Book Links: Dictionaries, Grammars, History

*Most books are in English, those in other languages (French, Spanish, German) are marked by the appropriate flags.

*I have avoided diacritics in the transliteration of Sanskrit names providing often alternative spellings to facilitate their recognition.

*Wherever possible, links are directed to pages indicating the format and size of the book files, but occasionally a link will be to a pdf file (those cases are marked with a pdf sign and the size of the file is indicated).


-A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Monier-Williams. 2nd ed. (1899, reprinted in 1960).  
  In spite of its age, it is still the most complete of its kind, including more than 160,000 entries. An essential tool for the study and translation of Sanskrit. In the web it is available in:   

  1. a) Facsimile (in pdf and djvu formats) with entries in devanagari and transliterated.

  2. b) HTML in Harvard-Kyoto transliteration (without diacritics). Extremely practical; the website requires registration (free)

  3. c) HTML in modern transliteration (with diacritics in Unicode).

-The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary. V. S. Apte. 4th ed. (1965). 
  This fourth edition is based in the 2nd (1912) edition with about 10,000 new terms added. Not as complete as the Monier Williams, it is, however, a heavyweight with close to 1200 pages. Entries are only in devanagari, without transliteration. 

-A Sanskrit-English Dictionary (based upon the St. Petersburg lexicons). C. Cappeller (1891). 
  Written originally in German, it was translated into English by the author. Middle-sized, it contains about 50,000 entries in devanagari only, without transliteration. 

-Dictionnaire Sanskrit-Français. N. Stchoupak, L. Nitti & L. Renou (1959).
  Very neatly organized, it presents about 60,000 entries, in transliteration only, including a good number of compound words.  Translations are precise but a bit too concise. 
-Dictionnaire Sanskrit-Français. G. Huet (2007).
  Modern and approachable. It has close to 20,000 entries in devanagari and transliteration. Good covering of mythology and philosophy.

-The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary. T.W. Rhys Davids (1921-25). 
  With about 30,000 terms in transliteration. Remarkable for its many quotations from buddhist books to give examples of word usage.

-Concise Pali-English Dictionary. A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera (1997). 
  Very useful and quite broad with its 20,000 words (in transliteration). Complemented by the
English-Pali dictionary of the same author.

-The Student's Pali-English Dictionary. Maung Tin (1920). 
  Concise and practical; it contains around 10,000 entries.

-Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines. Maha Thera Nyanatiloka (1980). 
  It is a mixed dictionary with entries in Pali and English included in the same column of text.


-A Sanskrit Grammar including both the classical language, and the older dialects, of Veda and Brahmana. W.D. Whitney. 2nd ed. (1889).

  For a long time, it was regarded as the standard grammar, but nowadays it has been superseded, in great measure, by those of Macdonell and others.

-A Higher Sanskrit Grammar for the use of schools and colleges. M.R. Kale. 3a ed. (1894). 
  This work, like the preceding one, is less clear than the two following grammars.

-A Vedic Grammar for Students. A.A. Macdonell (1916). 
  A very convenient grammar of Vedic Sanskrit, essential for those who want to read the Vedas and Brahmanas.

-A Vedic Reader for Students. A.A. Macdonell (1917). 
  Designed to be used in conjunction with the Vedic grammar of the same author, it is an ideal tool for those who knowing Classical Sanskrit would like to start with Vedic Sanskrit on their own. After an introduction about the Vedic religion, 30 complete hymns of the
Rig Veda are analyzed and translated with many accompanying notes.

-A Sanskrit Grammar for Students. A.A. Macdonell (1927). 
  It should satisfy most needs of Classical Sanskrit students. Identical structure to the Vedic grammar of the same author, to ease consultation and comparisons.

-A Sanskrit Reader with Vocabulary and Notes. C.R. Lanman (1912). 
  Popular anthology of texts for Sanskrit students, including extracts of the “History of Nala” (from the
Mahabharata), tales from the Hitopadesha and the Kathasaritsagara; selections from the “Laws of Manu”, 31 Vedic hymns, fragments of the Yajur Veda, Brahmanas and Grihya Sutras. The texts are accompanied by grammar notes and all of the Sanskrit words reappear in the glossary.

-Practical Grammar of the Pali Language. C. Duroiselle (1915). 
  A good elementary grammar.

-Introduction to Prakrit. A.C. Woolner (1917). 
  This excellent book has two parts. In the first one, after an introduction, a classification of the Prakrits is given and a grammar presented, ending with a brief panorama of their literature. The second one is an anthology of 35 Prakrit texts in transliteration and English translation.         


-Amarakocha ou Vocabulaire d'Amarasinha. Tr: A. Loiseleur Deslongchamps (1839-45). 

  This is the most famous Sanskrit lexical work, Amarakosa (Amarakosha), composed by Amarasimha in the 7th or 8th centuries AD., who ordered words by semantic groups, adding appendices on homonyms and the grammatical genre. This bilingual edition is complete in spite of being subtitled "Première Partie". Because of the nature of the work and the sparse translation, it is only useful for those that already have a knowledge of Sanskrit.

-Pali Roots in Saddaniti/Raíces Pali en el Saddaniti. U. Silananda & Bhikku Nandisena (2005).

  It compares the Pali roots contained in the medieval grammar Saddaniti Dhatumala with their Sanskrit equivalents contained in the grammar Paniniya Dhatupatha, translating them in English and Spanish.

HISTORY.  PRIMARY SOURCES (classified according to their original language)

  1. a) Sanskrit and Prakrits

  2. -Inscriptions in Project South Asia
      Some of the most important inscriptions of all periods.

  3. -The Edicts of King Asoka. Tr: S. Dhammika (1993). 
      A modern and intelligible translation of all the edicts of the Maurya king Asoka (Ashoka). They are unique documents not only because they are the first inscriptions of India but also because of their ethical content, in contrast with the usual exaltation of themselves by other kings.  

  4. -Arthashastra. ¿Kautilya? Tr: R. Shamasastry (1915). 
    Arthashastra (Arthasastra) is a key work detailing how the state and the economy were organized and functioned at the end of the first millennium BC.

  5. -Mahavamsa: The Great Chronicle of Ceylon. Tr: W. Geiger (1912).
    Mahavamsa (Mahavamsha) is an early chronicle of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) starting with the colonization of the island, and ending with the reign of king Mahasena (early 4th c. AD). Written in  Pali by Buddhist monks, its main focus is religion; however it remains a valuable historical source for this little known period.

    b) Chinese
    A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms. Fa Xian. Tr: J. Legge. 
      This is the relatively brief  account of his epic travel to India by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Fa Xian (Fa Xien, Fa Hsien), between 399-414 AD. It is one of the rare foreign sources for this era, although its value is lessened by providing little information beyond Buddhist matters. Another translation of this work is that of S. Beal (see next entry).

-Si Yu Ki. Buddhist Records of the Western World (Vol I, Vol II). Xuan Zang. Tr: S. Beal (1906). 
  It contains the detailed narrative of the Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang (Hiuen Tsiang, Hsuan Tsang), who visited India between 629-645 AD., searching for Buddhist manuscripts. It is one of the most important sources for this period of Indian history. The lengthy introduction by Beal includes the translation of Fa Xian’s account (see previous entry).

-The Life of Hiuen Tsiang. Hui Li. Tr: S. Beal  (1914). 
  This is the biography of Xuan Zang (Hiuen Tsiang, Hsuan Tsang), written by one of his disciples, providing additional information about his person and his travels until his return to China. The second part of the original work, written by another disciple (Yen-tsong), covering the final years of Xuan Zang was not translated by Beal (see next entry).

-Histoire de la Vie de Hiouen-Thsang. Hui Li. Tr: S. Julien (1853).  
  The original work consists of 10 books. The first five, written by Hui Li, include the biography of Xuan Zang and additional information about his expedition to India, until his return to China. The last five, written by  Yen-tsong, continue with the biography of  Xuan Zang, from his return to China until his death. This translation, like that of Beal (see previous entry), renders the first five books in full, including as well a summary of the last five (ignored by the English translation).

c-d) Arabic/Persian
The History of India Told by its Own Historians (8 vols). Ed: J. Dowson (1867-77). 
  It compiles, in eight volumes, a vast array of selected excerpts from historical texts written by Muslims. They encompass, mostly, the Islamic period (beginning in 1200), except the first volume that include earlier descriptions of India by Arabic travelers and geographers, as well as chronicles of the occupation of Sind by the Arabs in the 8th century.

-The Chachnamah, an Ancient History of Sind. Tr: M.K. Fredunbeg (1900). 
  Local chronicle written in Arabic in the 9th c., lost in the original version, but preserved in a Persian translation. It narrates the arabic conquest of Sind  (actual SE Pakistan) at the beginning of the 8th c.

-A History of Sind (vol II). Tr: M.K. Fredunbeg (1902). 
  Continuation of the preceding volume, it starts with the aftermath of the Arabic conquest and ends with the British invasion, containing the translation of various Persian sources.

-Alberuni’s India. An account of the religion, philosophy, literature, geography, chronology, astronomy, customs, laws and astrology of India about A.D. 1030. (Vol I, Vol II). Tr: E. C. Sachau (1910). 
  This is the famous
Tarik-al-Hind (“History of India”) by the erudite al-Biruni, an encyclopedic work written in Arabic in the 11th c. History is not its main concern, despite its title. The goal of al-Biruni was, instead, to give a comprehensive panorama of Indian culture, reviewing the religions, literatures, astronomy, etc., of India, a country he visited in order to obtain first-hand information.  

-Baharistan-i-Shahi: A Chronicle of Medieval Kashmir. Tr: K.N. Pandita (2005). 
  Persian chronicle treating, mostly, Muslim Kashmir until 1.614.

-The Akbarnama of Abu Fazl (3 vols). Tr: H. Beveridge (1897-1939). 
  Monumental history of the reign of emperor Akbar by Abu i-Fadl (Abu i-Fazl), influential secretary and adviser of Akbar, as well as military commander. It is divided in three parts: the first is the history of the Akbar’s ancestors (starting with Timur), the second details 46 years of his government, the third is the
Ain i Akbari (not included here; see next entry).

-The Ain i Akbari by Abu Fazl Allami (3 vols). Tr: H. Blochmann & H.S. Jarrett (1873-1907). 
  Final part of the
Akbarnama, describing the inner workings of the court, the organization and finances of the state, the culture and society of the Hindus.

-History of the Rise of Mohammedan Power in India (4 vols). Firishtah. Tr: J. Briggs. 
  This is the
Tarik-i Fereshteh, a work written in Persian by the Indian Muslim historian Firishtah (Firistah). He lived at the end of the 16th c., in Bijapur, the capital of one of the most powerful of the Deccan Sultanates. His work is valuable, above all, as a source for the local sultanates’ history.

-The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri or Memoirs of Jahangir (2 vols). Tr: A. Rogers & H. Beveridge (1909-14). 
  Autobiography of Jahangir, Mughal emperor of India between 1569-1627.

-The Political and Statistical History of Gujarat. Ali Mohammed Khan. Tr: J. Bird (1835). 
  Translation of
Mirat Ahmadi or “Mirror of Ahmad”, a history of Gujarat from the 10th century till 1761, composed by a finance minister.

-The Riyazu-s-Salatin, a History of Bengal. Ghulam Husain Salim. Tr: M.A. Salam (1903). 
   The author was an employee of the East India Company, and his history treats the Muslim period of the region, from its beginning until 1786, date when the work was completed.

e) Chatagai
The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur (Vol I, Vol II). Tr: A.S. Beveridge (1922). 
   Autobiography of Babur (1483-1530), the first Mughal emperor of India, inaugurating a literary genre in the Islamic world to give a unique picture of life in Central Asia, Afghanistan and India.

f) Greek
Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian. Tr: J.W. McCrindle (1877). 
  Divided in two parts. The first one is a compilation of epitomes and fragments of the
Indica of Megasthenes (lost in its original form), who was ambassador of Seleucos I before the court of the Maurya king Candragupta, in the third century BC. The second part contains chapters I-XVII of Arrian’s Indica which give a general description of India relying, overall, on Megasthenes (for a complete translation of Arrian’s work see below under Anabasis Alexandri).

-The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century. Tr: W.H. Schoff (1912). 
Periplus is a sort of brief manual for travelers, providing an invaluable information about commerce and navigation in the Indic Ocean area at the beginning of the Christian era. The notes, extremely abundant and detailed, constitute 80% of the book.

-Anabasis Alexandri. Arrian. Tr: E.J. Chinnock (1893).
  An extensive account of the campaigns of Alexander the Great, in seven chapters. An eighth chapter (sometimes published separately), called
Indica, gives a description of India and includes a summary of the expedition of Nearchus (lost in the original) from the Indus river to Mesopotamia.

-Indica. Arrian. See the preceding entry.

g) Latin
Natural History (excerpted from Ancient India as Described in Classical Literature, pages 102-35). Pliny the Elder. Tr: J.W. McCrindle (1901).
  Compilation of various paragraphs about the Indian subcontinent, scattered in the voluminous work of Pliny, finished in 77 AD.

-Itinerary of Alexander. Tr: I. Davies. pdf (0.2 Mb)
  Complete and recent translation of an anonymous work of the 4th c. AD., describing the asiatic campaigns of Alexander including that of India (sections 46-52).

h) Portuguese
 The narratives of Domingo Paes (1520) and Fernao Nuniz (1535) about Vijayanagar appear in the history of R. Sewell:
A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar.

i) Italian
The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo and Rustichello of Pisa (Vol I, Vol II). Tr: Henry Yule (1903) revised by Henry Cordier (1920).
  In his oriental odyssey, the Venetian Marco Polo visited Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and navigated the western coast of peninsular India, at the end of the 13th c., giving a quite limited description of those places.

j) Russian
Voyage to India by Athanasius Nikitin of Twer. Tr: Count Wielhorski.
  Afanasy Nikitin visited Persia and India between 1466-72 leaving this brief report, originally titled “Voyage across the three seas” (Caspian Sea, Black Sea and Indic Ocean).

k) Various
Foreign Notices of South India: from Megasthenes to Ma Huan. Ed: K.A. Nilakanta Sastri (1939).
  Compilation of numerous foreign sources (Greek, Latin, Chinese, Arabic, Persian and European) for the history of South India, most of them scattered in hard to find publications.


-A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar. R. Sewell (1900).

  The long lasting legacy of this book is the publication of the complete testimonies of two Portuguese visitors to Vijayanagar: Domingo Paes in 1520 and Fernao Nuniz in 1535.

-Life in the Gupta Age. R.N. Saletore (1943).

  An ambitious attempt by a renowned historian to recreate the culture of the Gupta era. Beyond the strict chronological limits of this dynasty, Saletore offers an extensive panorama of its history, court and social life, administration, agriculture and commerce, art and religion.

-The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier (1204-1760). R.M. Eaton (1993).
  Excellent study of the causes and consequences of the conversion to Islam of the population of Bengal, an exceptional event in India where Islamization was, generally, less massive.

© 2009 Alejandro Gutman



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