Monday, September 21, 2015


This is a simple question based on one scene in the Legend of Ponnivala animated story. Again for this blog post, I have chosen something simple. Here too, my comments should be well-suited to classroom teaching for the early grades. My query has a simple answer. These men are asking the king if he has had a visit from their elder brother, Kolatta, or if he has perhaps heard of his whereabouts. Kolatta’s eight younger brothers explain that they have been waiting for word from Kolatta for a long time. They had stayed home in Velivala hoping to hear back from this eldest brother, their advance envoy. He was their “test” case. The eight men wanted to know how he had fared. Had he asked the Chola king for a job? Had he been given work?

As Kolatta’s eight younger brothers these men had an (unspoken) right to share in his luck. Had he indeed enjoyed some good fortune here, under the great king’s supervision? Because no message had come back to these brothers from their eldest, Kolatta in weeks, their situation had grown dire. These men had now become very hungry. But the lack of news from Kolatta, was actually no surprise. It was not that they thought Kolatta had been rude or thoughtless. Communication was all done by foot travel (or ox-cart ) in those days. Perhaps Kolatta had been very busy with his new job and had no opportunity to make the long trip back to Vellivala? Nonetheless, all eight men were worried. After all, their brother’s first goal had most certainly been to impress the Chola king with his skills. He needed to convince him that he had extensive farming experience and would make a good labourer in the Chola’s fields.

So the remaining eight brothers, knowing that their eldest sibling had gone to see the king, decided to set out in search of him. When the group arrived at the king’s court they readily explained who they were looking for. It was their own eldest brother Kolatta they were trying to find. These men also told the king that they were hungry. A great drought that had settled on their Vellivala farmlands. The king’s response was both understanding and kind. He remembered Kolatta well and he knew exactly what to do. He told them that Kolatta was respected and had quickly become one of his highly skilled and very loyal workers. The Chola quickly asked a servant to call the man the visitors sought. He would be in the monarch’s own fields. Of course, the servant knew just where to go to find him.

In contrast to the moment when Kolatta arrived, furthermore, we now we see that the king is alone while greeting his eight new guests. This is not such a vital moment and the story teller reflects this in his description of the audience the lesser eight men receive. The kings of the two other famous areas of the south at the time (Pandya nadu and Chera nadu) need not be consulted on this. Note too, just as before, a continued vivid contrast is made between the furnishings in this king’s royal palace and the humble hut where the eight brothers have come from. The vast social status and power differential between the ruler and his unexpected guests is so obvious as to hardly need more comment. It can easily be compared (by a classroom teacher) to the extreme contrast between the rich and the poor in many parts of India today!

Signing off for now,
Blogger” Brenda Beck

The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada

Have you experienced The Legend of Ponnivala on TV or in print? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

To find out more about The Legend of Ponnivala -- the legend, the series, the books, and the fascinating history behind the project, visit

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