Ponni’s Beloved is the translation of the classic Tamil historical novel called Ponniyin Selvan written at the beginning of the 20th century by Kalki Krishnamurthy. The original book has 2400 pages split into five volumes. The book 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. (Source : Wikipedia)
Being a translation, the plot and story is already good. But, let me add full marks to the translation. A translated book is only interesting if it catches the essence and the mood of the original without sounding like a literal translation. This one is surely well-translated. The notes and ready pointers to meanings made it easier for reading the book. In the e-book, it was easy to navigate to the meanings and get back to the story.
Before reading this book, I was not aware of its Tamil origins and had never heard about it. It reinforces my faith that we should have more translations of regional books. It is not possible to know all languages but why should we not be able to read good literature. Follow the hashtag #ReadTranslations for more translated works.
Here is why you should read Ponni’s Beloved –
- It is the translation of a classic Tamil novel called Ponniyin Selvan. The Tamil book is hugely popular and so the story is definitely tried and tested.
- This is a set of 5 books and Ponni’s Beloved is the first in the series. I am imagining what could be in the remaining books. More intrigue and strong characters.
- The story sets up an intricate plot of characters and places spread across the Tamil kingdom in the south of India. It is the land of the Cholas.
- The characters – both male and female are strong with independent authorities and point of views.
- There are so many characters in this saga beginning with our hero Vandiya Devan who is a soldier. He is sent by Aditya Karikelan, the crown prince, as a messenger to his father Sundara Chola. On this way, he is part of many adventures. He ends up spying a bit, falling a bit in love with the princess Kundavai.
- Then there are the powerful ministers Periya Pazhuvuterayar and Chinna Pazhuvuterayar who are plotting to usurp the kingdom and keep the King Sundara Chola a virtual prisoner.
- There is also the ethereal beauty Nandini. She is married to the powerful Periya Pazhuvuterayar. She appears docile in front of her husband. But, is that the real Nandini? Why did she marry a man who is as old as her grandfather?
- Then there is Azhwarkadiyan whom Vandiya Devan encounters many times during his journey. On the surface, he appears to be a Vaishnav ready to pick up a fight with any Shaivaite. But when he sees him spying, Vandiya Devan feels there is more than what meets his eye.
- Vanathi who is in love with Prince Arulmozhivarman, brother of Princess Kundavai and Crown prince Aditya Karikelan. The Prince Arulmozhivaman is stationed at Elangai (present day Sri Lanka) and is the people’s favourite.
- There are plots and sub-plots. It feels like reading the Mahabharat. Everyone is having good motives for their actions. But, what is the truth.
- The story ends abruptly with so many unanswered questions, just like the movie Baahubali. The questions keep repeating in my head and am waiting to read the rest of the series.
- The names are a bit of tongue twisters for non-Tamilians like me.
- This first book has set up the stage and characters for the rest of the story.
- More action is promised in the next books.
The wait is unbearable. If only I could read Tamil. Well, I can understand Tamil. Is there an audiobook for this classic?