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Theft of a Tree

Theft of a Tree

A Tale by the Court Poet of the Vijayanagara Empire

Nandi Timmana

Translated by Harshita Mruthinti Kamath and Velcheru Narayana Rao

ISBN 9780674295919

Publication date: 02/13/2024

The first English translation of 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, to help the wife of Krishnadevaraya, king of the south Indian Vijayanagara Empire, win back her husband’s affections. Timmana based his work on a popular millennium-old Krishna tale.

Theft of a Tree recounts how Krishna stole the wish-granting pārijāta tree from the garden of Indra, king of the gods. Krishna takes the tree to please his favorite wife, Satyabhama, who is upset when he gifts his chief queen a single divine flower. After battling Indra, he plants the pārijāta for Satyabhama—but she must perform a rite temporarily relinquishing it and her husband to enjoy endless happiness.

This is the first English translation of the poem, which prefigures the modern Telugu novel with its unprecedented narrative unity.


  • Theft of a Tree is one of the great Telugu classics, a work of stunning wit, playfulness, and passion. The elegant, readable, and careful translation—the first ever into English—captures the melody of the original Telugu, one of the most mellifluous of all South Asian languages.

    —David Shulman


  • 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

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

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