wall. As support for the contention that King Vallalan built the
gopuram that now bears his name and the wall on either side of it, the epigraphic evidence cannot be regarded as
Both the Arunachala Puranam account and the temple epigraphs from King Vallalan's reign regularly and repeatedly boast of his greatness and his accomplishments. The fact that neither of them specifically mentions his role in constructing what would then have been one of the biggest and most visible parts of the temple complex is strong circumstantial evidence that his contemporaries did not associate him with its construction.
Be that as it may, popular belief and custom now firmly identify the
gopuram with King Vallalan. There is even a local tradition about the trials the king underwent after its construction.
King Vallalan, after building his gopuram, felt great pride in his achievement. Lord Arunachaleswara, noting that the feeling 'I have built this great
gopuram', was strongly rooted inside him, decided to teach him a lesson. There is a ten-day festival in which Arunachaleswara is paraded each day through these streets of Tiruvannamalai. In the first festival after the
gopuram had been built, Arunachaleswara initially refused to leave the temple via the passage in the centre of the new
gopuram. For the first nine days of the festival, He always left the temple via a different route. On the tenth and last day the king realised his mistake and became more humble. He broke down and cried before the Lord, begging
him to use the
gopuram for just one day. Lord Arunachaleswara saw that the king's pride had abated and granted his request. This particular festival is still celebrated in Tiruvannamalai. To commemorate King Vallalan's attack of pride and his subsequent humility, Arunachaleswarar is only taken through the king's
gopuram on the tenth and final day.(12)
Apart from the Vallala Gopuram and the wall adjoining it, there are other items in the temple that are clearly a result of his patronage. There are several statues of him, one of which is still garlanded every day. One shows him with a full beard, another shows him with one of this queens, and a third as an old man. He was also responsible for the Nandi, and its covering
mantapam, which lies to the east of the Kili Gopuram. On the right-hand pillar there is a carving of King Vallalan and on the left-hand pillar there is a carving of the
ganda-berunda, the imperial emblem of the Hoysalas.
And now back to the Arunachala Puranam.
[The sage] Narada, hearing that King Vallalan, as he proclaimed, was graciously bestowing gifts daily to blind people, to devotees of Siva, to the lame, to wandering minstrels, to those afflicted by the disease of poverty and [many] others, approached that king.
When he heard about the arrival of the muni, the great tapasvin, the king with great love descended quickly from his throne and, surrounded by all his ministers, approached the holy man, singing his praises, received him, and offered him a seat free from all impurities. Once the
muni was seated, the king began to speak.
'O great muni, you who were born from the tapas of Brahma and who sing with the
vina in your beautiful hands, graciously enlighten me about the purpose of your visit to this lowly cur.' Then the ascetic replied:
'O king belonging to the lineage of Agni, which is one of the three ancestral lines [Surya, Chandra and Agni] praised by the world-renowned
tapasvins and the praise-worthy ascetics who have conquered the five senses, I have heard of your flawless munificence and have come to learn about [it]. Tell me what is on your mind.'
'O muni, O great tapasvin whom the rishis learned in the Vedas and
sastras praise, please listen! I have no son to speak my name [at the time of my death] or to rule my great kingdom [after me]. I have therefore hoisted a flag so that I can lovingly give whatever in this world is humbly solicited by devotees of the Lord who shares half His body with the one whose hair is decorated by dewy flowers. But I know not the will of God.'
Then Narada replied, 'The worthy Dharma Sastras proclaim that those who perform great charitable acts on this earth will obtain children. Furthermore, qualified people have also said so. So, by the grace of the Guru who protects everyone and who delights in wearing the crescent moon and the surging Ganga in his matted locks, a son will be born. Now, O king, grant me leave.'
Full of love, the muni went to see Lord Siva's abode in Kailash to tell him of the king's justice. As the Siva
ganas [attendants or followers] were standing there, singing His praises, Narada prostrated himself to the dazzling form of Nandikeshwara, who was standing in the foreground. Then, beholding the beautiful scene of Siva with the crescent moon in His hair, surrounded by
rishis, he praised the Lord and said:
'O Lord of Lords, dwelling in luminous Kailash, praised be Your holy feet! Desiring a son to speak his name, a king called Vallalan in the flourishing, flawless city of Arunai, has hoisted a flag to proclaim that if anyone in the world asks for whatever he wants, he [the king] will gladly give it. Listen now to the glory of this king.'
'He enables justice to flourish and is the guardian of the truth. He never swerves from righteousness. This great king was born into the world as the embodiment of the
dharma that weeds out sin. He regards all beings on the earth as his own and treats them accordingly. He is Your devoted slave. Every day he prays in the following way: ''O First Cause, Your lotus feet are my refuge!'''
Narada's praises are but a dim echo of the adulatory epithets and grandiose titles that King Vallalan bestowed on himself. Two epigraphs in the temple list a few of his titles. Some of the political ones can be used to corroborate events in his life.
'Destroyer of the Makara Kingdom.' Makara is probably the same as Magada, the territory that contained Tiruvannamalai, but there is no indication of how, where or when he destroyed it. Though it was given to him by the Pandya king, he might have pre-empted the issue by forcibly occupying it first. This forcible occupation may have been the destruction of the kingdom that he referred to.
'Uplifter of the Pandya family.'
'Preceptor in establishing the Chola kingdom.'
'Preceptor in establishing the Pandya kingdom.'
Dated 1317, titles two, three and four indicate that he was a major player, possibly the major on the Tamil political stage at that time. Other kings, nominally independent, clearly depended on him for support and for ensuring a smooth transition of power. Many of the Chola territories in what is now Andhra Pradesh were taken over by the Hoysala empire, while the Pandya kingdom of this period only held onto a small amount of territory in southern Tamil Nadu.
Epigraph 303 praises him as:
'Tormentor of the Katava king.'
'Emperor of Komkana.'
'Vanquisher of Chola, Malava, Gauda and Gujjara countries.'
Since this epigraph dates from 1341, it can be assumed, if
he is telling the truth, that the new names that appear here are
all kings and territories conquered or annexed between 1317 and
1341. The same inscription gives him a string of more general
(11) Only one of the 500 inscriptions in the temple (334, dated 1377) associates the
gopuram with King Vallalan's name, calling it 'Vallalan's Gateway'. None of them mentions who was responsible for its construction. However, since this was the only major
gopuram to be built around this time, it is likely that this is the structure referred to in 301 and 302.
(12) I have occasionally wondered how an inanimate image of a deity could compel the bearers of its palanquin, all of whom were in
the pay of the king, to use a side exit instead of the one decreed by the king. The king could not have been too happy to see his employees march out day after day via a different exit when he had just spent a fortune on the