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Ponniyin Selvan (novel)

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இந்தப் பக்கத்தை தமிழில் வாசிக்க: பொன்னியின் செல்வன் (நாவல்)

Ponniyin Selvan (novel)
Nandhini, Artist Maniyam
Depiction of Ponniyin Selvan's story
Ponniyin Selvan, Kalki cover page

Ponniyin Selvan (1950-1955) is a five-part popular historical novel written by Kalki. The novel details Arulmozhivarman (Raja Raja Chola) sacrificing the Chola empire's throne. 'Ponniyin Selvan' is one of the titles bestowed on Raja Raja Chola. This novel is very popular in Tamil Nadu for its portrayal of king Raja Raja Chola and the Chola period (widely considered as the golden age of Tamil history). Ponniyin Selvan is a top-selling popular fiction in the history of Tamil publication.

Creation, Publication

Kalki's Ponniyin Selvan was serialized in the Kalki weekly magazine from October 29, 1950 till 1955 and has since been re-published in the magazine, four times. It was first published as a book on December 5, 1954 by Vanathi Publications. After the nationalization of the novel, it was reprinted by various other publications. Kalki had written the serialized epic novel Sivagamiyin Sabatham before Ponniyin Selvan. He wrote the novel Parthiban Kanavu after it.


Paintings played a vital role in the success of Ponniyin Selvan. Maniam (artist), a friend of Kalki's, illustrated the novel. His illustrations, for the first publication, were inspired by the aesthetics of Indian mural paintings. These were serialized five times in the Kalki weekly magazine. Below is the chronology of artists who drew for the series.

  • Paintings of Maniam from 1950 till 1954.
  • Paintings of Vinu from 1968 till 1972.
  • Paintings of Maniam from 1978 till 1982.
  • Paintings of Padmavasan from 1998 till 2002.
  • Paintings of Veda from 2014.

Historical Background

Ponniyin Selvan, painting by Maniam Selvan

Ponniyin Selvan was primarily based on K. A. Nilakanta Sastri's Cholas and T. V. Sadasiva Pandarathar's Later Chola History. The novel's timeframe is between 957 and 973 AD, the final years of the rule of Sundara Chola, the son of Arinjaya Chola and Vaidumba princess Kalyani, whose name is mentioned in Anbil inscriptions. Sundara Chola was known as Parantaka Chola II. The copperplate inscriptions of Leiden, Karandhai, and Thiruvalangadu indicate that in the Sevur battle, the Chola army led by Sundara Chola's son Aditya Karikalan defeated and killed the Pandia King Veerapandiyan. Aditya Karikalan received the name Veerapandian Thalaikonda' (the one who beheaded Veerapandian). The Sri Lankan historical text, Mahavamsam, notes that in this battle, Eelam king Mahendrar IV helped the Pandias.

Aditya Karikalan's death is mentioned in the Udaiyarkudi inscription. Also, it says that in the second year of Raja Raja Chola's tenure, the Thiruveeranarayana Chaturvedimangala Sabha, on the order of the king, sentenced some chemists to death for the crime of killing Aditya Karikalan. Madurantaka, who succeeded Sundara Chola, ruled for sixteen years and took the name 'Uttama Chola' after his coronation. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri believes that Uthama Chola may have been responsible for the murder since the killers were not punished in those sixteen years. It is said in the Thiruvalankadu copperplate inscriptions that Raja Raja Chola, also known as Arulmozhivarman, voluntarily gave the throne to his uncle Uthama Chola. This history forms the basis for Ponniyin Selvan.

Novel Structure

Ponniyin Selvan has five parts.

  • Pudhu Vellam (The First Floods)
  • Suzhal Kaatru (Whirl Winds)
  • Kolai Vaazh (A Killing Sword)
  • Mani Makudam (The Jeweled Crown)
  • Thiyaga Sigaram (The Supreme Sacrifice)
Advertisement of Ponniyin Selvan


Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan, a warrior of the Vanar clan, carries a secret message from the eldest son of Chola emperor Sundara Chola, Prince Aditya Karikala Chola of Kanchi to the emperor of Tanjore, Sundara Chola, and to his daughter Princess Kundavai Pratiyar of Palaiyar. On his way, he discovers a conspiracy at Kadambur Sambuvarayar's palace to crown Madurantaka Chola, the son of Sundara Chola's uncle Gandaraditya, as the emperor of the Chola Empire instead of Aditya Karikalan, the crown Prince of the Cholas. This ploy was conceived by Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar, emperor Sundara Chola's friend, of the clan of Pazhuvur, a clan which served as commanders of the Chola army for centuries. Many other chieftains and generals take part in this conspiracy.

Gandaraditya, the second elder brother of Sundara Chola's father Arinjaya Chola, is a devotee of Lord Shiva. When Gandaraditya's elder brother, Rajaditya died in battle, Gandaraditya after witnessing the horrors of war, gave up the throne, although he was entitled to it. Gandaraditya crowned his younger brother Arinjaya Chola who was well-versed in war tactics. When Arinjaya Chola also died in battle in the next few years, Gandaraditya's son Madurantaka was next in line to be king. However, since Madurantaka was young and his parents Gandaraditya and Chembiyan Maadevi wished him to be a devotee of Lord Shiva, Arinjaya Chola's son Sundara Chola was crowned as the emperor.

Vandiyadevan and Kundavai (Maniam)
Ponniyin Selvan Advertisement in Kalki

When Madurantaka grows up, he goes against the aspirations of his parents and wishes to capture the throne. Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar views it as a legitimate claim and supports Madurantaka. Pazhuvoor's young queen, Nandini, the mastermind behind this plot, instigates the desire for the throne in Madurantaka's mind. She is regarded as 'the Queen' by the Pandias as she is the wife of the old Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar. She treats him like a pawn to further her schemes. The bodyguards of Pandias and its leader Ravidasan support Nandini to avenge the Pandia king who was defeated and killed by Aditya Karikalan in a battle.

Vandiyadevan meets Kundavai and wins her love. He goes to Eelam, meets Aditya Karikalan's brother Arulmozhivarman and tells him about the conspiracy. Arulmozhivarman survives a shipwreck while returning home, rests at the Nagai Choodamani Vihara. Aditya Karikalan is mysteriously killed at the Kadambur Sambuvarayar palace on his way back to Tanjore. The novel proceeds to elaborate on who killed Aditya Karikalan, the old love of Nandini and Aditya Karikalan, and how Aditya Karikalan killed the Pandia King after realizing that Nandhini was the king's wife.

Vandiyadevan (Maniam)

Nandini's background and her relationship with Sundara Chola are described in the novel. The relationship between a young flower vendor named Senthan Amuthan and boat woman Poonkuzhali is detailed. The novel unties various knots to show that Madurantaka was not the biological son of Gandaraditya and his actual son was Senthan Amuthan.

Everyone wishes Arulmozhivarman to ascend the throne because he untied the knots of conspiracy, defeated the enemies and protected the country. However Arulmozhivarman sacrifices the throne to Senthan Amuthan who was the legitimate heir. Vandiyadevan marries Kundavai. Arulmozhivarman marries Vanathi. The novel ends by saying that Arulmozhivarman was later crowned as Chola king and was called Rajaraja Chola.


  • Arulmozhivarman - Raja Raja Chola
  • Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan - Raja Raja Chola's friend
  • Kundavai - Arulmozhivarman's sister
  • Nandini - Princess of Pazhuvoor, the young wife of Periya Pazhuvettraraiyar
  • Aditya Karikalan - Raja Raja Chola's brother
  • Vanathi - Princess of Kodumbalur, first wife of Raja Raja Chola
  • Azhwarkadiyan - Spy, Vaishnavite, Aniruddha Brahmarayar's servant
  • Mandakini - Also called 'Mute Queen' because of her inability to speak. Raja Raja Chola's father Sundara Chola's lover
  • Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar - Commander of Tanjore Fort. Held the most powerful position after the king
  • Chembiyan Maadevi - Gandaraditya Chola's wife. Uthama Madurantaka Chola's mother
  • Chinna Pazhuvettaraiyar - Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar's younger brother
  • Aniruddha Brahmarayar - Sundara Chola's Prime Minister, later teacher of Raja Raja Chola
  • Periya Vellalar Boothi Vikrama Kesari - Commander, King of Kodumbalur
  • Poonkuzhali - The boat women, Uthama Madurantaka Chola's future wife
  • Senthan Amuthan - Uthama Madurantaka Chola
  • Duplicate Maduranthakar- Young man from Pandya kingdom, Amarabhujangan Nedunchezhiyan
  • Ravidasan - One of the bodyguards (chief) from Pandya kingdom
  • Kandhamaaran - Prince of Sambuvaraiyar family, Vandiyadevan's friend
  • Manimegalai - Princess of Sambuvaraiyar family, Kandhamaaran's sister, she loved Vandiyadevan
  • Parthibendran - Belonged to the Pallava dynasty, Aditya Karikalan's friend

Literary Influence

'The Three Musketeers' by Alexander Dumas had a great influence on Ponniyin Selvan. D'Artagnan's parallel in Vandhiyadevan and Milady de Winter in Nandini is strongly felt without any direct adaption or plagiarism. The author was able to construct the novel clearly in the historical and cultural context of the Cholas. Almost all the early historical novelists of Indian languages borrowed the fictional structure from Alexander Dumas, Lord Lytton, Pushkin, and Walter Scott.

Literary Significance

There is a semblance of Mahabharata in Ponniyin Selvan. In Mahabharata, Bhishma gave precedence to the hierarchy of caste over justice and virtue. Periya Paluvetrarayar has a similar vision and he is portrayed along the lines of Bhishma. Arulmozhuvarman has a comparable characteristic to Yudhishtra. (Sivagamiyin Sabatham another famous novel novel by Kalki has some parallels to Ramayana). This historical likeness deeply establishes the novel in the Tamil minds.

Ponniyin Selvan has a simple language and can be read at a very young age. It is devoid of negative qualities and promotes chivalry. There is no excess of lust or violence, and therebuy ensures a pleasurable reading experience till the end. The characters are realistically portrayed without the dramatization of adventure novels. Heroic deeds and battles are not exaggerated. The story often moves ahead through personal feelings and conspiracies at the palace. Ponniyin Selvan gains importance as it represented the period which is called the golden period of Tamil history. It has also depicted the youth of Raj Raja Chola, a chief personality at that time. In literature, it comes under the genre of historical fantasy.

Literary Extension

As a continuation to Ponniyin Selvan, many works revolving around Raja Raja Chola were written.

  • Vikraman wrote the novel Nandhipurathu Nayagi
  • A drama called Raja Raja Cholan was written by Aru. Ramanathan
  • Balakumaran wrote a novel Udaiyar
  • Chandilyan's Mannan Magal depicts the period of Rajendra Chola. Vandiyadevan is a character in that novel as well.


Ponniyin Selvan has been translated to English by Indra Neelamegham, C. V. Karthik Narayanan, Pavithra Srinivasan, and Varalotti Rengasamy.

Other Forms

Illustrated Novel
  • Ponniyin Selvan was published as an illustrated novel with 1200 color pictures in 2017 by Sixth Sense publications.
  • Artist Thangam depicted the Ponniyin Selvan novel in 1050 paintings and published it in 10 parts.
நாடகத்தின் நுழைவு சீட்டு - மேஜிக் லாண்டர்ன் குழுவின் தயாரிப்பு
Production by Magic Lantern Group, Ponniyin Selvan drama entrance ticket
  • Kumaravel, Praveen from the Magic Lantern group dramatized the Ponniyin Selvan novel in 1999.
  • TVK Cultural Academy produced and staged a drama based on Ponniyin Selvan novel in the 20s. Mallikraj was the director.
  • Director Mani Ratnam has adapted the Ponniyin Selvan novel into a movie. The Screenplay has been written by writer Jeyamohan.



✅Finalised Page

First published on: 28-Sep-2022, 19:53:17 IST