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Sunday's Episode: Historical Sagas of South India

Dear <<First Name>>,


I never thought I'd love historical fiction until I read the English translations of Kalki R. Krishnamurthy's historical novels. And today, I bring to you a piece on one such historical saga: Sivagamiyin Sabadham. The title translates to: the vow of Sivagami. 

Set in the period of the Pallava kings centered in the South Indian region of Kanchi, and at a time when there was an imminent threat of invasion from the Chalukya king Pulikesin I, the novel is undoubtedly acknowledged as one of the best in Tamil literature. Chime of temple bells, giggles of a shy maidens who can just as casually bring out strong and brave personalities, interplay of religions in that era, cultural extravaganza of the royal courts, politics of kingdoms, alliances and marriages, stealthy spies, anonymous messengers, omens and prophecies, bloody wars, friendships-unto-death, and eternal romances- what's not to love in these stunning portrayals of a period we could otherwise never see?

When I had read Sivagamiyin Sabadham some time back, only one part had come out in the English translations. Then why talk about a book that I had read several years ago, and that too incomplete? Because I was absolutely stunned and left yearning the way Paranjyothi's journey ended with a twist of Mahendravarman, the King of the Pallavas, himself being in the Chalukyan army as a spy. But, in my love to actually write about it, I found out that all the four parts have been translated now! And, I can't wait to get to them (right after I finish writing this to you)!
In fact, Sivagamiyin Sabadham is considered a prequel for Parthiban Kanavu, another book that I absolutely love that focuses on the Chozha-Pallava feud angle. Kalki, though I have only read the English translations, has a way of introducing his characters. Time is the essence, and Kalki brings his characters to you at points in the storyline when you can't resist them.

We read so many stories and a huge chunk of even academic history on the Mughals. Movies are made on them. You are exposed a lot more into the medieval history of northern India. But, even South Indians themselves are introduced to no more than names of these huge, magnificent kingdoms of Southern India. Be it the Chozhas, Pandyas, Pallavas, Chalukyas, and all the ups and downs in their reigns- Kalki has it all covered in his historical sagas. 
Reading these novels, you know see what you already know- that South India was generally always more peaceful in terms of invasions- mostly due to its secure geographical position, being covered by the mighty oceans on all three sides. So, even Kalki's novels take a lot of pleasure and discuss the cultural, educational, and philosophical explorations of both the kings and the subjects during that period in great length.

Kalki's books also have immensely strong female characterizations- brave, beautiful, and brilliant. I fell in love with even many names of that era- Kundavi, Poonkuzhali, Vanathi, Sivagami- as they remind me of those stunning characters. 

But, bear in mind that historical fiction written many, many years ago have to be read as just that: in context with the time it was written in and the time it is set in. It is to be read as a fiction that gives you a peek into the world of kings, feuds, wars, and romances of South Indian history. I love it, and I am really happy that writing for this newsletter has led me to realizing that the other volumes are also out!

Are you a fan of Kalki? Do you love historical fiction? Maybe not South Indian, but do you have any titles you'd want me to try? Write back, and let me know!

What to look forward to? I am almost finished For God's Sake by Ambi Parameswaran: a very interesting book by an adman on the business of religion, and how it is used in the advertisement industry in India.
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