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Rohan Murty Revives Indian Classics in Modern Library

sufi-lyrics-spreadInfosys founder Narayana Murthy’s son Rohan, who was known to have invested in SKS Microfinance and other service-oriented firms has come to prominence when he donated not for a temple like many billionaires in India do but to set up the Murty Classical Library of India.

With an aim to present “the greatest literary works of India from the past two millennia to the largest readership in the world” the Murty Classical Library is into re-introducing these classics, a part of world literature’s treasured heritage, to a new generation world over.

Translated into English by eminent scholars, with a contemporary book design, and featuring elegant, newly commissioned typefaces, these volumes are a modern invitation to diverse pre-modern literary worlds in Indian languages such as Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.


The series provide English translations of classical works alongside the Indic originals in regional script. Every year, new volumes will be added to the series.

The first five volumes released last month include: Bullhe Shah’s Sufi Lyrics; volume 1 of The history of Akbar by Abul Fazl; Therigatha: Poems of the first Buddhist women; the Telugu classic, The story of Manu; and Sur’s Ocean, on the work attributed to the blind poet Surdas.

Rohan Narayana Murty, computer scientist and a lover of the Indian classics has taken up another philanthropic mission up on his shoulders after his stint at Infosys as an executive to his father till last year.

“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,” said Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

Below is a list of in-print works in recent collection:


1. Cover: Sufi Lyrics

Sufi Lyrics

Shah, Bullhe
Shackle, Christopher

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.

2. Cover: The History of Akbar, Volume 1

The History of Akbar, Volume 1

Thackston, Wheeler M.

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.

3. Cover: Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women

Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women

Hallisey, Charles

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.

4. Cover: The Story of Manu

The Story of Manu

Peddana, Allasani
Narayana Rao, Velcheru
Shulman, David

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.

5. Cover: Sur's Ocean: Poems from the Early Tradition

Sur’s Ocean: Poems from the Early Tradition

Bryant, Kenneth E.
Hawley, John Stratton

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, theSūrsāgar.


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