by a Thinker, Sailor, Blogger, Irreverent Guy from Madras

Animated, Interactive Ponniyin Selvan on Google Earth Map

In March (2014), I had traced the places or locations where the classic historical fiction Ponniyin Selvan by ‘Kalki’ R. Krishnamurthy is supposed to have taken place on Google Maps.  As I wrote back then, it was an interesting, but time consuming effort.  While admirable – even if I say so myself, it was just a map – no interaction or animation – that is, it could not tell you the ‘story’.

Two weeks back I decided to sit down and do something about it.  While Google Maps, as of now, is capable of providing interactivity, it still does not have some crucial elements for animation.  By animation, I mean the ‘tour’ feature, which will allow us to tell a story.  If not, we end up with some dumb ‘place markers’, which do not do anything on their own.  Unless the viewer knows the story beforehand, she cannot click on the placemarks in the correct sequence.

In September 2013 or so, Google released a Google Earth ‘experiment’ called Tour Builder [].  More than an year later, I tried it out for the Ponniyin Selvan animated, interactive tour.  Sadly, I found that it is nothing more than a ‘marriage’ of Powerpoint - sorry, Google Slides -  and Google Earth.  Once again to read the tory, it required the user to click on the slides or images.  The only difference was the inclusion of Google Slides linked to their Placemarks enabled the user to follow a story in the correct sequence.

Thus it was time to hack the Ponniyin Selvan Keyhole Markup Language (KML) file exported from Google Maps.  It was an interesting two weeks mucking around with that, and frequently referring to the KML Documentation to understand what is possible with KML.  Then a further couple of days was spent on writing & testing out an MS Excel Macro to make a KML file.  The intention of the macro is to ease the production of Parts 2 to 5 of Ponniyin Selvan KML.  A day more to fine tune it, and here it is.

An animated, interactive story of Ponniyin Selvan on Google Earth Map.  Sit back and enjoy.
  • You need Google Earth Plugin (download for free from []
  • Google has dropped NPAPI (Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface) for 64 bit browsers, & if you use a 64 bit browser – like Chrome 64 bit or IE 64 bit – the GE plugin will *not* work.  In fact, Google will drop NPAPI support in 2015, by which time, Google Maps hopefully will support tour feature. []
  • If you have the full Google Earth application (free or pro) installed in your system, you can download this file and enjoy it on your desktop. 
  • Tip:  After download –> double-click to open in GE –> in GE –> Sidebar –> Places –> Temporary Places –> Ponniyin Selvan –> click on Part One.
  • If you cannot see all the icons of Placemarks first time around, try it out the second time or pause the video for a couple of seconds.

Meantime, you can enjoy it on YouTube too.

Please do comment, and you can always reach me direct with the Blogger Contact Form on the sidebar.  Cheers!

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  1. Great work. When can we expect other parts of book?

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