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Theft of a Tree

Theft of a Tree

Nandi Timmana

Translated by Harshita Mruthinti Kamath and Velcheru Narayana Rao

ISBN 9780674245891

Publication date: 02/08/2022

A thousand-year-old story of Krishna and his wife Satyabhama retold by the most famous court poet of the Vijayanagara Empire.

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.


  • Theft of a Tree is wonderful piece, but it’s not what you’re used to—unless you were born five hundred years ago, in a galaxy far, far away…I had a helluva time, rethinking everything, thanks to this book.

    —Anthony Madrid, RHINO


  • Harshita Mruthinti Kamath is the Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Associate Professor in Telugu Culture, Literatures and History at Emory University.
  • Velcheru Narayana Rao is the Krishnadevaraya Emeritus Professor of Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Book Details

  • 544 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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