My favourite, though, also from 303, is 'sanivarasiddhi' which means, 'one who accomplishes great deeds on Saturdays'. No mention is made of what feats made his weekends so memorable, nor is it explained why his weekdays were so lacking in achievements.
Listening to the discourse of the muni who had come before Him, Lord Siva thought, 'I will ascertain for Myself what this Vallalan is like'. Then the Peerless One said to the
devas, rishis and munis, 'All of you go to your respective ashrams'.
Immediately the Lord of Kailash summoned the king of Alakapuri [Alakesan, the god of wealth]. That king, who came with such a huge pile of gold that he was honoured by everyone, prostrated himself before the gracious feet of the Lord, whose body wears the
rudraksha and the cobra as His ornaments, and praised Him. Then the Red-hued One graciously spoke a few words:
'O king who rules Alakapuri, listen. I have decided to test the steadfastness of the king who dwells in Arunai. Therefore become My worthy disciple and accompany Me joyfully with lots of wealth.' Thus said the Lord of Kailash.
Then Paramasiva, who shines with the indescribable Lady as one of His halves, took the form of a
sangama [Saiva monk] that could now be worshipped by everyone. As Brahma and Vishnu looked on, they felt a joy they had never experienced before. All the
devas showered forth a rain of flowers while the Vedas praised [Him].
All the beautiful Siva ganas dwelling in Kailash, the abode of the Lord became
andis [mendicants] by the grace of our most excellent Lord Siva. Coming in a large group, they reached the beautiful city where Vallalan dwells and were praised by those who knew the ways of the king.
The mendicants proclaimed: 'Are there no highly virtuous mothers who regard their husbands as gods? Are there no young men excelling in beauty? Is there no one to give food to the hungry? Are there no just monarchs? Are there no good-hearted ladies who will lovingly invite us and attentively serve as food?'
'Even if gold is given, we don't want [it]. If you give us beautiful ornaments, we don't want [them]. We desire neither shining rubies nor long pearl necklaces. If you grant us sovereignty over kingdoms, our minds are not in that. However, should you offer us food and protection, we shall eat with great delight.'
The Lord, who had given up the deer He was holding to take on the appearance of a
sangama, headed for the street in that excellent city wherein dwelled the
devadasis, whose lips were like red fruit. His lily-like mouth blossomed, and He cried out like a beggar suffering terrible hunger.
Young girls became devadasis by being consecrated to the service of a temple deity. Although they were taught singing and dancing and were obliged to perform before devotees, they were often little more than prostitutes whose earnings went toward the support of the temple or its priests. The British, during their occupation of India, tried to put an end to the practice, but were not totally successful. The tradition still lingers on in some areas such as northern Karnataka.
Marco Polo, the famous traveller and chronicler of China, visited the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu in 1292-3, the early years of King Vallalan's reign, and noted that there were 'certain abbeys [temples] in which are gods and goddesses to whom many young girls are consecrated'.
Marco Polo's accounts give an interesting insight into the cultural and economic activities of the time. He confirmed that the region was prosperous, having a large trade in jewels, mostly pearls and horses. Indeed, he corroborated other contemporary accounts that said that the kings of South India wasted a large amount of their income on importing horses every year from Arabia because they didn't know how to look after them or breed them
properly.(13) The 20,000 horses that Malik Khafur looted from the South in 1311 would have made a major dent in the treasuries of the southern kingdoms. Though the wars and lifestyles of King Vallalan's generation may seem to be far removed from today's world, at the domestic level there has been a cultural continuity. Marco Polo's account, the first eye-witness account of Tamil culture by a European, showed that ordinary people there were living in much the same way that they do today:
And let me tell you that the people of this country have a custom of rubbing their houses all over with cowdung. Moreover, all of them, great and small, kings and barons included, do sit upon the ground only… It is their practice that everyone, male and female, do wash the body twice every day
(14)… So also they drink only from drinking vessels, and every man has his own; nor will anyone drink from another vessel. And when they drink, they do not put the vessel to the lips but hold it aloft and let the drink spout into the mouth.
'O Ladies,' He said. 'You who have eyes like a fish, whose speech is like a parrot and whose faces are like the moon; you who wear garlands of light flowers in your hair and have breasts like young coconuts rubbed with sandalwood fragrance! How much gold is needed to stay with you till dawn so that the suffering caused by Kama [the god of love or lust] with his five arrows is removed?'
The devadasis replied, 'O Lord whose beauty defies description! You who resemble Paramasiva wearing the cobra with lifted head! Listen! We neither lie nor cheat. You must give 1,000
pon for one lady to make love all night. If you give this we will join our bodies with yours and remove the suffering caused by Kama.'
Siva immediately handed out the gold that the devadasis had demanded. Matching up one mendicant with each lady, he signalled to them with His eyes that they must stay together all night. Thus, in the city of Arunai, which grants many boons, Siva made the
devadasi streets light up with the great assemblies of sangamas embracing all the
Siva made sure that no devadasi was left unengaged and had everyone embrace according to the path of the lustful Kama. Then he set off for the king's palace with His disciple [Alakesan, the god of wealth], who had experimented with [and followed] the path that leads to goodness. Seeing them come towards the palace, the king, who was an expert archer and the ruler of the land, approached the two
sangamas deferentially, praised them, invited them inside and seated them there. Then the king began to speak:
'Lord, Your golden feet have deigned to come here. Is it [because of] the tapas I have performed? What is the good deed I am performing in the world? If, due to my past merit, I am able to give whatever You ask, I will be honoured and I will receive Your gracious glance.'
Siva said: 'O King, listen. May your kindness and your just path flourish for ever! I have come to you for a purpose that I will now tell. If you give me a woman to remove the misery caused today by the five arrows sent by the formless Kama, your fame will shine over the seven seas.'
The king replied: 'I shall do more! For You, Lord, a beautiful marriage will be arranged.' Hearing this, the Venerable One replied: 'O king, listen. Marriage is a great bother. Only the
devadasis have the skill and knowledge, which is a great treasure, to alleviate the suffering caused by the disease of lust.'
'O sangama who teaches wisdom even to those who have made their minds steady, I shall act according to Your wish.' Then the king called his guards and said, 'Go immediately and fetch a beautiful
devadasi'. The guards set off faster than the wind.
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
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.
(13) In the ninth century, the saint
Manikkavachakar was given a small fortune by the King of Madurai to buy horses from the coastal port of Perunturai. On the way there, Siva appeared before him, and Manikkavachakar gave all the money to him instead.
(14) Europeans of this era rarely bathed at all. They would have been most surprised by the Indian ideas of cleanliness.