Murty Classical Library of India – Sufi Lyrics, Akbarnama, and more classical gems

Instead of writing only about books I’ve read, I am now writing about books I want (yearn) to read. Today’s newspapers mention Narayana Murthy’s young (rich) son squandering his wealth on something substantial: classical literature! Woohoo! 4.5 million dollars being endowed into the creation of the Murty Classical Library of India. (I wonder what happened to the ‘h’ in Murthy? Update: The ‘h’ is missing because his mother’s surname is Murty. Go matrilineal society!)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m excited! There are a few works already out, including Sufi Lyrics by Bullhe Shah which I almost ordered this morning. Other works include The History of Akbar (Akbarnama) by Abu’l-Fazl, Therigatha Poems of the first Buddhist Women and Telegu literary gem The Story of Mannu (Manucaritrama).

I’ve only read a single page of Bullhe Shah’s translation so I can’t be the best judge, but I think I am correct in saying that these are not the drab, tired, literal translations that we’re used to. No, these translations are fresher, more colloquial; words that capture the poetic essence of the works. For example:


“Bullhe – does anyone know the true nature of love? It is
beautiful by name, but its actions are troublesome,
destroying both waking hours and sleep.”

These are facing-page translation, ie, the original work on the left (in the original language) and the English translation on the right.

And now I am going to progress to judge a book by it’s cover (eeps!). The Murty Classical Library book covers are attractive in the classical way. Minimal, hard-bound, gold embossed. Could fit right into a shelf of a DU or Presidency or Oxford college library (with an added layer of dust). The logo is of an elephant, albeit slightly funky with a curlicued trunk (funky orientalism?).

Yep, let’s give these a shot, I say!

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