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Kalki Krishnamurthy

R. Krishnamoorthy
R. Krishnamoorthy
Born (1899-09-09)9 September 1899
Puthamangalam, near Manalmedu
Died 5 December 1954(1954-12-05) (aged 55)
Chennai, India
Pen name Kalki Tamil: கல்கி
Occupation journalist, critic and writer
Nationality Indian
Education High School
Alma mater National High School, Tiruchi
Period 1899–1954
Genre Historic fiction, social fiction
Notable works Ponniyin Selvan, Sivagamiyin sabadham
Notable awards Sahitya Akademi Award for Alai Osai
Children Kalki Rajendran
& Anandi Ramachandran

Ramaswamy Aiyer Krishnamurthy (9 September 1899 – 5 December 1954), better known by his pen name Kalki, was a Tamil writer, journalist, poet, critic and Indian independence activist.

He derived his pen name from the suffixes of his wife name Kalyani and his name Krishnamurthy in Tamil form கல்யாணி and கிருஷ்ணமூர்த்தி as Kalki(கல்கி) "Kalki avatar", the tenth and last avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu.[1] His writings includes over 120 short stories, 10 novelettes, five novels, three historical romances, editorial and political writings and hundreds of film and music reviews.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Novels 3
  • Bibliography 4
    • Historical novels 4.1
    • Social novels (Tamil) 4.2
    • Short stories 4.3
    • Critical work 4.4
  • Timeline 5
  • Honours 6
  • Death 7
  • Biographies of Kalki 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early life

Krishnamurthy's father was Ramaswamy Aiyar, a poor accountant in Puttamangalam village in the old Tanjore district of erstwhile Madras Presidency. Krishnamurthy began his primary education in his village school and later attended Municipal High School in Mayavaram but quit in 1921, just short of completion of his Senior School Leaving Certificate, in response to Mahatma Gandhi's 1921 call for non-co-operation joining the Indian National Congress instead.[2][3]


In 1923 he joined as a sub-editor in Navasakthi, a Tamil periodical edited by Tamil scholar and freedom fighter Thiru. V. Kalyanasundaram, popularly known as "Thiru Vi. Ka". Krishnamurthy's first book was published in 1927. Leaving Navasakthi in 1928, Krishnamurthy stayed with C. Rajagopalachari at the Gandhi Ashram in Tiruchengode in Salem district and helped him edit Vimochanam, a Tamil journal devoted to propagating prohibition. In 1931, he was again imprisoned for six months. Next year Krishnamurthy joined Ananda Vikatan, a humour weekly edited and published by S. S. Vasan. Krishnamurthy's witty, incisive comments on politics, literature, music and other forms of art were looked forward to with unceasing interest by readers. He wrote under the pen names of "Kalki", "Ra. Ki", "Tamil Theni", "Karnatakam" and so on. Vikatan published many of his short stories and novels (as serials). In 1941 he left Ananda Vikatan and rejoined the freedom struggle and courted arrest. On his release after three months he and Sadasivam started Kalki (magazine). He was its editor until his death on 5 December 1954. The success that Krishnamurthy attained in the realm of historical fiction is phenomenal. Sixty years ago, at a time when the literacy level was low and when the English-educated Tamils looked down on writings in Tamil, Kalki's circulation touched 71,000 copies – the largest for any weekly in the county then – when it serialised his historical novels.

Although Kalki's historical romances captured the hearts of thousands of readers, recreating for them the glorious Tamil life during the periods of Pallavas and Imperial Cholas, critics were divided on their literary merits. One criticism was that Kalki' s novels dwelt rather overmuch on royalty and not enough on common people. The sudden twists and turns, which characterised serialised stories, made the stories unrealistic. There has, however, been a re-appraisal of Kalki, particularly among Marxist critics, in recent years. Semmalar, the monthly organ of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Association, brought out a special number to commemorate Kalki's birth centenary. Kalki wrote the script and some lyrics for Meera, an M.S. Subbulakshmi starrer.

Kalki's contribution to the cause of Tamil music is also noteworthy. He spearheaded a movement that wanted Carnatic musicians to include more Tamil songs in their concerts and composed a number of songs. His Tamil translation of Gandhi's autobiography, "My Experiments with Truth", was published as Satya Sothanai.


Kalki considered Alai Osai, which was serialised in Kalki in 1948–49 and published as a book in 1963, as his best. The novel won for him the Sahitya Akademi Award posthumously in 1956, it has for its backdrop the freedom struggle and deals with social reforms and politics.

His other social novels include Thyaga Bhoomi (The land of sacrifice) and Kalvanin Kadali (Bandit's sweetheart), both of which have been filmed. Thyaga Bhoomi, which has the salt satyagraha as its backdrop, dealt with women's rights and untouchability. It was serialised in Ananda Vikatan, which was being filmed at the same time, were used as illustration. After a successful run for six weeks, the film, directed by veteran K. Subramanyam, was banned by the colonial Government on the grounds that it indirectly aroused the people to fight for freedom. Almost all of Kalki's novels appeared first in the serial form and only then in the book form.

Parthiban Kanavu and Sivagamiyin Sapatham give a picture of the great Pallava Age of the seventh century A.D., while Ponniyin Selvan paints the age of the glorious Cholas. Both the periods are a mixture of many aspects of the history of Tamil Nadu such as that of religions, literature, art and architecture and also of administration. Kalki had been a keen student of these aspects which he learnt through epigraphic, inscriptional and numismatic sources and he enriched his novels with all these facts of history. Kalki got inspiration to write Parthiban Kanavu and Sivagamiyin Sapatham on the seashore of Mahabalipuram, when he was accompanied by Rasikamani T. K. C. and where he saw thousands and thousands of ships and boats carrying warriors on one side, and other people, architects, Ayanar, Sivakami, Mahendravarmar and Mamallar on the other side in his mental vision. They left a deep and lasting impression upon his heart and only after finishing Sivakamiyin Sabadam, twelve years later.

Kalki had also the genius to classify the historical and non-historical events, historical and non-historical characters and how much the novel owes to history. In his introduction to Sivakamiyin Sabadam and conclusion to Ponniyin Selvan, he explains the percentage of fact and fiction. Kalki's interest in history, the features of his historical novels and the popularity they gained, made others enter this vast and new field and contribute works of merit.


Historical novels

Serial Name Comments
1 Parthiban Kanavu (1941–1943)[4] About Pallava Dynasty
2 Sivagamiyin Sapatham (1944–1946)[5] About Pallava Dynasty
3 Ponniyin Selvan (1951–1954) About Chola Dynasty
4 Solaimalai Ilavarasi (1947) About Independence of India

Social novels (Tamil)

  • Kalvaninn Kaadhali (1937)
  • Thiyaga Bhoomi (1938–1939)
  • Magudapathi (1942)
  • Abalayin kaneer (1947)
  • Alai Osai (1948)
  • Devagiyin Kanavan (1950)
  • Mohini Theevu (1950)
  • Poiman Karadu (1951)
  • Punnaivanathu Puli (1952)
  • Amara Thara (1954)

Short stories

Serial Name Comments
1 Subhathraiyin Sagodharan
2 Otrai Roja This story is about two strangers – a young man and a young woman – who meet on a train from Tirunelveli to Chennai. The woman is originally from Sri Lanka and the man is from Madras (now Chennai). They have failed in their respective exams and plan to end their life. Things take a different turn from here and all ends well.
3 Theepiditha Kudisaigal
4 Pudhu Ovarsiyar
5 Vasdhadhu Venu
6 Amara Vazhvu
7 Sunduvin Sanyasam
8 Thirudan Magan Thirudan
9 Imayamalai Engal Malai
10 Pongumaangkadal
11 Master Medhuvadai
12 Pushpa Pallaaku
13 Prabala Nakchatiram
14 Pithalai Ottiyanam
15 Arunachalathin Aluval
16 Parisil Thurai
17 Susila MA
18 Kamalavin Kalyanam
19 Tharkolai
20 S.S.Menaka
21 Saradhaiyin Thandhiram
22 Governor Vijayam
23 Kanaiyazhiyin Kanavu
24 Banker Vinayakarao
25 Tiger King The story revolves around a King whose death at the hands of a tiger had been foretold by astrologers when he was born. He tries to reverse the fate spelled out for him and the author uses thinly-veiled satire to walk the reader through the King's attempts which later prove futile, in a manner that makes them laugh.
26 Punnaivanthupuli
27 Devakiyin kanavan
28 onbathu kulinilam
29 number 888
30 Thiruvazhundhur sivakozhundhu
31 Zamindar Mahan
32 Mayilak kalai
33 Rnagathurkam Raja
34 Idintha kottai
35 Mayilvizhi maan
36 Thappili cup
37 Kethariyin Thaayar
38 Gandhimadhiyin kadalan
39 Srikandhan punarjenmam
40 Paladaindha Bangala
41 Chandramathi
42 Chiranjeevi kadhai
43 Kadithamum kaneerum
44 Vaira mothiram(Kaanama pogaathathu)
45 Veenai Bavani

Critical work

Kalki was also a film and music critic who wrote under the pseudonym Karnatakam. He also penned many songs and lyrics, most of which were adapted into Carnatic Music.


  • In 1899, R.Krishnamurthy(Kalki) was born at Puthamangalam in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. His father's name is Ramaswamy Aiyar and his mother's name is Thaiyal Nayagi. The name Kalki was his pen name.
  • In 1917, he started his school career in Aiyaasamy Aiyar Primary school.He continued his studies in a secondary school in Trichy.
  • In 1921, he joined Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation movement sacrificing his school career.
  • In 1922, he faced imprisonment for participating in the freedom struggle. He spent one year in jail.He got the friendship of Sadasivam and C. Rajagopalachari(Rajaji).
  • In 1923, he joined as a sub-editor in Thiru.Vi.Ka's 'Navasakthi', a Tamil magazine.
  • In 1924, he got married to Rukmani (also spelled Rukmini). He later settled in Chennai.
  • In 1927, he wrote a short story 'Saradhaiyin Thanthiram'.
  • In 1928, he resigned from the post of sub-editor in 'Navasakthi'.
  • In 1929, he joined Rajaji's 'Vimochanam', a Tamil journal.
  • In 1930, he faced imprisonment for the second time for six months.
  • In 1931, he joined as an editor in the magazine Ananda Vikatan.
  • In 1937, he wrote his first novel 'Kalvanin Kadhali' and published it in Ananda Vikatan.
  • In 1939, he wrote his first screenplay for the Tamil movie 'Thayaga Boomi'. The film attained a huge success eventhough it was banned by the British Government.
  • In 1941, he started his own magazine Kalki (magazine) after he left Ananda Vikatan. He was arrested for the third time and spent three months in jail. His first historical novel Parthiban Kanavu was also published in the same year.
  • In 1944, he wrote Sivagamiyin Sapatham.
  • In 1945, he wrote lyrics for the Tamil movie Meera (1945 film).
  • In 1948, he wrote the novel 'Alai Osai' for which he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award posthumously.
  • In 1950, he started to write the historical novel Ponniyin Selvan and published it in his own magazine Kalki (magazine). He finished the novel nearly after a period of three years and six months. He visited Sri Lanka three times to learn some information to write this novel.
  • In 1954, R.Krishnamurthy(also known as Kalki) died. A great soul left this world.


The release of a postage stamp in honour of Kalki was among the highlights of the centenary celebrations. Government of Tamil Nadu announced the nationalisation of Kalki's works, this will enable publishers to come out with reprints of his works.
Kalki Krishnamuthy received the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani award conferred on him by The Indian Fine Arts Society in 1953.


Kalki died in Chennai on 5 December 1954 aged 55 years because of tuberculosis.

Biographies of Kalki

  • Ponniyin Puthalvar by Sunda, Vanathi Pathipagam
  • Amarar Kalki by Anusha Venkatesh, The Avenue Press
  • Oray Roja

See also


  1. ^ Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms : 13,000 assumed names and their origins (5 ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: Macfarland. p. 254.  
  2. ^ Viswanathan, S. (9 October 1999). "Renaissance man". Frontline. The Hindu group. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Anandhi, K. (n.d.). "Kalki – the man behind the legend : An intimate portrait by his daughter K Anandhi". Indias-Best.Com Pvt Ltd. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Vaiko (March 2009). சிவகாமியின் சபதம்' வைகோவின் இலக்கியச் சொற்பொழிவு" ['Śivagāmiyin Śapathaṁ' Vaiko's literary speech]'". Literary (in Tamil). Chennai: Marumalarchi DMK. 
  5. ^ Vaiko (March 2009). "பொன்னியின் செல்வன் புகழ்விழா தில்லி 21.12.2007" [Poṉṉiyin Selvan Glory festival Delhi 21 December 2007]. Literary (in Tamil). Chennai: Marumalarchi DMK. 

External links

  • The Tamil Writer "Kalki"
  • Kalki Krishnamurthy – One Hundred Tamils of 20th Century
  • Kalki's Ponniyin Selvan in Tamil Wikisource (Unicode)
  • Kalki's novels online at
  • Ponniyinselvan Facts and Fiction – a series that analyses the historic facts behind the fiction
  • [2] – An English translation of Sivakamiyin Sabadham authored by Nandini Vijayaraghavan
  • Kalki's Novel as Tamil Audio Books by Sri Srinivasa – details on Kalki's novel Ponniyin Selvan, Sivagamiyn Sabatham, Parthiban Kanavu in Audio Book Mp3 format
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