Ponniyin Selvan (Complete Set in 6 Volumes)

Ponniyin Selvan (Complete Set in 6 Volumes)

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Author: Kalki R Krishnamurthy
Translator(s): C V Karthik Narayanan
Publisher: Macmillan
Year: 1999-2003
Language: English
Pages: 1859
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0333 93309 5


Ponniyin Selvan - 500 chapters in six volumes - is aptly called 'Gone with the Wind' of Tamil Nadu. This English translation of original Tamil work is Kalki's majestic historical romance, a masterfully woven epic of fact and conjecture set against the backdrop of 10th century peninsular India under the Chozha Kings.

The setting is brought to life with unforgettable descriptions of the corruption of high office, its acceptance or rejection, the political ambitions and personal motives of the rulers, and their impact on the ruled.

It is now widely acknowledged, that Kalki was the first Tamil writer who used the ancient history of famous Tamil dynasties and the region as the background of attractive stories. Ponniyin Selvan which deals with the life of Rajajraja Chozhan is the last of the three great novels, the other two being Poarthiban Kanavu and Sivakamiyin Sabadam.

Ponniyin Selvan was first published in serial form in the Tamil Weekly magazine Kalki; it was begun in the issue dated 29th October 1950 and concluded in the issue for 16 May 1954. The continuing popularity of Ponniyin Selvan among Tamil readers is attested by the fact that the work is now being re-serialized for the fourth time in Kalki.

This 6-volume set comprises of following titles:

Part I: The First Floods
Part II: The Cyclone
Part III: The Killer Sword
Part IV: The Crown
Part V: The Pinnacle of Sacrifice (Vol 1) - Chapters 01-42
Part V: The Pinnacle of Sacrifice (Vol 2) - Chapters 43-91

The synopsis Kalki prepared has been translated below and provides a brief summary for the reader’s convenience and enhanced enjoyment.

A thousand years ago, Vijayalaya Chozhan laid the foundation of the second Chozha empire. Victorious in every direction Chozha warriors expanded the territory of the empire. During the reign of Emperor Sundara Chozhar, Veerapandyan, the last representative of the Pandya dynasty of Madurai, was killed and the Pandya country merged with the Chozha empire.

Aditha Karikalan, the eldest son of Emperor Sundara Chozhar, who beheaded Veerapandyan was anointed Crown Prince. He lived in Kanchi as the general of the Northern forces. Through Vandiyathevan, a scion of the ancient Vana tribe, he sent a scroll inviting his father to Kanchi to live in a newly-built gold place.

Emperor Sundara Chozhar was not only paralyzed by a stroke and bedridden in the palace, but also deeply afflicted by a psychological disease more painful than his physical disability.

In his youth, when Sundara Chozhar was marooned on a small island adjoining the country of Eezham he was rescued from a bear by a mute Karaiyar girl. He fell in love with her and they lived happily together for some time on that island.

During that period, Sundara Chozhar did not imagine that he would become the future emperor. Soldiers sent by his famous grandfather, Emperor Paranthakar, found him and took him back.

Rajadithar, the eldest son of Emperor Paranthakar, attained the warriors’ heaven battling the Rashtrakutas at Thakkolam. His other younger brother, Kandaradithar did not have any children. His other younger brother Arinjaya Chozhar was married to Kalyani the beautiful daughter of Vaidumbarayan. Sundara Chozhar was their only son. Before his death, Emperor Paranthakar decreed that Kandaradithar should succeed him and in turn be succeeded by Sundara Chozhar.

After ascending the throne, Kandaradithar, a devotee of Shiva, married Sembiyanmadevi, the historically renowned daughter of Mazhavaraiyar. A son Maduranthakan was born to them. In spite of that Sundara Chozhar ascended the throne after Arinjaya Chozhar rule for one year. Maduranthakan was raised as a renunciate and never allowed to think of ruling the kingdom.

Sundara Chozhar became emperor as per his grandfather’s desire and after obtaining the consent of all the princes. He married Vanamadevi, the daughter of Thirukkoilur Malayaman. Two brave sons and a dear daughter were born to them. As Sundara Chozhar’s empire expanded so too spread his fame. However, he was tortured by the guilt of having denied the throne to Maduranthakan.

After he fell ill his conscience grew louder. To add to this he started hallucinating that the ghost of the mute girl he had loved and abandoned in Eezham was torturing him. For these reasons he started thinking that it would be better to convince his sons Aditha Karikalan and Arulmozhi Varman to relinquish the succession in favour of Maduranthakan, the true heir to the throne.

From the time of Vijayalayan the Pazhuvettarayar clan had enjoyed a tremendous influence in the Chozha empire. Periya Pazhuvettarayar was Sundara Chozhar’s chancellor and Chinna Pazhuvettarayar, the Commandant of the Thanjavur fort.

Sundara Chozhar trusted them implicitly and wished never to do anything against their wishes.

The Pazhuvettarayars and a number of Chozha princes hated Aditha Karikalan, because of his boorish manner and hasty temper.

Karikalan’s sister Kundavai Piratti and brother Arulmozhi Varman, had endeared themselves totally to the people of the Chozha country.

Therefore the princes were jealous of them also. Due to these reasons the princes wanted to crown Maduranthaka Thevan as per the law of succession. They resolved to do so, in a secret conclave, which they held in the palace of Kadambur Sambuvaraiyar located in the north bank of the Kollidam. It so happened that the proceedings of the secret conclave came to the notice of the Vana warrior, Vandiyathevan.

After delivering Karikalar’s scroll to Emperor Sundara Chozhar, Vandiyathevan met Ilayapiratti Kundavai at Pazhayarai. As though reliving earlier births they fell in love. As per Kundavai’s desire, Vandiyathevan went to Lanka to bring her brother Arulmozhi Varman back. A boat girl Poonkuzhali rowed him across to Eezham. Meeting Arulmozhi Varman in the neighbourhood of Anuradhapuram in Lanka, Vandiyathevan gave him Kundavai’s scroll which said Ponniyin Selva! The kingdom is in danger. Come back immediately!

During his childhood, while on a pleasure cruise on the river Kaveri, Arulmozhivarman accidentally fell into the river. Nobody in the boat noticed this. A woman appeared in the river rescued the child and disappeared after handing the child to the people on the boat. Many believed that it was Mother Kaveri who disappeared after rescuing the prince. Thereafter Arulmozhivarman was given the name Ponniyin Selvan.

Ponniyin Selvan who in later days was destined to achieve historical fame as Rajaraja Chozhan was then engaged in the war in Eezham. The defeated Lanka king Mahindan was hiding in the hills. A section of Buddhhist bhikshus requested Arulmozhi Varman to crown himself the King of Lanka. Ponniyin selvan refused.

In Eezham, Arulmozhivarman saw a deaf mute, a woman who roamed the forests like a demented person. Often she rescued the prince from certain death. He realized that she was the one who had rescued him from being carried away by the river Ponni. From her drawings he learnt about his past. He learnt about the boundless love between Mandakini and Sundara Chozhar when they were young. Vandiyathevan also happened to meet this woman in Eezham. He wondered at the resemblance between her and Periya Pazhuvettarayar’s Ilayarani Nandini.

As a child Nandini grew up in the house of a temple priest in Pazhayarai and drew Aditha Karikalan’s attention. Kundavai however was jealous of her beauty. Even as a child Nandini was sent to the Pandya country as ordered by Sembiyanmadevi. In the final battle with the Pandyas, Aditha Karikalan went in search of Veerapandyan and found him in Nandini’s small hut built on the bank of the Vaigai. Nandini pleaded with him to spare Veerapandyan. Unheeding, Karikalan beheaded Veerapandyan.

Later Nandini married the old Periya Pazhuvettarayar. The conspirators Ravidasan, Revadasan, Soman Sambhavan and Kiramavithan, the erstwhile bodyguards of Veerapandyan had sworn to exterminate the Sundara Chozhar clan to a avenge Veerapandyan’s death. Nandini helped them secretly.

The conspirators met secretly in a jungle adjoining the Kollidam and crowned a youngster belonging to the Pandya clan. Nandini herself undertook the responsibility to kill Aditha Karikalan and the conspirators vowed to kill Sundara Chozhar and Ponniyin Selvan.

The ship in which Ponniyin Selvan sailed from Eezham to Kodikarai was hit by a cyclone and sank. With Poonkuzhali’s help, Arulmozhi and Vandiyathevan saved their lives and came ashore. Poonkuzhali and her cousin Sendhan Amudhan rowed Arulmozhi to the Choodamani Viharam at Nagaipattinam.

Kundavai Piratti and the Kodambalur Princess Vanathi met Arulmozhi in the Nandi mandapam built on the canal bank near the Choodamani Viharam. Since there was confusion and conspiracy in the Chozha kingdom, Kundavai requested Arulmozhi to stay on for a while longer in the Choodamani Viharam and region his strength. Ponniyin Selvan with his unbounded respect for his sister, agreed.

Learning that the mute lady Mandakini was alive, Kundavai desired that she should somehow be brought to Sundara Chozhar. Mandakini had come to Kodikarai to see Ponniyin Selvan. By the orders of the Prime Minister Anirudhar she was forcibly abducted and taken to Thanjai. Near Thanjai she escaped. Following the conspirators Ravidasan and Soman Sambhavan who entered the Pazhuvoor palace, Mandakini reached Sundara Chozhar’s palace, through the treasury dungeon. Thingking that she was Mandakini’s ghost, Sundara Chozhar threw a lamp at her. Kundavai and others rushed to him to tell him the truth. Sundara Chozhar intensively disliked her reentering his life. Whether she realized it or not, Mandakini disappeared again.

Periya Pazhuvettarayar and Ilayarani Nandini arrived at the palace of Kadambur Sambuvaraiyar. Aditha Karikalar also did so after receiving her scroll. Vandiyathevan met him on the way and tried to prevent him from going to Kadambur telling the Prince about the conspiracy against him. He also told him that Nandini could be his sister. Without heeding him Karikalar went to Kadambur.

The princes of the land wanted somehow to avoid civil war. So they talked to Karikalan about a compromise. They told him that he could have the portion of the empire north of the Pennai and Maduranthakan the southern. Pretending to agree, Karikalan said that a decision could be taken if Maduranthakan was brought to Kadambur. Periya Pazhuvettarayar left for Thanjai to bring Maduranthakan. Karikalan and Vandiyathevan went hunting in a dense jungle adjoining the Veeranarayana lake. Nandini and Sambuvaraiyar’s daughter Manimekalai had gone on a pleasure trip, to one of islands adjoining the lake. The four of them met on the shore of the lake, where they had a meal.

Long before this event Manimekalai had fallen in love with Vandiyathevan and once rescued him from a big danger.

When Karikalan happened to meet Nandini alone for a short time he told her that she was his sister. She refuted it by saying that it was misinformation.

To the accompaniment of the yazh, Manimekalai sang in her sweet voice. While they forgot themselves in the joys of the music, their boat was carried away by a storm. Later in the evening, Sambuvaraiyar took them back on bigger crafts. Now readers can commence reading the fifth and final part of this historical novel which we have split into two portions for convenience.



The project
The translator
The Translator’s note
The Sponsors
The Adi Festival
Azhwarkadiyan Nambi
The Vinnagara Temple
The Palace at Kadambur
The Kuravai Koothu
The Midnight Meeting
Laughter and Rage
Who is in the Palanquin?
An Important Conversation
The Astrologer from Kudandhai
A Sudden Entry
The Waxing Moon
The Crocodile on the River Bank
Vanathi’s Playacting
The Horse Bolts
A Bloody Battlefield
Their Greatest Enemy
The Rustling Curtain
The Velakkara Battalion
Amudhan’s Mother
The Crow and the Koel
Inside the Fort
Abaayam! Danger!
The Court Poets
The Iron Grip
Our Guest
The Art Gallery
Thieves! Thieves!
The Girl on the Tree
The Pleasure Pavilion
The Magician
Do You Remember?
The Lions Clash
A Quarrel with Nandini
The World Spins Round
The Palace that Lay in Darkness
The Dungeon
Is This the Epitome of Friendship?
Everything is Her Doing!
The Spy Who Escaped
The People are Uneasy
Eesana Siva Bhattar
Swirling Waters and Spying Eyes
Wonder of Wonders!
The Paranthakar Hospital
An Old Man’s Marriage
Malayaman’s Fervour
That Woman Deadlier than Poison
Nandini’s Lover
The Incident in the Anthappuram
The Enchantress



The sponsors
The translator
The artist
The translator’s note
The story so far

The Quicksands
A Mental Aberration
At Midnight
At Mid-Sea
The Hidden Mandapam
Samudra Kumari
Bhootha Theevu
This is Lanka
Anirudha Brahmarayar
The Therinja Kaikolar Army
Master and Disciple
Ponniyin Selvan
Two Full Moons
A Moan in the Night
Sundara Chozhar’s Delusion
Do the Dead Come Back?
The Greater Treachery
They’ve Caught the Spy!
Two Tigresses
The Dungeon
Sendhan Amudhan in Prison
Nandini’s Letter
Heated Wax
The Town of Mathottam
The Sword that Sought Blood
The Forest Road
The Royal Route
The Mahout
The Wrestling Bout
The Elela Singan Show
Killivalavan’s Elephant
The Idol’s Message
The Throne of Lanka
Is Merit Valued?
The Goddess of the Kaveri
What the Paintings Said
This is War!
The Council
Look There!
Poonkuzhali’s Knife
I am Guilty!
The Elephant Goes Berserk
The Prison Ship
An Emotional Turmoil
Ghostly Laughter
The Kalapathi’s Death
The Hunt for the Ship
The Bodyguards
The Cyclone
The Broken Boat
The Song of Refuge



The sponsors
The translator
The artist
The translator’s note
The story so far

At Kodikarai
The Web of Desire
The Owl hoots
The Thazhambu Bushes
Poonkuzhali’s Fear
The Song That Came From the Forest
Aiyo! A Ghost
Three in a Boat
The Choodamani Viharam
The Blacksmith’s Forge
Push Him into the Fire!
The Poisonous Weapon
The Flying Horse
The Kalamuhars
Maduranthaka Thevar
Thirunaraiyur Nambi
The Soothsayer
A Timely Rescue
Mother and Son
You Call Yourself a Mother?
What’s that Noise?
Consciousness Returns
The Prime Minister Arrives
Anirudhar’s Appeal
Kundavai is Bewildered
One Spy to Spy on Another
A Change in Vanathi
Two Prisons
A Green Silk Garment
Brahma’s Head
Vanathi’s Plea for Help
The Palm-Leaf Torch Goes Out!
The Time is Near
A Shape in the Darkness
What Happened to Vanathi?
Gajendra Moksham-Gajendra’s Salvation
Maduranthakan’s Gratitude
The Fever Subsides
The Nandi Mandapam
The Nandi Grows
Vanathi on Danger
Vanathi Laughs



The sponsors
The translator
The artist
The Translator’s Note

The Story so far

On the Bank of the Gedilam
Grandfather and Grandson
The Vulture and the Pigeon
The Ayyanar Temple
The Frightening Passage
The Tailless Monkey
Two Hands in the Dark
The Dog’s Bark
The Manhunt
Friend or Traitor
The Spear Breaks
Manimekalai’s Secret
Will the Dram Come True?
A royal welcome
Malayaman’s Concern
Poonkuzhali’s Wish
An Arrow Flew
Laughter and Fire
The Doctor’s Son Again
The Privilege of Travelling in a Palanquin
A Shock for Anirudhar
Can a Mute Talk?
The Princess Impatience
Anirudhar’s Crime
Confusion in the Street
In the Underground Treasury
The Subterranean Passage
A Glimpse of the King
The Accusation
An Evening Dream
Why are You Torturing Me?
The Goddess of the Chozha Clan
Danger to Ravana
The Emperor’s Anger
Late at Night
Turmoil in Kadambur
Nandini Refuses
Danger Approaches
Water Sport
Karikalan’s Mania for Killing
She is no woman
Where is the Leopard?
Love and Accusation
You are my Sister!
The Boat Moves


PART V - Volume 1

The sponsors
The translator
The artist
The Translator’s Note

The Story so far

The Three Voices
The Coming of Murugayyan
The Sea Rises
The Nandi is Submerged
A Calf Separated from its Mother
Murugayyan Weeps
The Joy of the People
Pazhuvettarayar Goes in a Boat
The Banks Burst
The Eye Opens
The Mandapam Falls
The Comet Disappears
Kundavai asks for a Boon
Vanathi’s Oath
The Roof Floats
Poonkuzhali Sprang
The Elephant Flings the Mahout
The Duped Mahout
The Young Fledgelings
Life Hangs by a Thread
Joy and Sorrow
The Armies Arrive
Strategy Session
At the Entrance to the Fort
Vanathi’s Entrance
Stop Here!
The Cheers Rise
A Disastrous Doubt
Mandakini Becomes a Goddess
The Time has Come
The Final Stage
Aiyo! A Ghost!
Go Away!
The Monkey Grip
Pandima Devi
An Iron Heart Melts
IS This Play-Acting?
Engulfed in Darkness
I Killed Him!
The Fire Spreads
Malayaman’s Sorrow

PART V - Volume 2

Table of Contents

The sponsors
The translator
The artist
The Translator’s Note

The Story so far

On the Banks of the Kollidam Again
In the Mountain Cave
Give Me Leave to Go!
Danger to Azhwarkadiyan
Nandini Disappears
You Are Not My Son!
The Unfortunate One
Kundavai’s Anxiety
Manimekalai Craves a Boon
The Release is Prevented
Vanathi’s Idea
Pinakapani’s Task
The Madman
The Saviour Who Arrived in Time
Karuthiruman’s Story
An Inauspicious Omen
Amudhan’s Problem
The Engagement
The Spear Strikes!
Pinakapani’s Treachery
Speak the Truth!
Aiyo! A Ghost!
Maduranthakan Disappears
It is Not a Worldly Kingdom That I Crave
Prince For a Day
A Sword for a Sword!
The Command of the Fort
The Thevar Born of the Revered Womb
A Competition to Renounce to throne
Vanathi’s Stealth
Only I Must be Crowned!
Disastrous Consequences
The Vadavar Flows Back
A Full-Grown Tree Falls Down
The Friends Part
A Meeting on the Roadside
The Lower of the Earth-Maiden
The Cat and the Parrot
Chinese Merchants
The Scene Which Appar Saw
Gifts for the Coronation
The Inner Meaning of a Sculpture
Reality or Dream?
The Poet is Shocked
The Coronation
Spring Arrives
Golden Showers
A Flower Droops and Falls