Kalki’s magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan is spread over 5 books. The fifth one is so huge that it had to be split into two volumes !! If you are wondering whose pinnacle of sacrifice is extolled in this book, read the summary or preferably read the book itself.
The Pinnacle of Sacrifice – Vol 1 Summary
We left Arulmozhi Varmar or better known as Ponniyin Selvan, convalescing at Choodamani Viharam, Nagapattinam. He spent time with the Acharya Bhikshu learning about his travels to several South Asian countries where Buddhism spread.
Rumours are spread about Ponniyin Selvan’s presence in the Viharam and the boatman Murugayyan’s wife Rakkammal is the reason. As the Acharya Bhikshu tries to calm the angry crowds outside the viharam, a massive cyclone hits Nagapattinam. Murugayyan manages to take Ponniyin Selvan to the Chola palace in Anaimangalam, and they rescue the Acharya Bhikshu on the way.
As Ponniyin Selvan discusses the relief work to be done at Nagapattinam, Murugayyan informs him about Mandakini, (Kaveri Amman or Oomai Rani) getting abducted. Ponniyin Selvan decides to leave Anaimangalam disguised as a trader with Murugayyan. The plan is foiled by Rakkammal who reveals his true identity. Immediately a sea of people surround him and want him to stay there and partake of their hospitality.
The crowds accompany him to Thiruvarur. At the palace, Ponniyin Selvan orders that the elephant on which he rode should be ready for him next morning along with the mahout. Later that evening, Murugayyan informs Ponniyin Selvan of the Pandiya conspirators trying to replace the mahout. The next morning when Ponniyin Selvan calls for the Mahout, one of the conspirators comes forward.
The elephant picks him up and throws him away !! Ponniyin Selvan uses the chaos this action creates, and jumps on the elephant and steers it towards Thanjavur. While steering the elephant across fields and flooded canals, Ponniyin Selvan manages to rescues Poonkuzhali and Vanathi from the flooded Kaveri. They proceed to Thanjavur.
The Periya Pazhuvettarayar who had left Kadambur for Thanjavur also gets caught in the flooded Kollidam. His boat hits a floating tree and he is thrown into the gushing waters. Miraculously he survives. He overhears the conversation between two Pandya conspirators about the plot to assassinate the Emperor and his two sons on the same day. He also learns about Nandini’s role.
Full of anger about how he got manipulated by Nandini he confronts the conspirators but is over powered by them. He manages to recover somehow and proceeds to Kudandhai where he accidentally meets Kundavai and tells her about the plot, before going back to Kadambur.
At Kadambur, Nandini reveals her real intentions to Manimekalai and Vandiyathevan. Vandiyathevan asks her to not assassinate the crown prince Aditha Karikalan. Nandini agrees but Vandiyathevan asks her to handover the Pandya Sword to him. While handing it over, it falls to the ground with a clanging noise and they all hear footsteps outside.
Vandiyathevan rushes into the room which has stuffed animals as Aditha Karikalan enters Nandini’s room. Aditha Karikalan expresses his sorrow at the injustice he did to Nandini by beheading Veerapandyan and she reveals to him who her real father is. Vandiyathevan, who was listening to their conversation, wants to step in and help Aditha Karikalan but a Kalamuhan strangles him.
As Vandiyathevan falls down he sees the Kalamuhan entering Nandini’s room, sword in hand. He also sees one of the Pandiya conspirators rushing in from another direction. In the ensuing confusion, the lights go out and Aditha Karikalan is murdered.
When Vandiyathevan recovers he gropes in the darkness and touches a body. Realizing it is the corpse of the murdered Aditha Karikalan, he is filled with grief and frustration.
Sambuvarayar and Kandan Maran enter the room and accuse Vandiyathevan of having killed the Crown Prince. Manimekalai intervenes claiming that it was she who killed the Prince. Sambuvaraiyar orders Vandiyathevan to be tied to a cot and asks his son Kandan Maran to leave Kadambur immediately. He asks him to inform the Pazhuvettarayars and other allies about the death of the Prince. He also sets fire to the Kadambur Palace.
The Crown Prince’s maternal grandfather Thirukkoilur Malayaman, who was camping nearby receives word that the Prince’s life was in danger. He attacks the Kadumbur fort. As the flames engulf the fort, Vandiyathevan manages to free himself and carries Aditha Karikalan’s body to the courtyard. He places the dead body of the Prince at Malayaman’s feet and collapses.
Lamenting the death of his beloved grandson, a furious Malayaman arrests Sambuvarayar and Vandiyathevan. He takes them along with the dead body of the Crown Prince to enable the Emperor to perform the last rites and also to mete out justice to the perpetrators of the crime.
The assassination of the crown prince Aditha Karikalan is a historical fact. After Aditha Karikalan’s father Sundara Chola passes away, Uttama Chozha who was the paternal uncle of Aditha Karikalan ascends the Chola throne. He rules for 14 years before handing over the reign to Arul Mozhi Varmar aka Ponniyin Selvan aka Raja Raja Chola.
Its truly a fascinating project to unearth details about the Chola empire. There are remnants of some of the smaller temples, palaces etc and several copper plates regarding their empire. Apparently the place where Raja Raja Chola’s ashes are buried is a shack in Udayalur.
Raja Raja Chola was one of the greatest emperors India has seen, and his ashes lie in this tin shed memorial. We have massive monuments to remember puny “leaders” and a truly great emperor gets no recognition. Just a sad reality.
The historians seem to respect and remember marauders and barbarians but not benevolent, fair emperors of the past. Raja Raja Chola played by the rules, his armies didn’t rape enemy women wantonly nor did they destroy and loot temples of other faiths. Is that why not much is known about him ??? Something to think about.