IN THE LAND OF VELLIVALA, the great goddess Parvati creates nine farmer-brothers to cultivate the land. She gives these men wives as well, and the great family begins to flourish. But when a great famine strikes, one of the brothers (Kolatta) is forced to visit the Chola king and ask for work. He and his wife are granted land in Ponnivala, which they cultivate to great abundance.

ANOTHER GREAT FAMINE strikes the land of the Chola monarch. He is forced to release his favourite cows into the wild to find sustenance for themselves. When they happen upon the lush sugarcane fields of Ponnivala, they run rampant, destroying the crop. Kolatta responds by having a spiked fence built. The cows, pushed by starvation, attempt to leap the fence and are killed. Lord Shiva curses the Ponnivala family for this farmer’s crime of cow killing.

Shiva’s curse requires that no children be born to the women of Ponnivala for seven generations. However, after some compassionate pleading by Lord Vishnu, the great Lord finally agrees to creates a baby for Kolatta and his wife. He hides it under some field stones. When the baby is discovered, this infant is accepted by the family and adopted. But then, Kolatta and Arryanacci are called away by death when the boy is only five years old!

FOR FIVE YEARS the brothers of Kolatta treat the orphan boy cruelly. Finally they decide that they will get rid of the boy and usurp the lands of Ponnivala for themselves. The young Kunnutaiya flees to several neighbouring villages and after several misadventures he proves himself to one kind family and becomes their shepherd. Although of high birth, Kunnutaiya accepts his fate and works hard for his new masters.

AT AGE FIFTEEN, Kunnutaiya learns he is eligible to ask for the hand of his masters’ sister, Tamarai. Reluctantly her two elder brothers agree to her marriage, but the newlyweds are then exiled. The groom’s status is thought to be too lowly to match that of his chosen bride! Upon reaching the ancestral lands of Ponnivala, they find that the clansmen have torn down Kunnutaiya’s family palace. Out of compassion the Chola king grants the couple a small, stony plot of land.

THE CLANSMEN’S TREACHERY continues. The seeds they give Kunnutaiya will not sprout. Only by the grace of Lord Vishnu do they begin to grow. But the field yields magical wealth ,enough for Kunnutaiya and Tamarai to rebuild. The only thing missing is the blessing of children, because Lord Shiva’s curse of barrenness still afflicts the family. The village women tease her.

THE KING AND QUEEN undertake a long pilgrimage. They hope to reach the gates of heaven where they will plead with Lord Shiva to release them from their curse. Queen Tamarai, in her haste along the way, kicks a sow-pig who lies on the path. Angry, that sow threatens that her son-to-be will be her family’s nemesis. The palace dog, however, vows that her own pup-to-be will protect them.

IN HIS COUNCIL CHAMBERS, Lord Shiva grants Queen Tamarai the gift of three children: two boys, reincarnated from the spirits of Arjuna and Bhima (of Mahabharata fame), and a girl reincarnated from the youngest of seven divine female spirits (the Kannimar). A fourth child, a reincarnation of Ashwatthama, is now sent to the womb of a loyal Ponnivala maid. He will be a servant-assistant for Tamarai’s three children.

BACK IN PONNIVALA, a plot to kill the young kings before they are born is foiled when the goddess Celatta takes them both into hiding. She raises them under her temple for five years. Because only one young daughter can be seen in the palace, the clansmen once again assert their claim to Ponnivala. Finally, when the goddess reveals that the family also has two boys, the matter of inheritance is settled in their favor.


THE TWO BOYS WANT TO BE WARRIORS but their mother Tamarai insists on their marriage. After a double wedding, these twins refuse the company of their wives, choosing to hone their fighting skills instead. The first great test comes when they capture a female parrot from the Vettuva forest. But the hunter’s princess complains. A great struggle between forest dwellers and farmers ensues. A giant wild boar backs the hunters but falls to the poison bite of a tiny she-pup born of the palace dog.

THE WAR WITH THE HUNTERS continues, but it is then revealed that Lord Vishnu actually created the entire war. The time has come for the twin warriors to die. When they realize it is their time, the two heroes thrust themselves upon their own swords in a final act of sacrifice. Their loyal servant follows suit. The sister then finds her brothers’ bodies and very briefly revives them. Then she performs the funeral rites and builds a temple. The bard blesses all who hear the tale.