photo credits: C. V. Raman Pillai - CC-PD-Mark
Marthandavarma (Malayalam: മാർത്താണ്ഡവർമ്മ, Māṟttāṇḍavaṟmma [mɑːṟt̪t̪ɑːɳɖaʋaṟmma]) is a historical romance novel by C. V. Raman Pillai published in 1891. It recounts the history of Venad (Travancore) during the final period of Rajah Rama Varma’s reign and subsequently to the accession of Marthanda Varma. Set in Kollavarsham 901–906 (Gregorian calendar: 1727–1732), the story revolves around three protagonists, Ananthapadmanabhan, Subhadra and Mangoikkal Kuruppu, who try to protect the title character from Padmanabhan Thambi and Ettu Veetil Pillamar who plan to oust him from the throne of Travancore. The novel utilizes rich allusions to the Indian subcontinent and Western, historical, cultural and literary traditions.
The historical plot is aided with the love story of Ananthapadmanabhan and Parukutty, the chivalric actions of the former, and the aspects of romanticism in the longing of Parukutty for her lover as well as in the unrequited love of Zulaikha. The yesteryear politics of Venad is presented through the council of Ettuveettil Pillas, the subsequent claim of throne for Padmanabhan Thambi, the coup attempt, the patriotic conduct of Subhadra, and finally to her tragedy following the suppression of revolt. The intertwined representation of history and romance is attained through classic style of narration, which includes vernacular languages for various characters, rhetorical embellishments, and a blend of dramatic and archaic style of language suitable to the bygone period.
This novel is the first historical novel published in the Malayalam language and in south India. The first edition, self published by the author in 1891, received positive to mixed reviews, but book sales did not produce significant revenue. The revised edition, published in 1911, was an enormous success and became a bestseller. The story of Travancore is continued in the later novels, Dharmaraja (1913) and Ramarajabahadur (1918–1919). These three novels are together known as CV's Historical Narratives and C. V. Raman Pillai's Novel Trilogy in Malayalam literature.
The 1933 movie adaptation Marthanda Varma led to a legal dispute with the novel's publishers and became the first literary work in Malayalam to be the subject of a copyright infringement. The novel has been translated into English, Tamil, and Hindi, and has also been abridged and adapted in a number of formats, including theater, radio, television, and comic book. The Marthandavarma has been included in the curriculum for courses offered by universities in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as well as the curriculum of the Kerala State Education Board.
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