Nandi TimmanaMar 7, 2022
Theft of a Tree
Translated by Harshita Mruthinti Kamath
Harvard University Press 2022
Legend has it that the sixteenth-century Telugu poet Nandi Timmana composed Theft of a Tree, or Pārijātāpaharaṇamu, which he based on a popular millennium-old tale, to help the wife of Krishnadevaraya, king of the south Indian Vijayanagara Empire, win back her husband's affections.
Theft of a Tree recounts how Krishna stole the pārijāta, a wish-granting tree, from the garden of Indra, king of the gods. Krishna does so to please his favorite wife, Satyabhama, who is upset when he gifts his chief queen a single divine flower. After battling Indra, Krishna plants the tree for Satyabhama--but she must perform a rite temporarily relinquishing it and her husband to enjoy endless happiness. The poem's narrative unity, which was unprecedented in the literary tradition, prefigures the modern Telugu novel.
Theft of a Tree is presented here in the Telugu script alongside the first English translation.
Ujaan Ghosh is a graduate student at the Department of Art History at University of Wisconsin, Madison