Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Ponniyin Selvan

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Original title  பொன்னியின் செல்வன்
Country  India
Pages  2600 pages (approx)
Author  Kalki Krishnamurthy
Original language  Tamil
Illustrator  Thibika shanmugam
Media type  Print
Originally published  1950
Publisher  Kalki Krishnamurthy
Ponniyin Selvan httpsaminus3s3amazonawscomimageg0025u0002

Original text  பொன்னியின் செல்வன் at Tamil Wikisource
Characters  Vandiyathevan, Periya Pazhavetturayar, Prince Arulmozhivarman, Nandhini, Crown Prince Aditya Karikalan
Genres  Historical fiction, Romance novel, Spy fiction, Thriller, Novel

Similar  Sivagamiyin Sapatham, Kadal Pura, Yavana Rani

Tamil literary novel by kalki krishnamurthy ponniyin selvan staged thanthi tv

Ponniyin Selvan (Tamil: பொன்னியின் செல்வன், English: The Son of Ponni) is a 2400-page 20th-century Tamil historical novel written by Kalki Krishnamurthy. Written in five volumes, this narrates the story of Arulmozhivarman (later crowned as Rajaraja Chola I), one of the kings of the Chola Dynasty during the 10th and 11th centuries. Kalki Krishnamurthy finished the novel after nearly a period of three years and six months of writing and he visited Sri Lanka three times to learn some information to write this novel.


Ponniyin selvan by chicago tamil sangam on may 4th 2013 see description for tickets

Historical background

Ponniyin Selvan Ponniyin Selvan

Ponniyin Selvan is a historical novel that centers on a number of real historical characters and incidents.

The oldest evidence that is available on the Chola dynasty is about the Chola king Karikal Peruvalathan and then many other kings after him such as Killivalavan, Nedunkilli, Perunkilli, etc. After this, the trail runs cold and resurfaces as Vijayalaya Cholan once again established the Chola dynasty after defeating the Pandiyas and the Pallavas.

Vijayalaya Cholan (AD 848-871) was the founder of the Medieval Chola dynasty. He conquered the country from a vassal chief of the Pallavas, and established Pazhayarai as the capital of the dynasty which was later shifted to Thanjavur during the rule of Sundara Chola. His son and successor Aditya I conquered the Pallavas and the Kongu country. Later, under the leadership of his son Parantaka I (c AD 907-955), the Cholas acquired a dominion which foreshadowed the greater empire of Rajaraja and Kulothunga Chola I. Parantaka I won victories over the Banas, the Gangas, the Pandya and the King of Ceylon.

This fact and the extent of his conquest are known from his inscriptions. Towards the end of his reign, or before his death, the Rashtrakutas under Krishna III invaded the Tamil Country, killed the Chola prince Rajaditya at Takkolam (near Arakkonam) in c. AD 948, and seized Tondainadu which they ruled for about a quarter of a century, confining the sway of the Cholas to their ancestral dominion comprising the modern day Tanjavur and Thiruchirapalli districts.

The names of the next five kings after Rajaditya are known by various historical evidences.

Gandaraditya a great Shaivite, whose son was to become the famous Madhurantaka. Gandaraditya was, however, not a great king and the enemies of the Chola kingdom began to rise again at the end of his reign. Moreover, both of his brothers Rajathitha and Arinjaya could not be crowned after him as the former was already dead and the latter was expecting his end any moment. So Arinjaya's son Sundara Chola or Paranthaka II as he was formerly known, became the king after Arinjaya Chola died at a young age at battle, he was the father of Paranthaka II who ascended the throne after Gandaraditya.

Parantaka Chola II (son of Arinjaya, also known popularly as Sundara Chola as he was exotically handsome and ruled the kingdom particularly well), though later fell fatally ill as his legs were paralysed. He was the proud father of Rajaraja Cholan, Aditya karikala Cholan and Kundavai. Aditya II was the elder son of Parantaka II and was the heir apparent of the Chola dynasty after Paranthaka II. But before he could ascend the throne, he was taken by death due to the treachery. He is killed in kadambur Melakadambur sambuvarayar maaligai.

Madurantaka, officially Uttama Chola, was the son of Gandaraditya and Sembian Mahadevi. Though he did not wish for the crown, it was thrust upon him by Rajaraja Cholan and his friend Vallavaraiyan Vandhiyathevan. He ruled for a period of about 12 years, after whose death Rajaraja Cholan ascended to the throne.

Aditya Karikalan II re-conquered Tondainadu from the Rashtrakutas a few years later. He was a great warrior. He performed many heroic deeds in the battlefields of Sevur and beheaded the long-elusive Pandiya king -Veerapandiya. On Aditya's death, the succession was disputed as one community of the Chola empire. Most of the nobles and subjects preferred the popular prince Arulmozhivarman ascend the throne, but he himself was in favour of his uncle, Madurantaka Uththama Chola becoming the King. At last, Arulmozhivarman tricked Madhurantaka into accepting the crown. After him, Arulmozhivarman became the King in AD 985. His reign brought unparalleled glory and greatest fame and prosperity to the Imperial Chola empire.

Ponniyin Selvan was the sobriquet given to Arulmozhi varman. Ponni was another name for the Kaveri and Arulmozhi was the darling of the Kaveri as in Ponniyin Selvan to all his people.

The original title of Arulmozhithevan was Raja Raja Cholan. He was the second son of the Parantaka Chola II alias Sundara Chola and Queen Vaanamaadevi. Raja Raja Cholan had an elder sister, Kundavai and an elder brother, Aditya Karikalan. He had a high regard for his sister, who spent her later life in Thanjavur with her younger brother, and named his first daughter after her. Who later, inspired by his sister, built the world-renowned Brihadeeswarar Temple known as Periya Kovil.

Kalki’s other sources were stone inscriptions, copper-plates and other books. There is a stone tablet in the great temple of Thanjavur which has the following inscription: “The revered elder sister of Raja Raja Chozhan, the consort of Vallavaraiyan Vandhiyathevan, Azwar Paranthakar Kundavaiyar”. The book History of Later Cholas has a five-line reference to Vandiyathevan, a Bana prince, a real historical character, who is the hero of this novel. The names of the conspirators also came from a stone inscription. [ref:Sadasiva_Pandarathar].

A lot of the information about the activities of various kings came from inscriptions like these as well as copper plates like the one found at Anbil. The Thiruvalangadu copper-plates state, "The Chola people were very keen that after Sundara Chola, Arulmozhivarman should ascend the throne and rule their country. But Arulmozhivarman respected the right of his Uncle Uttama Chola, the son of his grandfather’s older brother, Gandaraditya, to the throne and crowned him King".

Plot summary

The story revolves around Vandiyathevan, a charming, brave and a brilliant young man who sets out to the Chola land to deliver a message to the King and the Princess from the Crown Prince Aditya Karikalan. The story shuttles between Vandiyathevan's travels in Chola country and the young Prince Arulmozhivarman's travels in Sri Lanka. The narrative deals with attempts by his sister Kundavai to bring back Arulmozhi (as Raja Raja was called before his crowning) to establish political peace in a land seemingly getting besot with unrest and signs of civil war, plotted by vassals and petty chieftains.

Parantaka Chola was succeeded by his second son Gandaraditya as the first son Rajaditya had died in a battle. At the time of Gandaraditya's death, his son Maduranthaka was a two-year-old child and hence Gandaraditya’s brother Arinjaya ascended the throne. After Arinjaya’s death, his son Parantaka II, (Sundara Chola) was crowned. He had two sons, Aditya Karikalan and daughter Kundavai and the younger son Arulmozhivarman, the later known Rajaraja.

When the story starts, the emperor Sundara Cholan is ill and bedridden. Aditya Karikalan is the general of the Northern Command and lived in Kanchi and Arulmozhivarman (who would be famous later as Raja Raja Chola I) is in Sri Lanka in battle and their sister Kundavai Piratti lived in Chola royal household at Pazhayarai.

The story is set in motion, when rumor starts that there is a conspiracy against Sundara Chola and his sons. One person who gets a glimpse of the Pandya conspirators is a warrior the Vanar kula veeran Vallavarayan Vandiyathevan at the palace of his friend kandhamaaran.

It is through Vandiyathevan that we meet most of the characters in the novel such as Arulmozhivarman, the prince whom all the people loved, and Periya Pazhavetturayar, the chancellor who married Nandhini (the main conspirator) when he was sixty. During his youth, Aditya Karikalan had fallen in love with Nandhini, but she turned vengeful after Aditya Karikalan killed Veerapandyan (who was probably her lover. It was a confusion which revolves in the story, but later in the story it was revealed as her father) and vowed to destroy the Chola dynasty. We also meet Kundavai Devi, who after hearing the news of the conspiracy sends Vandiyathevan to Sri Lanka to give a message to Arulmozhivarman to come back immediately.

Besides these, there are other characters like Maduranthaka(the man whom the conspirators want to crown king), the son of Gandaraditya and Aniruddha Brahmarayar,Sundara Cholar’s Prime Minister and the man who has eyes and ears everywhere. But the most wonderful character in the book is Brahmarayar’s spy Azhwarkadiyan Nambi, a who roams around the country challenging for debates. He collects information for the Prime Minister and is always around Vandiyathevan, rescuing him during trouble.

There are some lovely and adorable women too, like Vanathi, Kodumbalur princess (the woman who becomes Arulmozhivarman's wife later) who is in love with Arulmozhi; Poonkuzhali, the boat woman who rows the future king from Lanka; Mandakini, the deaf and dumb step-mother of the original maduranthaka chola and the aunt of Poonkuzhali. Most memorable among these is Nandhini, whose beauty is said to have the power to influence any man. Manimegalai, the sister of kandhamaran(the kadamboor prince) who helps Nandhini without any knowledge that she herself is the conspirator and kandhamaran also turns against Vandhiyathevan, his best friend.

In the meanwhile, with Poonkuzhali's help, Vandiyathevan reaches Sri Lanka, meets Arulmozhivarman, and becomes his close friend. In Lanka, Arulmozhivarman realizes that his father had spent some time in an island near Lanka and had been with a girl born deaf and dumb. He meets her and realizes from her drawing that she and his father have had two children. Who are those children and do they have the right to the throne? Later one day in Thirupurambayam forest Vandiyathevan sees Nandhini and the Pandya conspirators place a small boy on a throne and take a vow in front of him. Who is this boy and what right does he have to the throne?

While coming back from Lanka, Arulmozhivarman is caught in a cyclone and goes missing. Rumor spreads that he is dead, but he survives and stays at Choodamani Viharam to get cured from a deadly pnemonea, a Buddhist monastery. Then slowly the dispersed family starts assembling. The conspirators meanwhile choose one day in which both the king and both of his sons would be assassinated.

Nandhini, meanwhile, calls Adithya Karikalan to Kadambur Palace to discuss about the future of kingdom, Though Karikalan knows that his life is in utter danger, He goes to Kadambur palace despite warning from his grand father. Adithya karikalan was then assassinated there(it was debated till about the assassin), for which Vandiyathevan framed as victim.

Arulmozhivarman in the mean time recovers from his illness and returns to Tanjore, where he was forced to crown and he accepts to get crown initially. Later he tricks everyone and crowns his uncle Uthama chola. Thus gets the fifth part name as Tyaga chigaram.

The Story ends with the uneventful death of manimegalai in the arms of Vandiyathevan, whom she loved the most. The author also included an epilogue, which gave the historical facts about the main characters involved in the plot.


There are at least three different translations of Ponniyin Selvan available in English - by Indra Neelamegam CV Karthik Narayanan, and an ongoing one by Pavithra Srinivasan. On 21 February 2015 (International Women's Day) the Sanskrit translation by scholar Rajalakshmi Srinivasan was released in a public function, by the Hon. minister for Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, Smt. Smriti Irani

Audio book

There is a Tamil audio book, done by Sri of, and it is available for download in, iTunes and Amazon for a fee.

Prequel and sequel

Shri Vikraman and Shri Anusha Venkatesh, the great historical novelists wrote "Nandi Purathu Nayagi' and "Kaveri Maindan" respectively as sequels to Ponniyin Selvan, narrating various incidences which subsequently happened.

Dr L. Kailasam wrtoe Malar Cholai Mangai which is a, prequel to Ponniyin Selvan, wherein he interestingly described how Vandiya Devan was brought up in his childhood and the necessity of the occurrences of the various historical incidences mentioned in Ponniyin Selvan.


Ponniyin Selvan Wikipedia