The names Paritala Ravi and Maddelacheruvu Suri still send shivers down the spine of the residents of Andhra, though both the landlords belonging to Rayalaseema met with a violent end years ago. The feud between the two was captured with all its gore by Ram Gopal Varma in his film, 'Rakta Charitra.'
A visit to the village of Ravi and Suri also gives a traveller the opportunity to take a tour of India's second longest cave, Belum. The status of the country's longest cave is enjoyed by a cave in Meghalaya.
There are several Keralites who have travelled over 3,000 km to the cave in Meghalaya, but hardly anybody has ever heard about the Belum cave, which is relatively nearer to our state, or its attractions.
A tour of the cave can be started from Tadipatri, which is in Rayalaseema, well-known for its Cuddapah granite. Maize, black gram and shallots grow in abundance in the fields of the region. Beyond the fields is a hill under which the cave extends for a distance of 3.50 km.
The cave is maintained well; the entire length is cleaned and illuminated. There are two cave mouths on both sides, where warning signs have been installed. Various sections along the path through the cave have been given names like Guhamandapam, Kodilingalu and Pathala Ganga. The Pathala Ganga is at a depth of about 150 feet and the route is marked near the spot which leads to Kodilingalu. The path to Pathala Ganga is very narrow - it is hardly four-and-a-half high. Beyond is a small opening in the rock where a pool of water is seen.
Ventilation in the deep areas of the cave is provided through pipes. The path being illuminated with neon bulbs, a trip through the cave offers a safe outing.
Blood and gore
Sreenivasulu, a young taxi driver in Tadipatri, relates the tale of the bloody feud between Ravi and Suri that claimed dozens of lives over several years. His first memories of the feud relate to the holidays declared for his school whenever the henchmen of the two landlords clashed.
When Ravi and Suri fought, no other law enforcement agencies - either police or the courts - dared to meddle in the affairs of the region. Many people belonging to other states have read newspaper reports of the confrontation during 2003 - 2011 period. In Ram Gopal Varma's film, Vivek Oberoi and Suriya portrayed the warring landlords convincingly, terrifying viewers. The fear evoked by Ravi and Suri was such that Ram Gopal Varma himself had shown the preview of 'Rakta Charitra' to Suri, who was then in jail, before releasing the film.
Portraying the entire history of the feud in two-and-a-half hours was impossible; so Ram Gopal Varma related incidents in which Ravi emerged on top in the first half and those which were termed Suri's victory in the second half.
Ram Gopal Varma made the second part of 'Rakta Charitra' also. A few days after its release, Suri was killed. However, except some policemen, no one in Rayalaseema was shocked. They were only wondering when the murder would take place after Suri's release from jail. Everyone knew that Suri was behind the killing of his adversary Ravi and that Ravi’s supporters were waiting for a chance to avenge the murder.
According to Sreenivasulu, the feud between the families of Ravi and Suri started around 200 years ago. The two landlords were only the latest of several generations to take up the fight. Ravi's father was Paritala Sreeramulu, a Naxalite leader in Anantapur district who held top posts in People's War Group, which was a major political party at that time.
Congress MLA G Narayan Reddy, with support from Sane Reddy, murdered Sreeramulu over political enmity. Ravi was aged just seventeen when this killing took place in 1975 and was helpless in preventing it. To save his own life, Ravi fled to his uncle Kondayya's house and sought refuge there. Later, he married Kondayya's daughter Sunitha.
Over the years, Ravi's aim was to avenge his father's death and he dedicated his life to amassing money as well as collecting a group of henchmen around him for the purpose. He targeted those responsible for his father's death one by one. Naryana Reddy and Rasaiah were among his earliest victims. However, Sane Reddy escaped on several occasions.
Ravi finally got the opportunity when Sane Reddy was elected to the State Assembly from the Penukonda seat by defeating Ramachandra Reddy of Telugu Desam party (TDP). Sane Reddy's body was discovered on the roadside during an early morning in 1991.
Ravi, who started as a Naxalite, had meanwhile switched his allegiance to TDP and became a Cabinet minister in Andhra Pradesh. His influence spread all over Andhra and the name Paritala Ravi evoked fear among one and all.
During this time, a new name was heard in the area - Maddelacheruvu Suri. His full name was Suri Narayana Reddy and he was the son of Sane Reddy. People in and around the village of Maddelacheruvu trembled in fear hearing his name. He launched a war against those who had killed his father.
Suri wanted to eliminate Ravi at any cost. Among his early attempts was to place a bomb in a TV. Ravi escaped the attack, but five of his close relatives were killed in the blast. Later, a car bomb was set off, but again Ravi was unharmed. At least 26 of Ravi’s supporters lost their lives in attacks launched by Suri. Once, the victims were two of Ravi's own guards. Though he managed to evade death on multiple occasions, Ravi finally met his fate in an attack during January 2005. Suri was in jail at that time.
However, the feud did not end there. The long trail of blood, in fact, claimed one more victim. When Suri was released from jail, all anticipated another killing. Soon, Suri too was felled - by bullets fired by his own aide. It was the last in a series of deaths which started about half a century ago. Rayalaseema has been calm since then.
Ravi has two sons - Sreeram and Siddharth, both of whom are in the US, where nobody associates them with a name called Paritala. Suri too has a son, who has never appeared in public. It is believed that he lives in Bengaluru with his mother's family.
Cuddapah in Rayalaseema is from where the stone of the same name arrives in Kerala. Windmills producing electricity, barren hills and wide expanse of farmlands are the main features of the region. Signs of poverty can be seen everywhere - local people in shabby clothes and houses with cheap paint. At least a few of the relatives of those who took part in the mindless killings carried out by Ravi and Suri may still be living among them. One also wonders how a fiery feud was kept alive over so many years in such an idyllic rural setting.