Kalki Krishnamurthy

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Kalki Krishnamurthy
Krishnamurthy on a 1999 stamp of India
Krishnamurthy on a 1999 stamp of India
BornRamasamy Aiyer Krishnamurthy
(1899-09-09)9 September 1899
Puthamangalam, near Manalmedu
Died5 December 1954(1954-12-05) (aged 55)
Chennai, India
Pen nameKalki Tamil: கல்கி
Occupationjournalist, critic and writer
EducationHigh School
Alma materMunicipal High School, Mayiladuthurai & National High School, Tiruchi
GenreHistoric fiction, social fiction
Notable worksPonniyin Selvan, Sivagamiyin Sapatham, Thyaga Bhoomi, Parthiban Kanavu, Alai Osai, Kalvanin Kadhali
Notable awardsSahitya Akademi Award for Alai Osai
ChildrenKalki Rajendran
& Anandi Ramachandran

Ramaswamy Krishnamurthy (9 September 1899 – 5 December 1954), better known by his pen name Kalki, was an Indian writer, journalist, poet, critic and Indian independence activist who wrote in Tamil. He chose the pen-name "Kalki", the future incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu.[1] He founded a magazine, which was also named Kalki, with T Sadasivam being the co-founder, in 1941. Krishnamurthy‘s writings include over 120 short stories, 10 novellas, 5 novels, 3 historical romances, editorial and political writings and hundreds of film and music reviews.

Early life[edit]

Ramaswamy Krishnamurthy was born in a Brahmin family on 9 September 1899 in Puthamangalam, near Manalmedu, in Mayiladuthurai district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Krishnamurthy's father was Ramaswamy Aiyar, an accountant in Puttamangalam village in the old Tanjore district of erstwhile Madras Presidency. He 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]

His son Kalki Rajendran was married to Sadasivam's daughter Vijaya. And Krishnamurthy's daughter Anandi was married to Sadasivam's nephew (sister's son) Ramachandran, known as Ambi in music circles. Anandi's daughter Gowri Ramanarayanan was a music critic for The Hindu newspaper, and she also learned music under M S Subbulakshmi.[4]

Literary work[edit]

Krishnamurthy started writing fiction stories in Navaskthi in 1923 where he worked as a sub editor. He was working under the tutelage of Thiru Vi Ka when he published his first book in 1927. He started working with C Rajagopalachari in Thiruchengode in Gandhi Ashram. He published Vimochanam along with Rajaji, a journal propagating liquor prohibition. He was working in freedom struggle and during 1931, he was jailed for six months. He joined Ananda Vikatan, a popular Tamil magazine along with editor S S Vasan. He became very popular as a critic, witty author, political commentator and short story writer. He wrote under various pen names like "Kalki", "Ra. Ki", "Tamil Theni" and "Karnatkam". He left Ananda Vikatan and joined freedom struggle in 1941. On his release, he and Sadasivam started a weekly named Kalki. He was the editor in the journal till his death on 5 December 1954[5]


Historical novels[edit]

Serial Name Setting
1 Sivagamiyin Sapatham (1 January 1944 – 30 June 1946)[6] Pallava Dynasty
2 Parthiban Kanavu (16 October 1941 – 10 February 1943)[7]
3 Ponniyin Selvan (29 October 1950 – 16 May 1954) Chola Dynasty
Solaimalai Ilavarasi (1947) The Independence of India

Social novels (Tamil)[edit]

  • Kalvanin Kadhali (1937)
  • Thyaga 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[edit]

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 Collection of 5 short stories
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
46 Dhanakodiyin Manoratham

Critical work[edit]

Krishnamurthy was also a film and music critic, writing under the pseudonym "Karnatkam".[citation needed] He also penned lyrics for many songs, most of which were adapted into Carnatic Music.[citation needed]


  • The release of a postage stamp in honour of Krishnamurthy was among the highlights of the centenary celebrations. Government of Tamil Nadu announced the nationalisation of Krishnamurthy‘s works, this will enable publishers to produce reprints of his works.
  • Krishnamuthy had the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani award conferred on him by The Indian Fine Arts Society in 1953.


Krishnamurthy died in Chennai on 5 December 1954 aged 55 years from tuberculosis. Kalki magazine's special issue for Annai Sarada Devi, dated the day Krishnamurthy died, was his last editorial work. The magazine shared the information that his health was improving prior to his demise.[8]


Various individuals including veteran actor, director, philanthropist and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. G. Ramachandran; actor, director and politician, Kamal Haasan; and director Mani Ratnam, have tried to adapt Krishnamurthy's novel Ponniyin Selvan, into a film at various stages, but only Mani Ratnam have succeeded so far. The first part of Mani Ratnam's two-part film was released on 30th September 2022 as Ponniyin Selvan: I, and second part was released on 28th April 2023 as Ponniyin Selvan: II.

Biographies of Kalki[edit]

  • Ponniyin Puthalvar by Sunda[9][10]
  • Amarar Kalki
  • Oray Roja

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 assumed names and their origins (5 ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: Macfarland. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-7864-4373-4. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  2. ^ Viswanathan, S. (9 October 1999). "Renaissance man". Frontline. The Hindu group. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  3. ^ Anandhi, K. "Kalki – the man behind the legend: An intimate portrait by his daughter K. Anandhi". ChennaiBest.com. Indias-Best.Com Pvt Ltd. Archived from the original on 14 April 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  4. ^ "The surprise that stayed the course – Sruti « Madras Musings | We Care for Madras that is Chennai". 21 January 2018.
  5. ^ Pandey, Dr. Mamta (2010). The great Indian novelists. Delhi: Kusal Pustak Sansar. p. 78. ISBN 978-81-88614-23-3.
  6. ^ Vaiko (March 2009). "பொன்னியின் செல்வன் புகழ்விழா தில்லி 21.12.2007" [Poṉṉiyin Selvan Glory festival Delhi 21 December 2007]. Literary (in Tamil). Chennai: Marumalarchi DMK.
  7. ^ Vaiko (March 2009). "'சிவகாமியின் சபதம்' வைகோவின் இலக்கியச் சொற்பொழிவு" ['Śivagāmiyin Śapathaṁ' Vaiko's literary speech]. Literary (in Tamil). Chennai: Marumalarchi DMK.
  8. ^ Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam December 2014 page 36,37
  9. ^ Sundaram, MRM (1999) [1976]. Poṉṉiyiṉ putalvar பொன்னியின் புதல்வர் [The great son of Ponni] (in Tamil) (2nd ed.). Chennai: Vāṉati Patippakam.
  10. ^ "Third edition biography on Kalki released". Cities: Chennai. The New Indian Express. Express News Service. 22 April 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2015. The 912-page hard-bound volume, brought out by Vanathi Pathipagam, is priced at `450.
    With a preface by 'Kalki' K Rajendran on how the biography was born, the back cover shows 'Kalki', conceiving Alai Osai, a famous novel set against the background of India's freedom struggle. The first edition was brought out in 1976 and the second in 1999.

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