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Parthiban's Dream
Author - ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthy (in Tamil)
Translated by: Nirupama Raghavan

Excerpt: “And then, from some high tower, a reverberating drumbeat thundered into the night. Then another. And another. Dhammmmm. Dhammmm. Dhammmmm. From every high place, the drums that were struck on festivals and royal celebrations were being crashed by unseen hands. Tonight it was a summons to fight. Single beats, even spaced, went out in every direction from every tower and tall building in Uraiyur. The echoes rang through the squares and streets. Adhammmm. Adhammmmm. Adhammmm. The echoes overlapped and slammed into the ears of all those who heard it. After a few moments, the sound of the drums that piled over each other from the various towers seemed to be saying Yuddham. Yuddham. Yuddham. War. War. War.”

This book is an abridged translation of the Tamil novel Parthiban Kanavu by ‘Kalki’ Krishnamoorthy. The original was published as a serial story in 1943. That 15-year old Nirupama Raghavan felt compelled to translate it speaks for the story’s appeal even today.
The story happens at the time when the glorious Chakravarthi Narasimha Pallava (also called Mamalla) sets out to unite the whole of South India under his rule. Parthiban, ruler of a diminished Chola kingdom, defies him. Before he dies fighting the great Pallava, he shares with his young son Vikraman his dream of making the Chola kingdom powerful once more. A mysterious saint, the Sivanadiyar, promises the dying Parthiban to groom Vikraman for the task.
The Pallava lion and the Chola tiger are thus pitted against each other. Vikraman defies the Pallava overlord and is exiled to Shenbaga islands where he rises to become a respected ruler.
Three years later, Vikraman returns to his homeland in secret, to visit his mother, and to discover the identity of the mysterious girl he fell in love with before his departure. Now, events pile upon each other. His mother has disappeared; he falls ill; and he discovers that the girl he loves is the Pallava princess – his sworn enemy’s daughter. The climax reveals the identity of the Sivanadiyar and the benevolent grace of the Pallava ruler.
The story moves very quickly from one scene to the next, and the narration is lively. The book is exciting and absorbing though its setting is way back in history. The characters – the defiant Vikraman, the just Narasimha Chakravarthi, his beautiful daughter Kuntavi, the deceitful Marappa Bhupati, the devoted boatman Ponnan and his sharp-tongued wife Valli , and the enigmatic Sivanadiyar –all make the story come alive. Highly recommended for 13 + readers.
‘Kalki’ was the pen-name of R.Krishnamurthy, a freedom fighter and Tamil writer who was born in 1899. He is remembered most for his historical novels like Parthiban Kanavu, Sivakamiyin Sabatham and Ponniyin Selvan. They were first serialized in his magazine (also called Kalki) in the 1940s, but are still enjoyed by younger readers today.

Author: ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthy (in Tamil)
Translated by: Nirupama Raghavan
Pages: 210
Published by: Tulika Publishers (2004)
Price: Rs 165/-
ISBN: 81-8146-054-5
Format: Paperback

Review - Revathi.S.

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