Archive for September 2008

Chola Temple @ Chingelpet

September 20, 2008

When one travels south from Chennai, on the GST road just before chingelpet are a range of hills on the right, and of course the ‘never say dry’ kulavai lake on the left.

while people in fast moving vehicles fail to notice,  the more patient amongst them see up on one hill a board that says ‘Siva Siva’ .

folow the board that beckons you  on a track that leads you to the top where we find a peculiar mix of the old and new. a 1000 year old temple stands up to the roof level and above that the construction of a modern roof goes on.

i have visited the site way back in 1996. then  the abandoned and dilapitated temple had a linga  and all around it were snake skins. the amman temple had caved in.

now a swamiji with two labardor dogs has taken over the place and commenced puja.

the temple is called pulipakkam a reminder of an association with a saint called vyagrapadar who had tiger feet.

the base of the temple has an edict mentioning raja raja.

other than history the view from the hilltop is breath taking.



September 17, 2008

kalki writes about the precautions the pallavas take to keep pulikesi at bay.

the gates of their forts are protected by spikes. when elephants in the  role of battering rams try to bludgeon the entrances the spikes would injure them and they in the ensuing pain turn on their friends. the elephants had a nice drink of water spiked with alchohol to combat the spikes on the gate( pun intended)

all these must have become obsolete with the invention of fire power. aim your cannon at the forts door and pull the fuse- it can accomplish what an intoxicated elephant goaded on by its mahout could do.

I saw this gate in a maratta fort in pune, maharastra. took my memories to sivakamiyin sabatham.

Veda’s sketches for Kaviri mainthan

September 17, 2008

veda is a renowned artist who sketches for Kalki magazine.

he is a nephew of Maniam who drew  the original sketches for kalki’s ponniyin selvan.

i was very particular that veda give me a sample sketch to know for sure his visualisation matched my imagination.

here are three of the sample sketches

its tough to convince him though, on certain matters. for example he refused to draw   a cover with the night back ground. he did give me a sample sketch but refused to do it  for the final cover.

some how i managed to convince him on  the night scenes for all the three back covers- they were black and white sketches.

veda gave me 6 wonderful sketches, one for the front and one for the back of the 3 volumes.




i was very keen that the third book should not have a symbolism of romance  though there were several instances of it in that volume. i went along with karuvur thevar and arul mozhi at thirupoovanam.

was arunmozhi an autobiographical creation?

September 17, 2008

it is tough for an author to keep out a bit of himself from the book he is writing unless its about electromagnetism or lion tailed macques. in more cases than not a primary charecter could be an off shoot of the author himself.

was it the case in kalki and ponniyin selvan?

Kalki was a small town boy. putha mangalam was a village where everybody knew each other. and his shortlived father was quite well known for he was a katha kalatchebam artist in the evenings and the village karnam in the morning.

most people in villages had their nick names and kalki’s father was called ponnu iyer. kalki krishnamurthy as a child was often reffered to in reference with his father as it happens still in india. He is so and so’s son.

kalki was frequently called  ponnuvin magan or ponnu iyers son.

doesnt it sound rather familiar to the topic of his magnum opus. PONNIYIN SELVAN

I wonder which charecter kalki based on his one time mentor and later day arch rival s.s vasan.

( ravidasan ryhmes with vasan though…… hey I was just joking)

Pungkuzhali- one with the flower decked tresses

September 14, 2008

It must have been the socialist within kalki who threw up a charecter that stands out alone in ponniyin selvan.

we have kings and queens, princes and princesses, villians and villis(?) we also have commoners on the stage. a spy in a saintly garb, a flower boy, a boat girl, a light house keeper, all competing for the reader’s attention.

but to many pungkuzhali( the one with the flowed decked tresses) stands out.

she is no soft girl.

she fights a cheetah witht the back bone of a shark and kills it. she paddles her way to lanka  with relative ease.

but there is a problem with her.

she will marry only an emperor she  insists.

does she?

a european on tanjore temple?

September 13, 2008

the Tanjore big temple has its own mysteries and holds it close to its chest.

yes its true

a carving of a face distinctly caucasid in features and european in attire finds a place on the gopuram.
when was it done? and who modelled for it?
we have no clear answer.

local legends say it is a replacement for a sculpture that fell down from the gopuram. the story goes that it is the face of a danishman from tranquebar- an european trading post set up with a long lease from the serfoji dynasty of tanjore in 18th century.
but then there is one event in the 1000 year old history of the temple that could provide possible leads.

around 1800 Colonel William Lambton was entrusted with the job of measuring and mapping british india. Lambton decided to have a mathematical and geographical survey that would cover the whole of india with a network of triangulation. when he was through with his job he would have a meridian arc right up the centre of India from the southern tip as far as the Himalayas.
Precision was rigorously maintained and even today, despite more sophisticated mapping equipment and survey methods, the values arrived at by lambton cannot be disputed. Lambton’s contribution is significant not only for mapping and measuring but also for geography. in his work he measured the arc of the meridian near to Equator and his measurement was used to deriving the ellipsoid of the earth.
When surveying Tanjore district, in 1808 Lambton mentions that the country was so flat that he had difficulty in locating any natural prominence for sighting. He therefore used the gopurams of the temples that dotted almost every village and completed the land survey.

On one occasion, the giant theodolite, which he was using, fell from the top of the Tanjore Big Temple and was badly damaged.
He had to spend months repairing it under a tent pitched in open country, before he could restart his work.” or was he held by the locals till the gopuram was repaired?
did the half ton heavy theodolite instrument damage the temple sculptures and did the replacement sculpture denote this incident where a cheeky sculptor indicated european presence in the temple?
and does the bust have a double cheek like lambton himself?

a sequel to ponniyin selvan? you must be mad

September 13, 2008

a sequel to ponniyin selvan?

you must be mad. this is a comment i got more than once.

kalki’s ponniyin selvan was firmly entrenched in the tamil novel reader’s mind. his charecters frozen in time.

any changes to them including the process of aging would be sacrilegious

but by the time i had finished kalki’s fifth volume of ponniyin selvan i had decided that it would be me who would write a sequel to it.


i who hadnt written much tamil. I couldnt even get  my la lha  right

could i even dream of writing a sequel to what many think is the greatest tamil novel ever written.

but then the more i thought about it the more it seemed possible. a sequel was just waiting to be written. kalki had left so many openings and in a show of magnanimity had even placed a request on record. someone who can write a continue this story, please do””

unfortunately somebody who tried- vikraman was threatened with court action. but he went along anyway and finished his novel with those charecters kalki had borrowed from history. i didnt have that hassle. there was no copyright for kalki’s works.

any body who finished reading ponniyin selvan wonders what would have happened to kalki’s charecters five years after he left them? he had given a few clues.

kundavai and vanthiyathevan had married…senthan amudan was the chola king, the boat girl pungkuzhali was the empress.but what happened to the rest? the cholas, the pandya rebels, the princes and the commoners.

in my mind i could sense their yearning to be alive again, their longing to adorn the pages of yet another novel.     yes, i decided i would do it. a story formed in mind.

And then came  …….