Hoysala Ballala III, the Leader of Resistance Movement in South India

Ballala III belonging to the Hoysala dynasty, which ruled the southern parts of Karnataka during 1050 A.D. to 1346 A.D. was the first ruler of south India who launched a campaign to oust the Turks who after capturing most of north India had set their foot on south India. Of the important kingdoms in the south during that period, Devagiri (ruled by the Sevunas), Warangal (ruled by the Kakathiyas) and the Pandyan kingdom in Tamilnadu had been overrun by the Turks and only Ballala III was able to hold on the reigns of his kingdom.

Ballala III, son of Narasimha III came to throne in 1291 A.D. Soon after coming to power he united the Hoysala kingdom which had been partitioned into two by his grandfather Someshvara between his sons; Narasimha III (who was to govern from Dwarasamudra) and Ramanatha (who was to rule from Kannanur). It was during his period that south India saw the first turkish invasion under Alauddin Khilji who in 1294 defeated the Sevuna ruler Ramachandra and extracted rich booty from him. After his accession to the throne at Delhi, Alauddin sent an expedition in 1303 against Warangal; but its ruler Prataparudra defeated the Delhi army led by Nasrat Khan. As Ramachandra had failed to remit tributes, in 1306-7 Alauddin sent Malik Kafur to Devagiri to reduce him to submission. The next year Malik Kafur was sent to reduce Warangal and the Kakatiya ruler Prataparudra was forced into submission. The next target of the Sultan was Dwarasamudra and according to Amir Khusrau and Isami, Malik Kafur was asked by Alauddin Khilji to lead the expedition to the south to spread Islam. Malik Kafur came with a big army and reached Dwarasamudra on February 1311. On the way he devasted Ballala’s dominions and spread panic in the country side though attempts were made to check his advance. Two inscriptions; one at Hosahalli 70 miles of Dwarasamudra and dated February 1311 refers to one Bommaya Nayaka who died fighting against the Turks. Another at Dudda in Hassan district record the death of a chief in a battle with the Turukas who were advancing on Dwarasamudra. The battle mentioned in these epigraphs must have been a skirmish. Ballala appealed to Pandya princes for help and Vira Pandya responded and sent an army of horse and foot. On reaching Dwarasamudra Malik Kafur gave several options to Ballala; to accept Islam or pay jaziya or else face death.

Preferred people’s welfare to personal glory

Ballala III was a clear-sighted monarch who knew he could not resist the might of Delhi. Hostility would bring ruin to himself and his people. The country would be plundered and temples destroyed. Submission would involve loss of his wealth and war material, but would leave him in his possession of his kingdom and his people would escape the horrors of Muslim invasion. Ballala preferred the happiness of his people to the shadow glory which he might acquire by an unsuccessful fight with the invader and hence made peace. Ballala agreed to surrender all his property but was not willing to forsake his religion. Ballala was forced to accompany Malik Kafur in his expedition against the Pandyan kingdom. After reaching Kanchipuram on the midnight of 15th March 1311, Malik Kafur ordered the massacre of its sleeping inhabitants, smashed the idol at the temples and plundered the golds and gems. The devotees who came to protect their deity were killed and the temple razed to ground. Later he went to Madhurai and set fire to the temple. With rich booty he departed to Delhi.

After the departure of Malik Kafur from south Ballala probably repudiated his subordination to the Sultan of Delhi and withheld the payment of tribute. Hence during the rule of Mubaraq Shah a Muslim force was sent to Dwarasamudra. But one of the officers of Ballala, Katari Saluva Raseya Nayaka inflicted a defeat on the Muslims and forced them to retire.

Refused shelter to Garshasp

After Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq ascended the throne he sent his son Ulugh Khan in 1321 to annex Warangal whose ruler Prataparudra had repudiated his vassalage to the Sultan of Delhi. Ulugh Khan failed in his first attempt but succeeded in his second attempt in 1323. A Muslim garrison was also established at Madhura with Jalalluddin Ahsan Shah as governor. After the death of Ghiyasuddin his son Ulugh Khan ascended the throne under the title Muhammad Tughlaq. Soon he had to face the revolt of his cousin Bahauddin Garshasp, the governor of Sagar near Gulbarga. An expedition under Malik Zada was sent against him and Garshasp took shelter in the kingdom of Kampili whose ruler later sent him to Dwarasamudra. Ballala knew that he had to face disaster if he offered protection to Garshasp and hence to protect his kingdom, he handed over Garshasp to Malik Zada and acknowledge the supremacy of Delhi Sultan.

Rebellion against religious tyranny

The departure of Muhammad bin Tughlaq to the north hastened the starting of a movement for the liberation of south India from the hands of the Muslims. The causes of the rebellion were more cultural than political. The Hindus attached greater importance to the preservation of their religion and culture than to their political freedom. As long as an invader confined himself to the establishment and maintenance of his power and the government of the realm, the Hindus did not challenge his authority but they shook off their apathy if he displayed a tendency to interfere with their religion and social institution.

Unlike the other conquerors of India, Mussalmans were not content with the acquisition of mere political power. They wanted to spread their religion and therefore after establishing themselves they set about systematically to force their religion upon the people and subvert the old social and religious institutions of the country. On refusal to convert the Hindus were subjected to inhuman tyranny; they could not dress well, live well and appear prosperous. Vexatious taxes were imposed on them, their seats of learning were destroyed, their temples plundered and demolished and the images of the gods whom they adored were defaced and smashed and used for building mosques. Inspite of these the Hindus remained loyal to the faith of their forefathers and declined to change it at the point of sword. The people of south India especially in Karnataka and Telangana were during that period under the influence of various egalitarian and militant Shaiva sects like Pashupatas, Kapalikas and Lingayats and would not tolerate the religious tyranny of the Muslims and rose in rebellion.

Launched war of National independence

With the extinction of all major Hindu kingdoms in the south Ballala realised the need to establish unity and peace among the Hindu chiefs. He travelled from place to place to mobilize forces and enlist the sympathy and assistance of the numerous principalities. Old age did not prevent Ballala from taking to arms himself and to free himself from administrative responsibilities he gave greater rights and sometimes even partial independence to his ministers, generals and feudatories as long as they did not abuse their power. Ballala placed Harihara in charge of his northern territory as its governor and permitted him to enjoy an almost independent status free to act according to exigencies. He helped Kapayanayaka fight against Malik Maqbul the governor of Telangana and the latter fled to Delhi leaving Telangana free from Muslim rule and this happened in 1336. Soon after Kapayanayaka and Ballala together entered the northern district of Ma’bar, the area known as Tondaimandalam and ousted the Muslim garrisons from the forts of that country and entrusted the task of its administration to a scion of the line of Shambuvarayas, the native rulers of the region at that time.

Victim of treachery

In 1341 the Sultan of Madhurai, Alauddin Udauji invaded Tiruvannamalai where Ballala had stationed himself. Ballala was on the verge of defeat when an arrow shot by an unknown person struck and killed Udauji and Ballala converted the defeat into victory and for a time it looked like the end of the Sultanate of Madhurai. But the nobles at Madhurai placed Udauji’s son-in-law and on his death, Ghiyasuddin Damghani on the throne. Meanwhile Ballala besieged the fort of Kannanur (which earlier belonged to the Hoysalas) and the siege lasted for six months. The besieged forces opened negotiation and wanted a truce of fourteen days so that they could seek the opinion of their Sultan on the terms of surrender. Ballala committed a folly by allowing the garrison to get into touch with Ghiyasuddin Damghani where they deliberated and realized that if Kannanur was lost, Madhurai itself would be endangered. Hence, they marched against Ballala with a large army which took him and his forces by surprise and being ill prepared the Hoysala army was routed and Ballala himself taken captive. Ballala was killed and skinned and his skin was stuffed with straw and hung on the walls of Madhurai. Such was the lamentable end of the great Ballala at the ripe age of eighty years.

Martyred for the Hindu cause

Ballala III is credited for launching the great war of national independence in south India. Ballala is described as the greatest hero in the dark political atmosphere prevailing in south India. His indefatigable zeal in thwarting the Muslim power in south India was commendable. According to P.B.Desai, Ballala bent before the superior might of the aggressor but did neither prostrate nor succumb. The military leadership of the Hindu confederacy which Ballala had so ably wielded devolved apparently on the Vijayanagara kings after his death.


J.Duncan.M.Derret- The Hoysalas, Oxford University Press, 1957

William Coelho- Hoysala Vamsa, 1950

B.R.Gopal- Political condition in Karnataka before the establishment of the Vijayanagara Empire, G.S.Dikshit, Edited- Early Vijayanagara- Studies in its History and Culture, B.M.S.Foundation, Bangalore

K.A.Nilakanta Sastri- A History of South India, Oxford University Press, 1958

S.Krishnaswami Aiyangar- South India and her Muhammadan Invaders, S.Chand and Co, New Delhi

N.Venkataramanyya- The Early Muslim Expansion in South India, University of Madras, 1942

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