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Updated: December 23, 2012 05:05 IST

This book on Mahabharata is 169-year-old

A. D. Rangarajan
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K.V. Raghavacharya with his prized possession. Photo: K.V. Poornachandra Kumar
K.V. Raghavacharya with his prized possession. Photo: K.V. Poornachandra Kumar

Researcher from Tirupati has a rare volume of Telugu author Nannaya’s “Adi Parva” printed in 1843

The thrill of holding a 169-year-old book in one’s hands is unparalleled, especially if it is the first edition of famous Telugu author Nannaya’s Mahabharata, printed in a modern press in India.

While printing machines came to India during the British regime, only religious literature was printed by the missionaries and ‘Sathakams’ and poems by local units. “Nannaya’s Mahabharata in Telugu was first published in the then Madras city in the year 1843,” says K.V. Raghavacharya, a septuagenarian researcher of Tirupati and proud owner of the copy. This ‘Royal edition’ was made of handmade paper and Indian ink, known for durability. No wonder then that the alphabets are clearly visible even today.

The book containing the first part ‘Adi Parva’ of the Andhra Mahabharata, saw the light of day in the Subhakruth Year 1765 of the Salivahana Saka, which is equivalent to 1842-43 AD of the modern calendar. It was published by Poombavai Srungara Modalari and Poigai Appaswamy Modalari (the erstwhile equivalent of the surname ‘Mudaliar’) at the ‘Saidapuram Umapathy Modalari Kalvi Kalanjiyam’ printing press in Chennai.

“Even an advertisement about the book was carried those days in Varthamana Tharangini, a Madras-based newspaper edited by Puvvada Venkata Rao. It also directed readers to visit the Hidayathullah book store in Park Town (the present Chennai Central railway station area) for the copies,” notes Dr. Raghavacharya, recalling the day when he bought the book as a high school student in Madras.

In tune with religious principles and habits, such revered literary works are bound by jute strings, instead of leather.


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