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Ponniyin Selvan: Kalki's imagination vs actual history

The novel itself claimed to be based upon some actual historical figures, events, and some being added by Kalki to make the story more engaging for his readers.

Ponniyin Selvan: Kalkis imagination vs actual history
Kalki Krishnamurthy; Book cover and poster from Mani Ratnam's PS-1

CHENNAI: Kalki Krishnamurthy's Ponniyin Selvan novel is a mix of real and fictional characters. The novel itself claimed to be based upon some actual historical figures, events, and some being added by Kalki to make the story more engaging for his readers.

Let's take a look at what is real and reel:

• Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan (Karthi) in the novel is introduced as a warrior of the Vaanar Kulam (Banar tribe), who was in real-life are an ancient line of kings who ruled for over two centuries and was known as Perumbanappadi. TV Sadasiva Pandarathar, a Tamil historian even suggested that he might have belonged to the eastern Chalukya dynasty, but without offering much evidence to support his claim.

Equestrian statue of Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan in Chennai.

• Kalki’s narration will have two Pazhuvettaraiyars who are brothers, of which the elder one will marry Nandini. However, historically it is being claimed that there was only one Pazhuvettaraiyar.

Sarath Kumar as Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar
R Parthiban as Chinna Pazhuvettaraiyar

• The description of Sambuvarayars is played around by Kalki as they didn't appear in the novel during Sundara Chola's (Prakash Raj) period. The Sambuvarayars in real life once ruled the northern part of Tondaimandalam, now comprising the districts of Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Kancheepuram, Cuddalore, Tiruvallur, Nellore, and Chittoor.

Raja Gambhira Sambhuvarayar I; Sambuvarayar Coins

• Kalki initially intended not to make Vanthiyathevan, a commoner as a hero, but wanted to sideline him (like Paranjyothi of Sivakamiyin Sabatham). As Arulmozhi failed to capture the hearts of people as much as Vanthiyathevan did (for readers of the weekly edition) that’s when Kalki decided to up his weightage. He would write, “We have deserted our hero for a long time…”.

Karthi as Vanthiyathevan and Jayaram as Azhwarkadiyan Nambi

• In the Brihadisvara temple's inscription at Thanjavur, Vanthiyathevan is referred to as the husband of Kundavai Nachiyar. The inscription translates, “The revered elder sister of Raja Raja Cholar, the consort of Vanthiyathevan, Azwar Paranthakar Kundavaiyar”. (Source: Nilakanda Sastri K.A.)

Brihadisvara temple
Tamil Inscriptions in Thanjavur Brahadeeshwara Temple written 1000 years ago

• In the novel, Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi (Jayachitra) is a dowager queen and widow of Emperor Kandaradithar who has a son Madurantakan. However, in real life, Sembiyan Mahadevi was a titlle conferred to queens of Chola kings -- prominent of them being the wife of Gandaraditya Chola (popularly known as the mother of Uttama Chola) who built several Saivite temples in and around the delta region, including Sri Kailasanathaswamy temple in Nagapattinam district. A 1,000-year-old idol of the Queen was traced recently by the TN Idol Wing.

Chola queen Sembiayan Mahadevi's idol

ये भी पà¥�ें- Ponniyin Selvan films have retained book’s core content: Mani Ratnam

• Aniruddha Brahmarayar (Mohan Raman) is Sundara Chola's Prime Minister and in real life, but copper plates ("Anbil plates") describe his ancestors and that of Sundara Chola’s. It also describes him being served three kings subsequently as a minister.

Mohan Raman as Aniruddha Brahmarayar

• Nandini, Poonguzhali, Azhwarkadiyan Nambi aka Thirumalaiappan, and Mandakini Devi are entirely fictional characters created by Kalki.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Nandini

• Arulmozhi Varman aka Ponniyin Selvan did not succeed Sundara Chola as should have been the case (in reality). Instead, it was Madurantakan aka Uttama Chola, who ascended the throne.

Jayam Ravi as Arunmozhi Varman

• The assassination of prince Aditha Karikalan is reported to be an act of revenge for killing King Veerapandiyan, but it is not clearly known who and all had a role in the death. Some theories said Uthama Chola being part of the conspiracy to assassinate him but it was proved wrong and later declared to be a misreading of the Chola inscriptions on the basis of the Udayargudi stone inscriptions.

Illustration by Varghese Kallada; Vikram in Aditha Karikalan

• Kalki also added his life experiences into his novel. Being born in a joint family and having so many sisters, Ponniyin Selvan expresses every innate tendency of the feminine in an elegant manner. Not only Nandhini, all the other women characters in the novel are known for one or another ardent trait that they possess like the courageous Poonkuzhali (Aishwarya Lekshmi), the intelligent Kundavai, or the innocent Manimegalai.

Aishwarya Lekshmi as Poonguzhali

"Kalki's main intention for writing 'Ponniyin Selvan' was to spread self-awareness among Tamilians, to give them self-confidence and pride. He surely must have visualised Bharathiyar's "Pudhumai Penn" film in mind to write each of his characters,” Gowri Ramnarayan, Kalki's granddaughter said in an interview.

Trisha Krishnan as Kundavai

ये भी पà¥�ें- Travelogue documents Vandhiyadhevan’s trail in Ponniyin Selvan

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