Kundavai – The Illustrious Chola Princess

Author: Sumona Chetia

The spectacular movie trailer of Ponniyin Selvan: I (PS1) is winning hearts. Directed by Mani Ratnam, the grand visual treat is the cinematic adaptation of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Tamil literary masterpiece of the same name.

While many know about the leading men of Kalki’s magnum opus, very little is talked about and known to people about the formidable women Kalki wrote so brilliantly in Ponniyin Selvan. Albeit in the background, the women in the chapters of the Chola kingdom history are as powerful and intelligent as the men.

One such character is Princess Kundavai~ the celebrated wise sister of Arulmozhi Varman and Aditha Karikalan. At a young age, she had to shoulder the responsibility of steering her beloved kingdom through dangerous times.

Kundavai ~ A patriotic administrator

When the bedridden king Sundaran Chola assigned Kundavai to manage the administration while her brothers were away guarding the north and south borders, she displayed intelligence, shrewd thinking, and far-sightedness.

After losing her parents, Kundavai vowed to never leave her motherland. She took it upon herself to make Chola empire powerful and legendary. Thus, she armed herself as the master, guide and counsellor of Arulmozhi Varman, who later became the famous Rajaraja Chola I.

Kundavai ~ A diplomatic mentor

Credited for shaping his career as one of the greatest kings of India, Kundavai was a diplomatic mentor. She assisted Rajaraja Chola in his administration and the management of temples. In the later years, Kundavai brought up her nephew Emperor Rajendra Cholan, Raja Rajan’s son, whose reign was known as the golden period of the Chola dynasty and rightly so.

Kundavai ~ A benefactor

Princess Kundavai was a generous benefactor. In addition to temples built in Kundavai’s name, she sponsored the construction of irrigation tanks and even a hospital.

Kundavai ~ A courageous name

In the poster launch of the movie adaptation, Kundavai’s character is unveiled as “In a world of men, a woman of courage. Presenting Princess Kundavai!” And it’s no better way to describe the brave royal princess.

Kundavai, the guiding force of two great Chola emperors, was an epitome of women empowerment, visionary leadership and wise strategist. Through his literary magnificence, Kalki did justice to the character of Kundavai, and we hope the movie will do the same.