This Article First Appeared In The Print On Nov 16, 2023
Palnadu today is a balmy corner of coastal Andhra Pradesh, perhaps best known for its chillies and tobacco. But every November, at the temple of Chennakeshava at Macherla, thousands of devotees congregate to worship the dead heroes of a medieval battle. Bloodthirsty eagles, unnatural pregnancies, evil female ministers, and moustache-twirling lords battle and plot, declaim and die in an epic ballad. This story, the Palnati Virula Katha, the Tale of the Palnadu Heroes—is a unique Mahabharata of a medieval landowning caste. It reveals how myth, history and ballads were constantly used and reused by an agrarian society over 800 years.