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

Did Vandhiyadevan lie to Kundavai in Ponniyin Selvan

One aspect which amazes me when people talk about the classic fiction Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki, is their concept of time, which seem to take a hike to whichever jungle Azhvarkkadiyan hides himself in.

The primary reason is the skill of Kalki R. Krishnamurthy is weaving a magic of language, which entices the reader in, mesmerizes him, and makes her forget dinner!  The other reason is the misleading statements by the characters themselves: Vandhiyadevan while briefing Princess Kundavai at Pazhayari, tells her that he was dispatched by the Crown Prince Aditya Karikalan from Kanchi ‘one week and one day ago’.

Let us see how truthful he was by plotting the facts on a Google Map with Lake Veeranam on top and the city of Thanjavur at the bottom.  Two facts stand out and are to be taken as sacrosanct.
  • Vallavaraiyan arrives at Lake Veeranam on the 18th day of the Tamil month ‘Aadi’.  He stays that night at Kadambur Palace, the next night at Senthan Amudan’s Garden, the 3rd night talking to Nandhini and roaming through the underground Treasury of the Tanjore Fort.  On 21st Day of Aadi he escapes from Thanjavur and sets forth to Pazhayarai.
  • Vandhiyadevan arrives at Pazhayarai on the day of Sri Jayanthi - which occurs on the succeeding Tamil month of 'Aavani', 8 days after the Full Moon day.

Now it is very easy to write a formula to see the maximum and minimum days between Vandhiyadevan’s escape from Thanjavur and his arrival at Pazhayarai.

Days elapsed (De) = Day of sri jayanthi (Dsj) + [Days in Aadi (Da) - Day cauvery flooding (D18)] - 2

To calculate the maximum and minimum number of days, we assume the months start on New Moon
Day (Dmax) and Full Moon Day (Dmin)

De max = 23 + [30 – 18] - 2 = 33 days
De min =  8 + [30 – 18] - 2 = 22 days

To carry it to its logical end, let us calculate the number of days he could have actually taken to travel from Kanchipuram to Pazhayarai.  The distance between Kanchi and Lake Veeranam is 170 km as the crow flies.  Assuming that Vallavaraiyan’s horse traveled the same course, and with a horse’s endurance speed of around 70 km per day (at 7 kph for 10 hours), he could cover the distance in 2-1/2 days.

As Kalki writes that he arrives off Lake Veeranam in the late afternoon of Cauvery flooding, he had left Kanchi 2 days before the 18th of Aadi.

The formula becomes Days total (Dt) = Days elapsed (De) + 2 + 2

Days since leaving Kanchi:
  • Dt max = 33 + 2 + 2 = 37 days
  • Dt min = 22 + 2 + 2 = 26 days
So why did Vandhiyadevan tell Kundavai he started off only 8 days before from Kanchi?  The explanation is given by the character himself  when he meets Arulmozhivarman that he is a habitual liar, trickster and confidence man!  But all essential qualifications for a counter-intelligence agent.

There is only one more question left!
Where is my Ph.D?


Support - Donate

Your Blog is

Donate thro ECWID

Contact Form

Follow by Email