Ponni’s Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan #BookReview

Ponni’s Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan #BookReview

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?

I have reviewed this book for Tbcblogtours.com.  Thank you for the e-book Sumeetha Manikandan.

25 thoughts on “Ponni’s Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan #BookReview

    1. Thank you Eli. If you love to read folk tales from a different culture, this will be interesting. Despite being Indian and from a neighbourhood state, this is still different culture for me.

  1. Thank you Lata for that lovely review. One small correction. There are five volumes in Ponni’s Beloved (Ponniyin Selvan) and each volume has a separate title. Volume 1 – New Floods, Volume 2 – The Storm, Volume 3 – The Sword, Volume 4 – The Crown and Volume 5 – Pinnacle of Sacrifice. Collectively all the five volumes are called Ponni’s Beloved.

  2. There are many works of literature that need a wider audience – but in most cases a lot is lost in translation. For instance, Chokher Bali is a classic, but the translation I read did not capture the essence, and I did not enjoy it at all. There are so many good works in Malayalam literature as well.
    This sounds like one that’s been well done. Are the parts coming out as separate books?

    1. True. The work of the translator is underestimated and so we have many shoddy works out there. But, some translations are excellent. Some original essence is definitely lost. But, if it captures most of it, I would still love to read it. Right now I am reading Khasakinte Itihasam in Malayalam. My next target is Randamoozham. I have read the translations in English. But, want to read the original.

  3. Ponniyan Selvan is surely the famous one!! However I was a little skeptical to pick this up as I wasnt sure if the translation would do justice to the original.. NOw after reading your review, looks like it has done a decent job and I should read it..

  4. Growing up in the United States of the 1950s and 60’s, it was rare to be exposed to any epic literature of other traditions, even if a translation was available. This sounds like something perfect for high school.

    1. Thanks Alana. We really do not have much of Indian Literature taught in our schools. I feel it should be added as we know more of western folktales and fairy tales than Indian literature.

  5. Oh, Lata, my mom has read all the parts in Tamizh and she sings paeans of praise for the story, plot, literature, history and the intricate and beautiful way these are woven together in this novel. Unfortunately, despite being a Tamilian, I cannot read the script fluently so never attempted any Tamizh literature. As I was reading through your review I felt it had shades of the film Bahubali and there you mentioned it too!
    I’m surely going to pick this up. Bless the book world for lovely translations. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. We are missing out on some very good literature due to language barrier. I can read Malayalam and I am trying to read a novel now. I am inspired by my mom who is an avid reader. Due to lack of availability of Malayalam books, she started read English books and can now finish them with ease. Where there is a will, there is a way 🙂

      1. True. In fact, my mom and my aunt learned to read and write Tamizh on their own and went on to read great novels. It’s sad that we children could not emulate them. I can identify the alphabet and read with great effort but that does not count.

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