Invasions of Tiruvannamalai

Tiruvannamalai Temple attacked in 1342 or 1348 

King Vallala III was taken to Madurai, killed and skinned in 1348. Mughal King Giazuddin turned his attention towards Tiruvannamalai, as he visualised enormous wealth would be hoarded in the Temple. As King Vallala reportedly engaged in massive Temple construction with collected tax revenues, Giazuddin sent his army to loot the Temple. But, there were only devotees safeguarding the Temple per the directions of Deivasaigamani Desikar, an Adi Shaivite who was a protector of the South Indian temples and who worked in conjunction with King Vallala. As the Hoysala sculptures are found in damaged condition and located at different parts of the Temple, it is evident the Mohammedan army would have indulged in iconoclasm. As devotees offered resistance, probably, under Desikar, they would have been killed. As otherwise the year of 1348 would not have coincided for both Vallala and Desikar. However, his body must have been buried with honour, as later hagiographic records assert that he attained “jivan-samadhi”. Within 100 years, the surroundings of the “Gurumurtham” changed completely with encroachments and urbanisation. 

How could both have died in 1348? 

The dates of Deivasigamani Desikar (1291-1348) and Vira Vallala Deva (1268-1348) are intriguing as both died in the same year. It could not be an accidental or an incidental occurrence. When they died, they would have been 80 and 57 years old respectively. When Vallala was 23 years old, Desikar would have just been born. As Vallala constructed Tiruvannamalai Temple, 

Desikar would have supported his efforts. When Malikafur invaded in 1311, they would have been 43 and 20 years old—thus they would have realised the iconoclastic and devastating nature of the Mohammedan army. The cruel killing of Vallala by Giazuddhin has been recorded by Ibn Batuta himself. However, how Desikar also died in the same year is not known. Perhaps, in protecting Tiruvannamalai Temple, he might have sacrificed his life—and it is that which is hagiographed later as “attaining Jiva samadhi”. In other words, mythologisation of history and historicisation of myth have been common feature in Indian historiography circumventing the principles of myth-history. 

Why Vallala and Desikar were targeted?: 

Vallala was a convert from the Jain religion when he started co-operating with Desikar. As Vallala was moving to different places, he could observe the activities of Mohammedan groups known variously as; Arabs, Turks, Pathana, Persians and so on. Soldiers of the Delhi Sultan were stationed at Dwarasamudra as a part of the pact. In fact, he himself engaged many Mohammedan soldiers in his army. As both opposed the Mohammedan intrusion into South India, strategically encountering and effectively combating, they took cognisance of them and decided to eliminate them at any cost. The Mohammedan pattern of raid, battle and war never followed any code of conduct or ethics, while Hindus unwittingly followed specified codes and were regularly defeated. 

The horse trade made it necessary to induct Mohammedans into his army as trainers, breeders and keepers of horses and cavalry. As some researchers point out the horse trade was of political importance and a source of tension between the Delhi Sultanate and horse traders who dealt with South India States, their enemies. Nur al-ma’arif testifies that Yemen horses were also sold in Malabar, particularly in both Fakanur and Manjalur seaports linked with the Hoysala State which was regularly opposed to its neighbouring Pandyas. Actually, horse exports from Aden were directed to the Hindu States of the western and eastern coast. Delhi Sultans played double game in horse trade, as they pretended to forbid traders from conducting business inside their territory. Therefore, the act of seizure and carrying of horses from South Indian Kings was blatant land-piracy, which India had previously never heard of or witnessed. Hence, Vallala and Desikar were against breeding horses. Thus the sculptures succinctly prove the fact that Desikar “was raising a dead horse”. However, the Mohammedans of Vallala’s army reacted as “Mohammedans”, as could be seen from the Kannanur episode. In the same way Desikar might have been finished off during the attack on Tiruvannamalai in 1348. 

Desikar’s Jiva-samadhi – mystified hagiographed or historical?: 

Had Tiruvannamalai been attacked by the army of the Madurai Sultan, the protectors of the Temple would have been killed. The mutilated and damaged sculptures of the Temple point to 

such an encounter. As Desikar developed, “Vira-Saiva” protectors they would have fought with the Mohammedans, have been over-powered and killed. In such a bloody encounter, Desikar might have also been killed. However, his body must have been taken away and buried at a place, now known as “Gurumurtham”. Thus now his “Jiva-samadhi” is at Kizhnathur, 1.5 kms away from Tiruvannamalai Temple. A Temple has been constructed on it and is known as “Gurumurtham”. About 60 years previously, it was a natural surrounding with mango groves. It is under the control of Kundarkkudi Mutt. 

Horse factor and ruining of economy: 

Malikafur looted wealth and also elephants and horses. The taking away of 20,000 horses inflicted a great loss on the treasury. Moreover, the Mohammedans were using horses for their swift raids, speedy runaways and quick-loots. At one side, they were supplying the horses to the Indian Kings and on the other side they were carrying on with tactics to rob the Indian treasury. Above all, during the raids, wealth in kind was also plundered. Taking a clue from Marco Polo, historians like Romila Thapar opined that “Imported horses became an expensive commodity because horse breeding was never successful in India, perhaps due to the different climatic, soil and pastoral conditions”. But, during the Hoysala period, imported horses were mated with local horses to produce cross breeds. In fact, scholars have pointed out that Hoysala sculptures depict such features. Therefore, the concern of Desikar for horses as depicted in the sculpture of “raising a dead horse” is implied in such horse breeding and economy. 

Inference based on the historical interpretation: 

The role of Vallala III encountering and restricting Mohammedans in South India has been significant. In such an extraordinary and prodigious task, he sacrificed two capitals, Dwarasamudra and Kannanur, and of course his life at 80. Incidentally, Deivasigamani Desikar co-operated, collaborated and strategically worked with him. He might have been instrumental in bringing Vira-Saivas to Tiruvannamalai to protect the Temple. As both confronted Mohammedans in all possible ways, they were mercilessly eliminated (as found in historical documents and other circumstantial evidence). His fall coincided with the rise of the Viyayanagara Empire. Incidentally, Harihara-Bukka the founders of the Empire were reportedly reconverted back to the Hindu-fold. Thus, both played a crucial role in the betterment of the Saiva religion, development of Saiva-philosophy and construction of Tiruvannamalai Temple.