Book Excerpt: ‘River Prince: Ponniyin Selvan Book 3’ by Kalki

Book Title: River Prince: Ponniyin Selvan Book 3
Author: Kalki
Translator: Nandini Krishnan
Publisher: Eka (Westland)
Number of Pages: 328
ISBN: 978-9360454357
Date Published: Apr. 15, 2024
Price: INR 320

River Prince Ponniyin Selvan Book 3 by Kalki Book Cover

Book Excerpt

Chapter 13

PONNIYIN SELVAN

‘Akka! Tell me how the name “Ponniyin Selvan” came to be.’

‘Adi kalli! You won’t let go, will you? Fine, I’ll tell you,’ Kundavai Piraatti said, and began the story.

Sundara Chozha Chakravarti had just been crowned king, and his domestic life was an idyll. It was his wont to go boating with his family on the river Ponni. These outings were boisterous affairs, with the strains of the veena, the refrain of women singing, the antics of the children and the laughter of those who witnessed these antics mingling with the bubbling and gurgling of the waters. Sometimes, the children were sent off to play elsewhere on the boat while the adults conferred among themselves. At other times, everyonesat together.

Once, as the emperor, his queens and the children were on just such a pleasure trip, a panicked voice rose, asking, ‘Where is the baby? Where is Baby Arulmozhi?’

The voice was Kundavai’s. At the time, Arulmozhi was five years old, and Kundavai seven. Arulmozhi was the apple of every eye. But of everyone in the palace, it was his sister Kundavai who held him most dear. It was she who first noticed that he was not on the boat, and raised an alarm. Everyone was startled. They rushed about the decks, searching for the child. But even a royal boat is only so big. They looked and looked, in the same places, over and over again. There was no sign of the child.

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Kundavai and Adityan broke into screams, the queens into tears and the maids into lament. Some of the boatmen jumped into the river and scoured the waters for the child. Sundara Chozhar dove in too. But where could one look? Who knew how far or in which direction the current had carried him? Who even knew when the child had fallen off the boat? There was no method to the madness with which they searched for him. The men went swimming in all four directions in pursuit of the prince. There was no sign of him. By this time, several of the women on the boat had lost consciousness. There was no one to tend to them. Those who retained their consciousness had lost all sense and sensation but pain. Their cries of ‘Aiyo!’ overwhelmed the omkara of the river, and scared the birds roosting on the trees by the shore into silence.

And then, there was a vision. It appeared in the swirl of the waters, some distance from the boat. A woman, bearing a child in her arms. The river rose to her hips, and only her face, chest and arms could be seen. The child’s form hid most of her upper body.

Like everyone else, Sundara Chozhar, too, stared at this vision.

Then, he sluiced into the river and made for the woman. He held out his arms for the child. The boatmen steered the craft towards him. Sundara Chozhar had barely taken his son into his arms before the attendants reached down to hoist the prince, and then the king, up on the boat. Sundara Chozhar collapsed in a faint the moment his feet touched the deck. Everyone was preoccupied with reviving the royals, and no one knew what had become of the lady who had saved the child. Who was she? How did she look? No one seemed to have noticed. She never came forward either, to claim a prize for the service she had rendered.

And so, everyone decided as one that the river Kaveri had taken the form of a woman and saved the child. Goddess Kaveri was the baby’s saviour. An annual puja was instituted on the anniversary of Arulmozhi ‘s rescue. The darling of the palace was now Ponni’ s darling, Ponniyin Selvan. The members of the royal family, who had witnessed the miracle for themselves, largely referred to Arulmozhi Yarman as ‘Ponniyin Selvan’.

Excerpted with permission from River Prince: Ponniyin Selvan Book 3 by Kalki, translated by Nandini Krishnan, published by Eka-Westland.

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