A Loeb Library For Indian Literature

The stunning poetry, prose, history and philosophy of classical Indian literature. Emerging in a huge new collection. We’ll dip in.

The Hindu god Krishna and Gopis in the forest. (WikiCommons)

The Hindu god Krishna and Gopis in the forest. (WikiCommons)

Talk of the classics, classical literature, and minds quickly go to ancient Greece and Rome.  To Greek and Latin.  Homer and Virgil.  But there are other, giant classical traditions, of course.  One of the greatest, out of India.  Essentially unknown in the West until 200 years ago.  Its surface still barely scratched in English translation.  A huge new project aims to change that, with 500 new volumes.  The first five are out.  It’s a different setting:  elephants, blood rice, moonbirds.  And a different way of seeing human life.  This hour On Point: we’re dipping into the new Murty Classical Library of India.

— Tom Ashbrook


Sheldon Pollock, professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia University. General editor of the Murty Classical Library of India. Author of “The Language of the Gods in the World of Men.”

V. Narayana Rao, professor of South Asian Studies at Emory University. Co-translator of the Murty Classical Library version of “The Story of Manu.”

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Literature of India, Enshrined in a Series — “The Murty Classical Library of India, whose first five dual-language volumes will be released next week, will include not only Sanskrit texts but also works in Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Persian, Prakrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and other languages. Projected to reach some 500 books over the next century, the series is to encompass poetry and prose, history and philosophy, Buddhist and Muslim texts as well as Hindu ones, and familiar works alongside those that have been all but unavailable to nonspecialists.”

Times of India: Murty’s classical Indian library — “The Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI) plans to publish around 5 books every year for the next 100 years. In another 10 years, at least 50 and possibly 70 books, published by Harvard University Press, will be available to a global audience. They will unearth some rare gems: Bullhe Shah’s works in Gurmukhi, the Akbarnama in Persian and Manucharitramu in Telugu.”

Times Higher Education Supplemental: First shelf filled in Murty Classical Library of India — “Although subsidised paperbacks will be available in India, Professor Pollock also predicts substantial sales in the West among scholars and those learning the languages of India or studying its literature and civilisation. Volumes already commissioned date from several centuries before Christ to 1800. As the library develops, it will include material originating everywhere from Afghanistan to Burma, and from Nepal to Sri Lanka. Thirteen languages are represented and the series is expected to include up to 20. Many of the texts have never been translated into English before and some are in little-studied dead languages.”

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