Once upon a time….There was a nobleman Sangama, who ruled a southwestern province under the Hoysala Empire in a time of great change and invasions by Muslim forces from the northwest. Sangama’s lands reached from the seashores of the west to the hills of King Veera Ballala III kingdom in the east; along the banks of the Tungabhadra River to the north and Ghats to the south. Outside the fortified walls of Sangama’s estate was the town of Hampi with its busy market and townspeople, who come to buy goods of the traders from the East.
Sangama was a blessed man, as he had five sons, Harihara, Kampana, Bukkaraya, Marappa, and Muddappa. Harihara was the first born son and beloved of his father. Harihara, with whom his wife’s pregnancy had been difficult, had nearly died in birth, but had miraculously survived. Because of his strong will; his mother had named him in honor of Lord Vishnu, the creator and destroyer. However, it was the third son that was the gem of his mother’s heart and therefore she named him Bukkaraya. They would later be known as Hakka and Bukka by the people of their lands who loved them.
Sangama made sure his sons were well trained in the bow, sword, and spear; for he feared that one day his sons would have to fight a conquering army from the north. Along with their other brothers, Hakka and Bukka were also taught arts, to read poetry, and most importantly to respect the gods. The culture of their people was important to their father and mother and they wanted their sons to respect and observe their traditions and ways.
Hakka learned with such vigor that he was often praised by his teacher. Hakka became a very skilled swordsman and Bukka a fine archer. Bukka also learned well and earned the respect of his teacher. However, his teacher also saw that Bukka was a daydreamer and that his thoughts would often turn to the stories of great adventure. Bukka loved the stories that his teacher would tell the boys and one story above all others – that of Sala the boy who saved his Jain guru Sudatta from a tiger that had entered the temple of Goddess Vasantika at Sosevur. The boy, Sala, would one day become King and establish the Hoysala Empire. He hoped to one day see the great palace of the King and the temple to the far east of their father’s province.
Hakka was a smart and strong willed boy and followed his father’s commands and learned the important traits of a good nobleman, as one day he would be expected to take his father’s place. Bukka, who followed in his brother’s shadow, was more of a free spirit and his heart yearned to explore the world beyond the palace walls. At night Bukka would try to count the stars and prayed to one day fly like a bird to see the furthest corners of the Hoysala Empire.
As Hakka and Bukka grew into strong, handsome, young men they would often argue about the best way to rule or how best to defeat an approaching enemy army. Their mother would see their arguments and explain to them that war comes too soon for young men and that she hoped that they would never have to experience the pains of war. She would also reminded them that, “to be a good leader - one must listen to the heart to make wise decisions and be strong to see that decision through.” She added, “That brothers must not fight amongst one another, but help each other where the other fails. Watch each other’s back and fight side by side!”
Eventually war did threaten King Veera’s lands and Sangama and his sons prepared to go to battle. Their father had an alliance with the Hoysala King and if ever an attack should occur, then they would fight together. Sangama gathered his son’s to his side and asked them to lead a group of soldiers to the aide of the Hoysala Empire. The five brothers swore to help their father and allies wholeheartedly. He asked especially if Hakka and Bukka would go to King Veera and present their forces. The other three brothers would go to neighboring lands and ask rulers there to help support King Veera’s fight.
Hakka was honored to be chosen to represent his father as part of an envoy to the Hoysala Empire. Bukka was surprised that his father had asked him to go with Hakka, but he too was overjoyed for his dream to see the east had come true. Before the two brothers were to depart, Sangama requested Bukka meet with him privately. He gave Bukka instructions to stand as Hakka’s right-hand man and do everything in his power to help his brother. He asked him to never leave Hakka’s side and to listen and carry out Hakka’s commands.
“Yes father, I will do what you ask!” His father was very proud of Bukka’s commitment and he held his son by his shoulders and nodded in approval, “May the gods protect you both in your travels and return you to your home unscathed.”
Sangama was a smart man and he had his sons and soldiers dress as merchants and hide their weapon among the supplies that they took with them. He also had they take camels and carts, so that if a spy along the way were to see them headed towards King Veera’s palace, they would look like traders headed to the bazaar and not reinforcements for the King’s army.
Hakka and Bukka travelled for several days before coming upon the city of Belur, with it’s magnificent palace and temples. The guards at the gates of the King’s palace commanded the two brothers to halt and identify themselves. “I am Harihara, Son of Sangama, and this is my brother Bukkaraya. We have been sent by our father to provide men for the King’s fight against the Sultan of Delhi. This letter with our father’s seal is for King Veera.”
The guard nearest Hakka looked at the paper with the seal upon it and allowed them through the gates. They took their horses and men to the stables, where they were greeted by a servant of the King. “Welcome, friends of King Veera! My name is Rajul and I shall show you where you will stay.” Rajul was a short man, with a white turban and graying mustache and Hakka presented the letter from his father to him. Rajul read the letter and he proceeded to escort Hakka and Bukka to rooms within the palace with servants ready for their biding. “His Majesty King Veera will be meeting with you tomorrow. There is food and wine for you and warm bath waters to free yourselves of dust from your travels. Sleep well!”
Bukka could not sleep with the excitement that grew in his stomach. He quietly slipped out the door to walk the gardens below. In the moonlit gardens he could see well the palace walls and the carvings in stone. As Bukka walked he was deep in thought and did not pay much attention to where he went. Eventually, he found himself near a small temple and as he rounded a corner, he was facing a statue of dark stone showing a boy with a sword in his hand fighting a tiger. It was the very depiction of Sala that he had heard stories of as a boy. He was so overcome with joy that he fell to his knees before the statue and reached out to touch the foot of Sala as if he were greeting a long lost family member. Three tears ran down his cheek as he said a silent prayer of thanks and remeberance. He thanked the goddess for protecting Sala, he gave a prayer for Sala for being so brave to save his guru, for the guru who helped Sala become King, and the tiger that sacrificed it’s life so that Sala would become King.
As the three tears hit the ground, Bukka heard the most lovely voice call from behind him; asking him to rise. As he rose and turned he saw before him a beautiful maiden with black hair and eyes. She almost glowed from the moonlight that hit upon her white sari. Her veil looked as if it sparkled like dew upon a spider’s web and her skin was the color of milk. Her smile was delicate and her fingers outstretched and beckoning Bukka to rise.
As he stood, he almost forgot to breathe at the sight of this maiden. “Bukkaraya, you have shown your heart to me and your respect. Long has it been since one has visited my temple! I know of your journies and why you have come to this place, so I will give you three gifts for your tears.” Bukka turned as he was directed by the goddess to where his tears had fallen.
Three plants had sprung up from the ground. The first plant was Acontim, with its dark purple hood-like flowers. “Take the root of Aconitum and use its power against your enemies!” Bukka quickly dug up the roots and carefully put them in a piece of cloth from his night robes, making sure not to touch them and be consumed by their deadly poison. For, according to the medicine men the Aconitum’s poison, even is the tiniest of amounts, could paralysis a grown man.
The next plant was a vine that grew up the side of the statue of Sala. From its dark glossy leaves sprung forth white, star shaped flowers. “Take the flowers of Kund and put some into a vile of oil and you shall have the perfume of the gods. Attach others as the tip of an arrow, like Kamadeva, and whomever the petals from the arrow fall upon shall be lost to love and only marriage shall be the cure.” Bukka collected several flowers and put them into another piece of cloth from his night robes.
The last plant that sprung forth in front of Bukka was the largest lotus blossom he had ever seen. When the blossom opened there in the center was a golden dagger and whose handle was made of opal in the shape of an unopened lotus blossom. This was a true treasure and Bukka carefully picked up the dagger. “This dagger shall bring peace to the land in the hand of a great King. Bukkaraya you shall be its guardian until that day.”