King Adiyaman ruled in Tagadur, which today is Dharmapuri, in Tamil Nadu. He was a great patron of the arts and literature. Poets from distant lands would come to his court, read their poetry, collect the rich rewards bestowed on them, and go away.

Avvaiyar was one of the greatest poets of the time. She came to the court and sang her compositions. The king was delighted with her poems and requested her to come again. Avvai came the next day, and the day after. She saw other poets reciting poems, and going away with riches but the king offered her no reward, not even a dime.

The king could see that his favourite poet, Avvai, was upset with him. He told her, “Avvai, the poets I reward are no doubt talented. I am glad to listen to their poetry once. So, I give them rewards, which they collect and go away. But I want to listen to your poetry, again and again, day after day. If I reward you, I am afraid you will go away, and I won’t get to hear your poetry again.”

Avvai smiled. “When someone likes my poetry, o King,” said Avvai, “is there still a greater reward?” Avvai continued to recite her poetry, and the king continued to listen.

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