5 1 2017

A hundred grains of rice: regional Mahābhārata stories in performance

Srinivas Reddy


This article explores the subject of regional folk stories found in various vernacular expressions of the Mahābhārata. In particular, the non-canonical stories of Śaśirekha and Śakuni as found in several Telugu versions of the Mahābhārata story are taken up as exemplars to investigate the dynamic process by which regional folk stories transitioned from theatre to text, and from text to cinema. The Śaśirekha story for example, moves from Surabhi folk theatre to a multitude of parinaya texts and finally to the Telugu cinematic hit Maya Bazaar of 1957. By tracking these stories as they evolved into various forms of new media, this article elucidates the fluid, circulatory process by which folk elements enter a grand narrative like the Mahābhārata, penetrate the normative text and get recirculated back as new literary forms and performative genres. In this context, I also try to complicate the classical/folk dichotomy and question the permeability and mutually constitutive nature of such hermeneutical categories.

Full Text:



Apte, V. S. 1959. The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary (revised and enlarged edition of Prin. V. S. Apte's). Poona: Prasad Prakashan.

Bandyopadhyay, I. 2011. Balarama is Abhimanyu’s father-in-law: a study in folk Mahābhārata (available on-line: http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=11706, accessed) on 24 February 2017).

Bhattacharjee, S. 2010. Colouring the colourful. The Hindu February 20, 2010 (available on-line:

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/colouring-the-colourful/article782058.ece, accessed on 24 February 2017).

Bhembre, U. 2005. Transcreation and re-creation in search of human characters. Indian Literature 49, 173-175.

Bronner, Y. 2013. Birds of a feather: Vāmana Bhaṭṭa Bāṇa’s Haṃsasandeśa and its intertexts. Journal of the American Oriental Society 133, 495-526.

Brown, C. P. 1903. A Telugu-English dictionary 2nd ed. Madras: promoting Christian knowledge.

Guy, R. 2006. Remembering Ramnoth. The Hindu November 3, 2006 (available on-line:

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/remembering-ramnoth/article3231213.ece, accessed 24 February 2017).

Guy, R. 2014. Vatsala Kalyanam (1935). The Hindu May 10, 2014 (available on-line: http://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/vatsalakalyanam-1935/article5996359.ece, accessed 24 February 2017).

Jaini, P. S. 1997. Pāṇḍava-Purāṇa of Vādicandra: Text and Translation. Journal of Indian Philosophy 25, 91-127.

Jaini, P. S. 1984 Mahābhārata motifs in the Jaina Pāṇḍava-Purāṇa. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 47, 108-11.

Juluri, V. 2013. Bollywood Nation: India through Its Cinema, New Delhi: Penguin Books.

Lutgendorf, P. 2006. Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking? International Journal of Hindu Studies 10, 227-256.

Narasimham, M. L. 2010. Mayabazaar (1936), The Hindu December 26, 2010, Accessed at

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-cinemaplus/mayabazaar-1936/article979917.ece on 24 February 2017.

Narasimham, M. L. 2015. Mayabazaar (1957), The Hindu April 30, 2015, Accessed at

http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/mayabazar-1957/article7159111.ece on 24 February 2017.

Pattanaik, D. 2010. Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahābhārata. New Delhi: Penguin Books.

Prasad, M. M. 2011. Genre mixing as creative fabrication. BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies 2, 69-81.

Puthussery, J. 2008. Surabhi Theatres: A Legacy to Continue. Indian Folklife Serial No. 29 June 2008 (available on-line: http://indianfolklore.org/journals/index.php/IFL/article/viewFile/144/154, accessed on 24 February 2017).

Ramanujan, A. K. 1999a. Who needs folklore. In The Collected Essays of A. K. Ramanujan (ed) V. Dharwedkar, 532-552 New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Ramanujan, A. K. 1999b. Repetition in the Mahābhārata. In The Collected Essays of A. K. Ramanujan (ed) V. Dharwedkar, 161-183. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Subba Rao, T. V. 1980. Telugu Folk Additions to Maha Bharatha. Asian Folklore Studies 39, Vol. 39, 137-144.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2050-487X
Privacy and cookies Take Down Policy