Murty Classical Library of India
“The shaping of India’s future depends on understanding its past, and the Murty Classical Library of India deserves acclaim for making great works from the past widely available.”—Amartya Sen
“The Murty Classical Library is uncovering India’s dazzling literary history… It illuminates lost things, brings back to recognition texts that were once crucial.”—Neel Mukherjee, New Statesman
To present the greatest literary works of India from the past two millennia to the largest readership in the world is the mission of the Murty Classical Library of India. The series aims to reintroduce these works, a part of world literature’s treasured heritage, to a new generation.
Translated into English by world-class scholars, reflecting the highest standards of contemporary book design, and featuring elegant, newly commissioned typefaces, these volumes are a modern invitation to diverse pre-modern literary worlds in languages such as Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. The series will provide English translations of classical works alongside the Indic originals in the appropriate regional script. New books will be added to the series annually.
This series is supported by a generous gift from Rohan Narayana Murty, computer scientist and true friend of the Indian classics.
Listen to General Editor Sheldon Pollock discuss the Murty Classical Library of India on WBUR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook:
Below is a list of in-print works in this collection, presented in series order or publication order as applicable.
The poetry of Bullhe Shah, which drew upon Sufi mysticism, is considered one of the glories of premodern Panjabi literature. His lyrics, famous for their vivid style and outspoken denunciation of artificial religious divisions, have been held in affection by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, and continue to win audiences today across national boundaries.
The History of Akbar, Volume 1
The History of Akbar, by Abu’l-Fazl, is one of the most important works of Indo-Persian history and a touchstone of prose artistry. It is at once a biography of the Mughal emperor Akbar that includes descriptions of his political and martial feats and cultural achievements, and a chronicle of sixteenth-century India.
Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women
Therīgāthā is a poetry anthology in the Pali language by and about the first Buddhist women. The poems they left behind are arguably among the most ancient examples of women’s writing in the world and are unmatched for their quality of personal expression and the extraordinary insight they offer into women’s lives in the ancient Indian past.
The Story of Manu
The Story of Manu, by sixteenth-century poet Allasani Peddana, is the definitive literary monument of Telugu civilization and a powerful embodiment of the culture of Vijayanagara, the last of the great premodern south Indian states. It describes kingship and its exigencies at the time of Krishnadevaraya, Peddana’s close friend and patron.
Sur's Ocean: Poems from the Early Tradition
Surdas, regarded as the epitome of artistry in Old Hindi religious poetry from the end of the sixteenth century to the present, refashioned the narrative of Krishna and his lover Radha into elegant, approachable lyrics. His popularity led to the proliferation, through an energetic oral tradition, of poems ascribed to him, the Sūrsāgar.
The History of Akbar, Volume 2
The History of Akbar by Abu’l-Fazl is one of the most important works of Indo-Persian history and a touchstone of prose artistry. In this volume, Humayun’s turbulent reign ends, and Akbar ascends his father’s throne.
The Epic of Ram, Volume 1
The Epic of Ram by Tulsidas has become the most beloved retelling of the ancient Ramayana story across northern India and an influential literary masterpiece. This volume presents the poet’s grand introduction to Ram, setting the stage for his advent and divine mission.
The Epic of Ram, Volume 2
The Epic of Ram by Tulsidas has become the most beloved retelling of the ancient Ramayana story across northern India and an influential literary masterpiece. This volume recounts Ram’s birth on earth, his youthful adventures, and the celebration of his marriage to Sita.
Arjuna and the Hunter
Arjuna and the Hunter, by the sixth-century poet Bharavi, portrays Arjuna’s travels to the Himalayas, where Shiva tests the hero’s courage in combat and bestows upon him an invincible weapon. This is a masterful contemplation of ethical conduct, ascetic discipline, and religious devotion—enduring themes in Indian literature.
The History of Akbar, Volume 3
The History of Akbar by Abu’l-Fazl is one of the most important works of Indo-Persian history and a touchstone of prose artistry, and is both a biography and a chronicle of sixteenth-century India. In this volume, the Mughal Emperor Akbar quells a rebellion, conquers Malwa, and marries a Rajput princess.
The Killing of Shishupala
Magha’s The Killing of Shishupala is a celebrated seventh-century Sanskrit poem that tells the story of Shishupala’s refusal to honor the divine Krishna at the coronation of Yudhishthira. Through this translation, the first into English, readers gain access to a sophisticated work that has dazzled Indian audiences for a thousand years.
In Praise of Annada, Volume 1
In Praise of Annada, Bharatchandra Ray’s long narrative poem dedicated to the glory of Annada, translated here into English for the first time, is a major achievement and a treasure of Bengali literature. This volume describes the origins of the goddess, the building of her city and temple, and the spread of her worship.
The Life of Harishchandra
In Raghavanka’s poetic masterpiece The Life of Harishchandra, a powerful sage tests King Harishchandra’s commitment to truth. He suffers utter deprivation but refuses to yield. This spirited translation, the first from Kannada into any language, brings one of ancient India’s most enduring legends to a global readership.
The History of Akbar, Volume 4
The History of Akbar, Volume 4 by Abu’l-Fazl narrates the second eight years of Akbar’s reign, including his visit to Ajmer, the arrival of an embassy from the Safavid court, and the author’s brother’s career as court poet. The Persian text, presented in the Naskh script, is based on a careful reassessment of the primary sources.
The Epic of Ram, Volume 3
The Epic of Ram, Volume 3 details the schemes of Ram’s stepmother, who thwarts his installation on the throne of Avadh. Ram calmly accepts fourteen years of forest exile with his wife, Sita, and younger brother Lakshman. This edition features the Avadhi text in the Devanagari script alongside the English translation.
The Epic of Ram, Volume 4
The Epic of Ram, Volume 4 turns to the story of Ram’s younger half-brother Bharat. Despite efforts to place him on the throne of Avadh, Bharat refuses, ashamed that Ram has been exiled, and makes a pilgrimage to restore the true heir. This edition features the Avadhi text in the Devanagari script alongside the English translation.
The Life of Padma, Volume 1
The Life of Padma, Volume 1 recounts the histories and noteworthy ancestors of Rama’s allies and enemies, focusing on his antagonist Ravana. This first direct translation into English of the oldest extant work in Apabhramsha is accompanied by a corrected reprint in the Devanagari script of Harivallabh C. Bhayani’s critical edition.
Shah Abdul Latif’s Risalo is acknowledged as the greatest classic of Sindhi literature. In this collection of Sufi verses, composed for musical performance, the poet creates a vast imaginative world of interlocking references to Islamic themes of mystical and divine love and the scenery, society, and legends of the Sindh region.