Yellapragada Subba Rao

T. R. Subba Rao

TaRaSu(1920-1984) was a novelist in Kannada. TaRaSu an acronym, stands for T.R. Subba Rao. TaRaSu hailed from Chitradurga, a historical fort-town in Karnataka, located about 200 Kilometres to the north of its capital, Bangalore.

TaRaSu was a pre-university drop out and never completed his formal education. He was also infamously called Poli Subba, which when translated means, "Wayward Subba." He hailed from a pretty conservative Brahmin upbringing, and the things he did wasn't usually done among his community, especially in a small town like Chitradurga. He took to smoking, alcohol, and was seen visiting brothels for research on a novel about prostitutes.

TaRaSu was active in the literary circles of his time, and he considered ANaKRu (A. N. Krishna Rao) as his Guru or mentor. In fact, he has written a book on ANaKRu with the same title where he pays tribute him.

Literary Themes

TaRaSu's literary career spans more than 30 years during which time he wrote copiously. His works may broadly be divided into three categories/themes:

  • Social
  • Historical
  • Philosophical


Perhaps the majority of TaRaSu's works fall under this theme. While some are generally for light reading, others do offer serious insights. The plot in these novels generally revolves around the lives of middle and lower-middle class people set against both the rural and urban landscape. Notable books merit mention here.

  • Chandavalliya tota ("a farm at Chandavalli") - a tale of intra-family feud over property. It is a pretty heart-rending tale, which culminates in a tragedy.
  • Gaali Maatu ("Speech of the Air," literally, but actually means, "rumor") - a tale of a middle-class, college-going girl whose cousin is smitten with jealousy because she's prettier than the cousin.
  • Benkiya Bale ("Net of Fire") - tale of a poor school master and his wife, which culminates in their death.

His most notable social novel is entitled, Masanada Hoovu ("Flower of the Graveyard"). This novel deals with the theme of prostitution in all its aspects.


Strictly speaking, TaRaSu's historical works almost exclusively deal with the history of Chitradurga, which grew out his passion for his native town. TaRaSu really shines in his historical novels and none of them fail to move you. Chitradurga has a chequered history--from being ruled mostly by the Nayakas to finally falling into the arms of Tipu Sultan and later the British.

TaRaSu's historical works revolve around the Palegara (literally, Masters)dynasty who built the formidable fortress that still stands and narrates their silent tales to those interested to listen. These works were often published part by part, and the most notable ones are:

  • Kambaniya Kuilu (Saga of Sorrow/Tears)
  • Rakta Raatri (Bloody Night or Night of Blood)
  • Tirugu Baana (Literally means Returning an Arrow.In metaphorical terms means a Revenge.)
  • Hosa Hagalu (New Dawn)
  • Vijayotsava (Festival of Victory)

All five parts deal with a particular time period in Chitradurgas history.Kamabaniya Kuyilu describes about political coup of Dalavayi(Army Chief)Mudaana and his brothers in which they dethrone a Palegara.The second part Rakta Raatri deals Mudannas domination of the political affairs and how successive Palegaras like Chikkana Nayaka and Linganna Nayaka becomes his puppets.Story ends with the beheading of Linganna Nayaka.The third part Tirugu Baana deals with decline of Mudanna.The deceased Pradhana Amatyas(Prime Ministers) son Parashuramappa and Pradhana Dalavayis son Bharamanna launch a riposte against rampant Mudanna and his brothers.These two coupled with Gowdas(Village Heads) of the state bring down Mudanna in a meticulous plot.Last two parts is about the Rise and Ruling of purportedly most successful Palegara of Chitradurga dynasty Bharamanna Nayaka.

  • Durgastamana(Decline of Durga)

Durgastamana, his magnum opus is is about the last Palegara Madakari Nayaka. This novel starts with a young boy called Madakari being drafted as a Palegara of Chitradurga,which will be emptied by a sudden death of KasturiRangappa Nayaka.I t continues with the growth of Madakari Nayaka who emerges out to be a very powerful influence in the political affairs of Old Mysooru,Malenadu and Bayaluseeme(Current stare of Karnataka in Indian Map). Mysore dynasty will be under control of Hyderali(Father of Tippu sultan).Madakari Nayaka,in remarkable turn of events grows to be a strong antagonist of Hyderali.The story ends with the sad death of Madakari Nayaka after a long battle with very powerful Hyderali,which although he wins,leaves him profligate.The end indicates a Astamana (Decline) of Durga(Chitradurga).

This novel won Kendra Sahitya Academy price (highest award given by Indian Govt. for literature) and was conferred posthumously.


Although his books are based on this theme, they cannot be called "philosophical" per se. TaRaSu's novels in this category are based on, or are translations of well-known stories from the Upanishads. His novels in this category include the following:

  • Belaku tanda Balaka (The Boy who brought Light): Based on the well-known story of Nachiketa, who goes to Yama the Lord of Death and learns the Ultimate Knowledge of the Brahman.
  • 4*4=1: This is based on the popular Upanishadic story of Satyakama (or Jaabaali) who shows the world that caste or birth or creed is no barrier to attaining the state of Brahman.


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