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
“We can only welcome an undertaking like the Murty Classical Library of India, which intends to inject fresh blood directly into the circulatory system of the English language… [It] offers a surprising array of texts…capable of broadening the all-too-restricted horizons of the average Western reader.”—Roberto Calasso, New York Review of Books
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:
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: Selected 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.
The History of Akbar, Volume 5
The History of Akbar, Volume 5 by Abu’l-Fazl details the seventeenth to twenty-second years of Akbar’s reign, including the conquest of Gujarat, the capture of Rohtas fort from rebel Afghans, and the invasions of Patna and Bengal. The Persian text, presented in the Naskh script, is based on a careful reassessment of primary sources.
A Treatise on Dharma
A Treatise on Dharma, written in the fourth or fifth century, illuminates major innovations in religious, civil, and criminal law, and informed Indian life for a thousand years. This new critical edition, presented alongside the Sanskrit original in the Devanagari script, opens the classical age of ancient Indian law to modern readers.
Selected Ghazals and Other Poems
Mir Muhammad Taqi Mir is widely regarded as the most accomplished poet in the Urdu language. Selected Ghazals and Other Poems offers a comprehensive collection of ghazals and masnavis. The Urdu text, presented here in the Nastaliq script, accompanies new translations of Mir’s poems, some appearing in English for the first time.
Remembrances, by acclaimed poet Mir Muhammad Taqi Mir, is a remarkable example of Indo-Persian autobiography, offering a vivid picture of political events and intrigues from 1760 to 1789. The Persian text in the Naskh script, including a series of jokes and anecdotes printed here for the first time, accompanies a newly revised English translation.
The History of Akbar, Volume 6
The History of Akbar, Volume 6 by Abu’l-Fazl details the twenty-third to twenty-eighth years of Akbar’s reign, including accounts of the quelling of rebellions in Bihar, Bengal, and Kabul, and final victory in Gujarat. The Persian text, presented in the Naskh script, is based on a careful reassessment of primary sources.
The Epic of Ram, Volume 5
The Epic of Ram, Volume 5 relates the story’s three middle episodes—Ram’s battles with demons, the kidnapping of his wife, and his alliance with a race of marvelous monkeys—and climaxes in Hanuman’s journey to the island of Lanka to find Sita. This edition features the Avadhi text in the Devanagari script alongside the English translation.
In Praise of Annada, Volume 2
This volume of Bharatchandra Ray’s narrative poem In Praise of Annada recounts the clandestine love affair of Princess Vidya and Prince Sundar, and how Bhavananda stopped a rebellion and became a king. The translation, the first in English, features the original text in the Bangla script of this treasure of Bengali literature.
The History of Akbar, Volume 7
The History of Akbar by Abu’l-Fazl is one of the most important works of Indo-Persian history. Volume 7 includes accounts of the marriage of Akbar’s heir Salim, the pacification of Bengal, and the emperor’s visits to Kashmir, the Punjab, and Kabul. The Persian text is presented in the Naskh script along with a new English translation.
Poems from the Satsai
In Poems from the Satsai, the seventeenth-century poet Biharilal blends amorous narratives about the god Krishna and the goddess Radha with archetypal hero and heroine motifs from older Sanskrit and Prakrit conventions. The Hindi text, composed in Braj Bhasha, is presented here in the Devanagari script with a new English verse translation.
The Essence of Politics
Kamandaki’s influential The Essence of Politics redefined political thought in early medieval India. Its lessons range from the finer points of military strategy and economic policy to the moral qualities of effective rulers. The Sanskrit text, presented here in the Devanagari script, accompanies a new English prose translation.
The romance Lilavai, an early ninth-century poem attributed to Kouhala, is a complexly woven narrative of love and fate centered on three young women: Lilavai, princess of today’s Sri Lanka, and her cousins Mahanumai and Kuvalaavali. A new edition of the Prakrit text, presented in the Devanagari script, accompanies a new English prose translation.