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Theodore Turner
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How to Read and Enjoy Ponniyin Selvan in English: Tips and Insights from C.V.Karthik Narayanan's Translation

Ponniyin Selvan English Translation Karthik Narayanan.pdf

If you are a fan of historical fiction, you might have heard of Ponniyin Selvan, a classic Tamil novel by Kalki Krishnamurthy. Set in the 10th century AD, during the reign of the Chola dynasty, Ponniyin Selvan tells the epic story of Arulmozhivarman, who later became Rajaraja Chola I, one of the greatest kings of South India. The novel is a thrilling blend of history, romance, adventure, mystery, and drama, with a cast of unforgettable characters and a rich depiction of medieval Tamil culture.

Ponniyin Selvan English Translation Karthik Narayanan.pdf

But what if you don't know Tamil? How can you enjoy this masterpiece of literature? Fortunately, there is an excellent English translation by C.V.Karthik Narayanan, an engineer, industrialist, and avid reader of Kalki's novels. Karthik Narayanan spent more than a decade translating Ponniyin Selvan into English, with the aim of making it accessible to a wider audience. His translation captures the essence and beauty of Kalki's language, while also being faithful to the historical and cultural context of the novel.

In this article, we will give you an overview of Ponniyin Selvan, its main themes and characters, and its English translation by Karthik Narayanan. We will also provide you with some tips on how to read and enjoy this magnificent work of art.

Summary of the five parts of Ponniyin Selvan

Ponniyin Selvan consists of five parts, each containing about 30 chapters. The novel spans several years and covers various locations in India and abroad. Here is a brief summary of each part:

Part 1: The First Floods

The novel begins with a young man named Vandiyathevan, a loyal warrior and friend of Arulmozhivarman (also known as Ponniyin Selvan or the son of the river Ponni), who is sent by him to deliver a secret message to his sister Kundavai, who lives in Pazhayarai, the capital city of the Cholas. On his way, he meets several characters who will play important roles in the plot, such as Nandini, a mysterious and beautiful woman who is married to Periya Pazhuvettarayar, an influential minister and commander-in-chief of the Chola army; Azhwarkadiyan, a spy and devotee of Lord Vishnu; and Ravidasan, a Buddhist monk and emissary of the Pandya king, who is plotting to overthrow the Cholas.

Vandiyathevan also learns that there is a conspiracy to assassinate Arulmozhivarman, who is away in Sri Lanka, fighting a war against the Sinhalese king. He decides to warn him and his elder brother Aditya Karikalan, who is ruling from Kanchipuram as the crown prince. However, he faces many dangers and obstacles along the way, as he is pursued by the enemies of the Chola empire.

Part 2: The Cyclone

In this part, the focus shifts to Arulmozhivarman, who is stranded in an island after a shipwreck. He is rescued by a group of Shaivite saints, who reveal to him that he is the chosen one to build a great temple for Lord Shiva in Thanjavur. Arulmozhivarman also meets Poonguzhali, a fisherwoman who falls in love with him, and Manimekalai, a young princess of the Keralas, who is betrothed to him by her father.

Meanwhile, Vandiyathevan reaches Kanchipuram and delivers the message to Aditya Karikalan, who is furious to learn that his father, Sundara Chola, the ailing king of the Cholas, has decided to make Arulmozhivarman his successor instead of him. He suspects that his mother Vanamadevi and his sister Kundavai are behind this decision, and that they are influenced by Nandini, who is secretly in love with him. He also learns that there is a sect of fanatical Shaivites called the Veera Vaishnavas, who are willing to kill anyone who opposes Arulmozhivarman's coronation.

Vandiyathevan then travels to Pazhayarai to meet Kundavai, who convinces him that she and her mother are innocent, and that they only want peace and harmony in the empire. She also tells him that she has a plan to bring Arulmozhivarman back from Sri Lanka and make him the king, with the support of the people and the nobles. She asks him to join her in this mission, and he agrees.

Part 3: The Killer Sword

This part revolves around the events that lead to the tragic death of Aditya Karikalan, who is murdered by a Veera Vaishnava assassin at his palace in Kanchipuram. The assassin claims that he was sent by Nandini, who wanted to avenge her father's death at the hands of Aditya Karikalan during the war against the Pandyas. However, there are doubts about his confession, as some believe that he was acting on behalf of Periya Pazhuvettarayar or his younger brother Chinna Pazhuvettarayar, who are also rivals of Arulmozhivarman.

The news of Aditya Karikalan's death shocks and saddens everyone in the empire, especially Arulmozhivarman, who returns from Sri Lanka with his army and navy. He decides to renounce his claim to the throne and become a monk at Thiruvannamalai, where he hopes to find peace and solace. However, Kundavai and her allies persuade him to change his mind and accept his destiny as the king of the Cholas.

Vandiyathevan also returns from Sri Lanka with Arulmozhivarman, after having many adventures and narrow escapes. He reunites with Kundavai, whom he loves dearly, but he is unsure if she reciprocates his feelings. He also meets Nandini again, who tries to seduce him and make him join her side. He resists her charms and remains loyal to Arulmozhivarman.

Part 4: The Crown

In this part, the plot thickens as more secrets and revelations come to light. It is revealed that Nandini is not really the daughter of Veerapandiyan, the former Pandya king, but his niece. She was adopted by him after her parents were killed by Periya Pazhuvettarayar during a raid on their village. She married him out of gratitude and respect, but she never loved him. She only loved Aditya Karikalan, whom she met when she was a child. She blamed him for her father's death and vowed to destroy him and his family. She also wanted to restore the Pandya kingdom by using Ravidasan and other rebels.

Part 5: The Pinnacle of Sacrifice

This is the final and most dramatic part of the novel, where the fate of the characters and the empire is decided. Arulmozhivarman is crowned as Rajaraja Chola I at Thanjavur, after his father Sundara Chola passes away. He also marries Manimekalai, who becomes his queen. He plans to build a grand temple for Lord Shiva, as per his divine vision. He also wants to expand his empire and conquer new lands.

However, he faces many challenges and enemies, both internal and external. He has to deal with the revolt of the Pandyas, who are supported by Nandini and Ravidasan. He also has to face the invasion of the Chalukyas, who are led by Rajaditya, the son of his sister Kundavai and her husband Vandiya Devan. He also has to cope with the betrayal of Chinna Pazhuvettarayar, who joins forces with Nandini and tries to assassinate him.

The novel reaches its climax at Kadambur, where Arulmozhivarman is attacked by Chinna Pazhuvettarayar and his men. He is saved by Vandiyathevan, who kills Chinna Pazhuvettarayar in a fierce duel. Nandini also arrives at the scene, and tries to kill Arulmozhivarman with a poisoned dagger. However, she is stopped by Periya Pazhuvettarayar, who sacrifices his life to protect his king. Nandini then kills herself, unable to bear the loss of her husband and her lover.

The novel ends with a note of hope and glory, as Arulmozhivarman returns to Thanjavur and resumes his reign as Rajaraja Chola I. He is hailed as a great king and a benevolent ruler by his people and his allies. He also fulfills his dream of building the Brihadeeswarar Temple, which stands as a symbol of his legacy and achievement.

Analysis of the novel

Ponniyin Selvan is not just a historical novel, but also a literary masterpiece that showcases the genius and creativity of Kalki Krishnamurthy. The novel has many aspects that make it a remarkable work of art, such as:

How does the novel portray the historical and cultural aspects of medieval Tamil Nadu?

The novel is based on extensive research and authentic sources that depict the history and culture of medieval Tamil Nadu. The novel recreates the political and social scenario of the Chola empire, which was one of the most powerful and prosperous kingdoms in South India. The novel also portrays the various aspects of Tamil culture, such as its language, literature, art, architecture, religion, music, dance, cuisine, festivals, customs, traditions, etc. The novel also incorporates many historical figures and events that are relevant to the story, such as Rajaraja Chola I, Aditya Karikalan, Kundavai Piratti, Raja Mahendra Pallava, Veerapandiyan, Rajaditya Chalukya, Mahinda V of Sri Lanka, etc.

How does the novel depict the political and religious conflicts of the Chola empire?

The novel also explores the political and religious conflicts that plagued the Chola empire during its zenith. The novel shows how the empire was threatened by external enemies such as the Pandyas, the Chalukyas, and the Sinhalese, who wanted to overthrow or weaken the Chola rule. The novel also shows how the empire was divided by internal factions and conspiracies that aimed to usurp or influence the throne. The novel also depicts how religion played a vital role in shaping the politics and society of the Chola empire. The novel shows how different sects and faiths coexisted in harmony or clashed in violence in medieval Tamil Nadu. The novel features various religious groups such as Shaivites (followers of Lord Shiva), Vaishnavites (followers of Lord Vishnu), Buddhists (followers of Lord Buddha), Jains (followers of Mahavira), Veera Vaishnavas (fanatical Shaivites), etc.

How does the novel explore the human emotions and relationships of the protagonists?

the human emotions and relationships of the protagonists. The novel portrays the complex and realistic personalities of the characters, who have their own strengths and weaknesses, virtues and flaws, hopes and fears, dreams and regrets. The novel also depicts the various relationships that bind or separate the characters, such as love, friendship, loyalty, rivalry, hatred, jealousy, envy, revenge, etc. The novel shows how the characters grow and change through their experiences and choices, and how they influence and are influenced by the events and circumstances around them.


Ponniyin Selvan is a masterpiece of Tamil literature that deserves to be read and appreciated by everyone who loves history, culture, and literature. The novel is a captivating and enriching experience that transports the reader to a different time and place, where they can witness the glory and tragedy of the Chola empire and its people. The novel is also a tribute and a testament to the genius and vision of Kalki Krishnamurthy, who created a timeless work of art that transcends language and culture barriers.

However, reading Ponniyin Selvan in its original Tamil language may not be possible or easy for everyone. That is why Karthik Narayanan's English translation is a valuable and commendable service that makes this novel accessible and enjoyable to a wider audience. Karthik Narayanan's translation is faithful to the spirit and style of Kalki's language, while also being clear and readable in English. His translation also preserves the historical and cultural authenticity of the novel, while also providing helpful notes and explanations for the unfamiliar terms and references.

Therefore, if you want to read Ponniyin Selvan in English, you should definitely check out Karthik Narayanan's translation. You can find it online or in print at various sources. You will not regret it.


Here are some frequently asked questions about Ponniyin Selvan and its English translation by Karthik Narayanan:

Q1: How long did it take Karthik Narayanan to translate Ponniyin Selvan?

A1: Karthik Narayanan started translating Ponniyin Selvan in 1999 and finished it in 2010. He spent more than 10 years on this project, working on it during his spare time.

Q2: How faithful is Karthik Narayanan's translation to the original Tamil text?

A2: Karthik Narayanan's translation is very faithful to the original Tamil text. He did not omit or add anything to the story or the characters. He also maintained the same tone and style of Kalki's language. He only made minor changes or adaptations to suit the English language and grammar.

Q3: Where can I find Karthik Narayanan's translation online or in print?

A3: You can find Karthik Narayanan's translation online at various websites such as BJP e-Library, Pustaka, Google Books, etc. You can also find it in print at various bookstores such as Amazon, Flipkart, etc.

Q4: Are there any other English translations of Ponniyin Selvan available?

A4: Yes, there are other English translations of Ponniyin Selvan available by different translators such as C.V.Ramanujachariar, Indra Neelameggham, Pavithra Srinivasan, etc. However, Karthik Narayanan's translation is considered to be one of the best and most popular among them.

Q5: Are there any adaptations of Ponniyin Selvan in other media forms?

A5: Yes, there are many adaptations of Ponniyin Selvan in other media forms such as comics, audio books, radio dramas, television series, films, etc. However, none of them can match the originality and quality of Kalki's novel. 71b2f0854b


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