Book Links: Literatures, Science, Art & Architecture


1) Histories of Literature
Geschichte der Indischen Litteratur (Vol I, Vol II, Vol III. M. Winternitz (1909-22). 
  With around 1700 pages in total, it is still today a reference work. Volume I explores the Vedic literature (Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanisads, Vedanga), the Epics and Puranas; volume II, Buddhist and Jain literature (including Mahayana works in Sanskrit); volume III, Classical Sanskrit literature (poetry, drama, narrative, grammar, shastras, philosophy, science) including also, in an appendix, an overview of modern Indic literatures and some information (insufficient) about Tamil literature. 

-A History of Sanskrit Literature. A.A. Mcdonell (1900).
  Vedic literature occupies a dominant place in this neat and well organized history (encompassing more than half of its 500 pages).

-A History of Sanskrit Literature: Classical Period. S.N. Dasgupta & S.K. De (1947).
  An extensive survey (close to 1000 pages) limited to Classical Sanskrit literature.

-A Short History of Sanskrit Literature. R. K. Ramachandra Iyer (1977).
  A sort of concise manual (around  200 pages), conceived for students, covering the whole spectrum of Sanskrit literature.

-Literary History of Sanskrit Buddhism. G.K. Nariman, M. Winternitz, S. Lévi & E. Huber (1923).

  A collection of essays, including several by the editor (Nariman), about Buddhist literature composed in Sanskrit, some of them still interesting.

-A History of Pali Literature (Vol I, Vol II). B. Churn Law (1933).
  A thorough review of the subject (in more than 700 pages in total). The first volume examines the  Pali Canon, and the second the extra-canonical literature (commentaries, chronicles, technical works and belles-lettres).

A History of Hindi Literature. F. E. Keay (1920).
  A clear and concise survey of Hindi literature from its beginnings until the 19th century.

-History of Bengali Language and Literature. D. Chandra Sen (1911).
  A series of university conferences about the history of Bengali language and literature from its beginnings until 1850.

-A History of Persian Language and Literature at the Mughal Court (Vol I, Vol II). M.A. Ghani (1929-30).
  Indo-Persian literature dawns in the Delhi Sultanate and goes on until the end of the Mughal dynasty, but the author is interested only in the period between the reigns of Babur (1526-30) and Akbar (1542-1605). Volume I encompasses the Babur era and volume II that of Humayun; the other volumes are not available yet.

-Le Théatre Indien. S. Lévi (1963). 

  A detailed analysis published initially in 1890, it was reprinted to commemorate the centenary of the author’s birth, a great french indologist, with a chapter added by another famous indologist (L. Renou) to update the subject with the discoveries occurred since.

-The Indian Theatre: Its Origin and Development up to the Present Day. C. Bhan Gupta (1954).
  University thesis focused on the actual theatrical representation: building, stage, accessories, actors and types of plays, adding also a chapter about of its origin and another about the modern theatre.

2) Sanskrit

a) Epics
The Mahabharata. Trad: K.M. Ganguli (1883-96).
  This is the only complete, and more or less reliable, translation of the enormous epic into a Western language. For this reason, still essential. Published in 11 volumes in Kolkata, it has its faults and critics abound, but in my opinion it is reasonable, in particular in the narrative sections. An inconvenience is the total absence of indexes and notes.

Nalopakhyanam. Story Of Nala (An Episode Of The Maha-Bharata). Tr: D. Milman & M. Monier-Williams (1879).
Nalopakhyana (Nala Upakhyana), or the romance of Nala and Damayanti, is one of the most popular episodes of the epic, here accompanied by the original Sanskrit text.

-Ramayan of Valmiki. Tr: T.H. Griffith (1870-74).
  Mediocre translation in rhymed stanzas of most of the
Ramayana. It doesn’t include Book VII, and a number of cantos from other books were capriciously omitted by the translator.

-Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia. Ed: P. Richman (1991).
  Various authors contribute essays highlighting the existence of several hundreds of Ramayanas in India and Southeast Asia, considering them as autonomous creations and not derivative works based on Valmiki’s.

-The Bengali Ramayanas. R.S. Dineshchandra Sen (1920).
  Several possible sources for the
Ramayana are examined including legends and narratives that survived in Bengal. Also, information is provided about the various versions of the epic composed in Bengali.

b) Classical Poetry
Buddhacarita. Asvaghosha. Tr: E. B. Cowell. (1894). Included in “Buddhist Mahayana Texts”, volume 49 of the Sacred Books of the East. 
Buddhacarita (Buddha Charita), the “Life of Buddha” or “Acts of Buddha” (2nd c. AD), is the first surviving maha-kavya or “long poem”. Only the first 13 cantos, of the original 28, are preserved. This old, but still readable, translation adds 4 apocryphal cantos to give a total of 17.

-The Birth of the War-god: A Poem by Kalidasa. Tr: R.T.H. Griffith (1853).
  Contains the first 7, out of the 17 cantos of 
Kumarasambhava, one of two maha-kavyas or “long poems” by Kalidasa, which tells the events leading to the marriage between Siva and Parvati in order to procreate Kumara, the god of war. The rest of the poem is considered apocryphal (with the exception of canto VIII). This translation is in victorian verse with its inevitable distortions and limitations.

-The Raghuvanca: the Story of Raghu’s Line. Kalidasa. Tr: P. De Lacy Johnstone (1902).
  The other long poem by Kalidasa, the
Raghuvamsa (Raghu Vamsha), relates the history of the solar dynasty. One of its members is the Raghu of the title, another is Rama  who is the protagonist here of an epitome of the Ramayana.

-The Meghaduta of Kalidasa. Tr: Mc Comas Taylor. pdf (0.1 Mb)
  A recent and faithful translation, in prose, of a beautiful lyrical poem of Kalidasa, briefer than the two previous (120 stanzas).

-The Satakas or Wise Sayings of Bhartrihari. Tr: J.M. Kennedy (1913).
  This is the
Sataka-traya (“Three Hundred Poems”) of Bhartrihari, a very personal poet of the 7th century. It is divided in three parts, of 100 brief poems each: Niti Sataka (“Century of Good Conduct”), Sringara Sataka (“Century of Erotism”) and Vairagya Sataka (“Century of Renunciation”). Unfortunately, this translation is prosaic, cumbersome, and often unfaithful.

-The Nitisataka and Vairagyasataka of Bhartrhari. Tr: M.R. Kale (1902).

  Bilingual and annotated version of two centuries of Bhartrihari  (see previous entry). The erotic century was not included because it offended victorian morals. This translation is as cumbersome and prosaic as the precedent, but more faithful.

-The Vairagya Satakam or The Hundred Verses on Renunciation. Ed: M. Lal Sah Chowdhary (1916).

  The final century of Bhartrihari with the same defects as the translations above, but quite faithful, and often more accurate than them.

-The Fifty Stanzas of a Thief.  Bilhana. Tr: R. Gombrich (1971).
  A well-known poem of the 11th century attributed to Bilhana (
Caura-pancasika) in a good modern rendering.

-The Indian Song of Songs. From the Sanskrit of the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva. Tr: E. Arnold (1875).
  The popular devotional-erotic songs of the Bengali Jayadeva, whose theme are the love between Krishna and Radha, interpreted by a great victorian poet.

-Mockery of Kali Age. Nilakhanta Dikshita. Tr: S. Vasudeva (2005).
   Incisive and short satyrical poem of the 17th century attacking scholars, medics, astrologers, poets, and the rich and stingy...

The Panchatantra. Tr: A.W. Ryder (1925).
Pancatantra ("Five Books”) is an early collection of fables joined by a framework story, influencing the 1001 Nights and the European literature of La Fontaine and others.

-Hindoo Tales or The Adventures of Ten Princes. Dandin. Tr: P.W. Jacob (1873).
  This is the
Dasakumaracarita (Dasha Kumara Charita), a succession of quite preposterous adventures that offer, nevertheless, a glimpse over strata of Indian society rarely present in Sanskrit literature.

-The Harsa-carita of Bana. Tr: E.B. Cowell (1897).
  This is the only English translation of
Harsacarita (Harshacharita), a “biography” of Harsa, the famous king of Kanauj (606-647 dC), written in a brilliant and recherché literary prose.

-The Kadambari of Bana. Tr: C.M. Ridding (1896).
  A kind  of "romance" by the same Bana of the
Harsacarita, and similar in style to it. Left unfinished, it was concluded (mediocrely) by his son. Some passages were arbitrarily omitted by Ridding.

-Twenty Two Goblins. Tr: A.W. Ryder (1917).
  Rendering of 22 of the 25 popular “Tales of the Vetala” (
Vetalapancavimsatika) whose protagonists are the mythical king Vikramaditya and a spirit that animates dead bodies (the vetala of the title).

-Ocean of the Streams of Story (Vol I, Vol II). Tr: C.H. Tawney (1880).
  The only complete English translation of the
Kathasaritsagara (Katha Sarit Sagara), one of the most remarkable collection of stories from India, integrating in its complex structure versions of many well-known tales in addition to new ones.

-The Ocean of Story (Vol I, Vol II, Vol III, Vol IV, Vol V, Vol VI, Vol VII, Vol VIII, Vol IX, Vol X). Tr: C.H. Tawney. Ed: N.M. Penzer (1924).
  A luxury edition, in 10 volumes, expanding Tawney‘s (see previous entry) with notes and long appendixes added by Penzer, a scholar interested in the comparison of stories among different Eastern and Western literatures. 

-Hitopadesa: a New Literal Translation. Tr: F. Pincott (1880). Another translation is that by E. Arnold (1893).
Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha) or “Beneficent Instruction”, is a re-elaboration of the Pancatantra’s fables with didactic and moralizing purposes, presented here in a quite faithful translation directed mainly to Sanskrit students, but accessible to everybody.

-Hitopadésa ou L’Instruction Utile. Tr: E. Lancereau (1855).  
  See previous entry.
  1. d) Drama
    The Dasarupa, a Treatise on Hindu Dramaturgy. Dhanamjaya. Tr: G.C.O. Haas (1912).
      Written towards the end of the 10th century under Vakpati (974-995), king of the Paramara dynasty of Malwa,
    Dasarupa (Dasharupa) is a brief manual, presenting the rules of dramatic composition formulated in the Natyasastra in a more concise and systematic manner than his predecessor. This very good version is preceded by an illuminating introduction, notes, and excerpts from the medieval commentary of Dhanika.

-Thirteen Plays of Bhasa. Tr: A.C. Wolner & L. Sarup (1930).
  These 13 dramas were re-discovered at the beginning of the 20th century and attributed without much proof to  Bhasa: 1) The Minister’s Promises (
Pratijna Yaugandharayana), 2) Vasavadatta’s Vision (Svapna-Vasavadatta), 3) Carudatta in Poverty (Daridra-Carudatta), 4) The Five Nights (Panca-ratra), 5) The Middle One (Madhyama-vyayoga), 6) The Statue (Pratima-nataka), 7) The Envoy’s Discourse (Duta-vakya), 8) The Messenger Ghatotkaca (Duta-Ghatotkaca), 9) Karna’s Task (Karna-bhara), 10) The Broken Thighs (Uru-bhanga), 11) Avimaraka (idem), 12) The Story of the Child (Bala-carita), 13) The Coronation (Abhiseka-nataka).

-The Little Clay Cart by Shudraka. Tr: A.W. Ryder (1905).
  A long and fascinating drama of political intrigue interwoven with amorous adventures, in 10 acts, attributed (doubtfully) to a king called Sudraka. Its Sanskrit tile is
Mrcchakatika (Mric Chakatika).

-Le Chariot de Terre Cuite (Vol I, Vol II, Vol III, Vol IV). Sudraka. Tr: P. Regnaud (1877).  
  See previous entry.

-Shakuntala. Kalidasa. Tr: A.W. Ryder (1914).
  The best of three plays authored by Kalidasa (its full title is
Abhijnanasakuntala or "The Recognition of Sakuntala"), unanimously regarded as a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature.
-Malavika and Agnimitra. Kalidasa. Tr: E.W. Gerow (1971). Mahfil, Vol VII, 3-4, pp. 67-128.
  Another, lighter, theatrical work by Kalidasa, qualified as a “harem comedy” by its excellent translator.

-The Vikramorvasiyam, a Drama in 5 acts. Tr: S. Pandurang (1879).
  This one completes the triad of surviving dramatical works of Kalidasa. Called also
Vikramorvasi, and usually rendered as “Urvashi conquered by Valor", it is dominated by the love affair between the mythical king Pururavas and Urvashi, a nymph in the court of the god Indra.

-Priyadarsika. Harsha. Tr: G.K. Nariman y A. Williams Jackson (2000).
  One of three dramas attributed to king Harsha of Kanauj, its plot being the amorous adventures of the fictional king Udayana. 

-Nagananda or the Joy of the Snake-world (a Buddhist drama in five acts). Harsha. Tr: P. Boyd (1872).
  Another piece attributed to Harsha, but very different in nature than the previous one, being a moving Buddhist parable. An identical version, without notes but having the final paragraph missing in this version can be find

-Malati and Madhava or The Stolen Marriage. Bhavabhuti. Tr: H.H. Wilson (1901).
  One of three surviving dramas by Bhavabhuti: a sentimental story in 10 acts.

-Rama's Later History or Uttara Rama Carita. Bhavabhuti. Trad: S.K. Belvalkar (1915).
  The most significant work of Bhavabhuti. Unusual for its pathetic feeling, is without doubt one of the best in the genre.

-The Hermit and the Harlot. Bhaudayana. Tr: J. Buitenen (1971). Mahfil, Vol VII, 3-4, pp. 149-166. 

  Brief, tepid, one-act farce, called Bhagavadajjukiyas in Sanskrit.

3) Pali (see Pali Canon)

4)  Prakrit
-Ravanavaho oder Setubandha (Vol I, Vol II. Tr:  S. Goldschmidt (1880-84).  
   "Death of Ravana", known also as "The Building of the Bridge", is an epic poem based on the
Ramayana, and  composed in Maharastri, the most literary of Prakrits. Volume I contains the original in devanagari and volume II its translation into German.

5) Hindustani/Urdu
-Bagh o Bahar or Tales of the Four Darweshes. Mir Amman. Tr: D. Forbes (1857). Another translation is that by E.B. Eastwick (1852).
  A classic of Urdu narrative. A re-elaboration of a medieval Persian narrative done by Mir Amman of Delhi in 1803. 

-Hindustani Lyrics. Tr: I. Khan & J.D. Westbrook (1919).
  Anthology of a number of poets in the Hindustani language, belonging to the 17th and 18th centuries.

6) Hindi
One Hundred Poems of Kabir. Tr: R. Tagore (1915).
  The poems of Kabir (1440-1518) reflect his religious ideals, his desire for a syncretism between Hinduism and Islam, and his equitable vision of society.

-The Ramayana of Tulsi Das. Tr: F.S. Growse (1914).
  The summit of Hindi literature, a free version of  Valmiki’s epic, titled originally
Ramacaritamanasa (Rama-carita-manasa) or Ramcaritmanas.

7) Marathi
Psalms of Maratha Saints. Tr: N. Macnicol (1920).
  Selection of 108 hymns from six devotional poets, the majority belonging to Tukaram (1608-49), the most famous of them.

8) Tamil
Hymns of the Tamil Saivite Saints. Tr: F. Kinhsbury & G.E. Phillips (1921).
  This bilingual edition contains an anthology of Saivite poetry from the
Tevaram  and the Tiruvasagam. The first one is a collection of brief hymns, composed in the 7th-8th centuries by three nayanars or poet-saints devoted to Siva (Sambandar, Appar y Sundarar). The second one is the work of  Manikavasagar containing much longer hymns. A complete translation of the Tiruvasagam can be found below.

-The Tiruvacagam or 'Sacred Utterances' of the Tamil Poet, Saint and Sage Manikka-vacagar. Tr: G.U. Pope (1900).
Tiruvasagam is the opus magnum of Manikavasagar, the most profound and intense poet devoted to Siva, who lived in the 9th century. This bilingual edition is the only complete translation of this work into English.

-Hymns of the Alvars. Tr: J. Hooper (1929).
  A selection of poems by five of the twelve
alvars, the poet-saints devoted to Visnu (Periyalvar, Tirumangai, Kulasekaran, Andal and Nammalvar) who lived in the 9th-10th centuries.

The Sacred Kural or the Tamil Veda of Tiruvalluvar. Tr: H. A. Popley (1931).
  This is the
Tirukkural, a famous collection of very brief couplets (kural), by Tiruvalluvar, a weaver of the 5th century, in which he communicates his ideas about virtue, wealth and pleasure.

-The Naladiyar. Tr: F.L. Leeper Tranquebar (1873).
  A moralizing and sententious work, with a touch of melancholy, reflecting upon death and existential values.

9) Kannada
A Flowering Tree and Other Oral Tales from India. Tr: A.K. Ramanujan (1997).
  77 popular tales collected and translated by a poet and scholar specialized in Dravidian languages.

  1. 10) Telugu
    Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology. Tr: V. Narayana Rao & D. Shulman (2002).
      Anthology of  Telugu literature, a Dravidian language akin to Tamil, spoken in the Andhra region of southeast India. This recent translation, done by experts in the field, covers all the major poets, starting with Nannaya in the 9th century up to Tyagaraja in the 19th.

-When God Is a Customer. Telugu Courtesan Songs by Ksetrayya and Others. Tr: A.K. Ramanujan, V. Narayana Rao & D. Shulman (1994).

  Selection of brief devotional poems, erotic in tone (padam), composed in Telugu by men, but destined to be sung by women. The more important poets of the genre are sampled here:  Annamayya, Ksetrayya and Sarangapani, who lived between the 15th and 18th centuries. The poet and scholar A.K. Ramanujan joins in this enterprise the translators of the previous publication.


-Indian Mathematics. School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland.
  This is not, in fact, a book but an excellent website about mathematics and its history, included here because it is the major reference on the subject available in the web. The section devoted to ancient India is extensive, being composed by a series of topics and biographies.

-The Hindu-Arabic Numerals. D.E. Smith (1911).
  This book traces the evolution of numerals in India, explaining thoroughly the origin of zero and place-value notation system, its adoption by the Arabs and its introduction in Europe.

-The Aryabhatiya of Aryabhata. An Ancient Indian Work on Mathematics and Astronomy. Tr: W.E. Clark (1930).
  A key work in the history of astronomy and mathematics composed of 118 stanzas (scientific works were usually in verse), written in 499 AD. Explained in detail by the translator.

-The Brihat Jataka of Varaha Mihira. Tr: N.Chidambaram Aiyar (1905).
  A treatise on astrology by an astronomer and mathematician of the 6th century AD.

-Bija Ganita or The Algebra of the Hindus. Bhaskaracarya. Tr: E. Strachey (1813).
  Important monograph by Bhaskara, a mathematician of the 12th century, called also Bhaskara II or Bhaskaracarya (“master Bhaskara”) to distinguish him from another mathematician of the same name. In it, besides dealing magisterially with various types of equations, he deals with positive and negative numbers, and division by zero. Unfortunately, this is not the most convenient edition as it is a translation of a Persian translation.

-The Sushruta Samhita (Vol I, Vol II, Vol III). Tr: K.K. Lal Bhishagratna (1907-16).
  One of the two most important texts of Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, attributed to Susruta and concerned, mainly, with surgery. It is composed by six large sections. The first one (Sutra) occupies the entire volume I and treats the theory of ayurveda and some general subjects (diet, wound healing etc). Volume II contains sections 2-5: Nidana on Pathology, Sarira on Anatomy, Cikitsa on Therapeutics and Kalpa on Poisons. Volumen III contains the final section (Uttara) concerning Ophthalmology, Pediatrics and miscellaneous subjects. 

-The Classical Doctrine of Indian Medicine: Its Origins And Its Greek Parallels. J. Filliozat (1964).
  Published originally in French, the subtitle (“its origins and its Greek parallels”) gives a good idea of its contents. The initial chapter, presenting the main texts and theories of Ayurveda, is followed by others investigating its Iranian and Vedic antecedents to conclude with the relationships between Greek and Indian medicine.

-A History of Hindu Chemistry (from the earliest times to the middle of the sixteenth century AD). P.C. Ray (1903).
  A long introduction (130 pages) precedes a selection of citations from relevant Ayurvedic texts (Caraka, Susruta, Vagbhata) followed by analyses of medieval works (Vrinda, Cakrapani, Rasarnava) to end with the more famous: the
Rasaratnasamuccaya (Rasa-ratna-samuccaya).


a) Image Databases

-American Institute of Indian Studies Database (AIIS).

  The largest art image database in the web (and growing) with about 70,000 photographs (black and white) of ancient Indian architecture and sculpture (mostly from the Pre-Islamic period).

-Huntington Archive of Buddhist and Related Art.
  Contains about 30,000 images of Indian and Southeast Asian art, predominantly but not exclusively related to Buddhism.

-British Library. Online Gallery.
  Displays 7000 images of engravings, drawings and ancient photos of the Indian subcontinent from a collection started in 1801 by the East India Company.

-Aga Khan Visual Library.
  Numerous photographs and articles related to Islamic architecture in the whole Muslim world. India is well represented.

-World Art Treasures. Trésors d'Art du Monde.  

  Thousands of color photos taken by the late Jacques-Edouard Berger. Many are from a variety of sites in northern and southern India.
-Réunion des Musées Nationaux.  

  Photographic archive of the National Museums of France containing about 12,000 color images of sculptures, paintings and engravings housed in the Guimet Museum (the most important museum of Asiatic art in Europe).

b) Buddhist & Hindu
An Encyclopaedia of Hindu Architecture. P.K. Acharya (1946).
  A list of terms employed in the classic treatises of architecture with numerous citations of the sources.

-Buddhist Art In India. A. Grünwedel & Jas Burgess (1901).
  English edition based in the original German one, corrected and enlarged with 154 illustrations. Treats almost exclusively the Gandhara school. The theoretical aspects of this work are dated but is still useful for its thorough iconographic documentation.

-Begram Ivory and Bone Carvings. Ed: S. Mehendale (2005).
  In Begram, distant 80 kilometres from Kabul in Afghanistan, a famous treasure was discovered containing luxury items from foreign countries, amassed by the Kushans. Among them, many ivories documented carefully in this study that provides, as well, a panorama of the history of the site and of the archeological excavations carried out there.

-The Dance of Siva: Fourteen Indian Essays. A. Coomaraswamy (1918).
  Of these essays, half are about art. The best known, giving the title to this book, explains the meaning of the Siva Nataraja icon.

-The Loves of Krishna in Indian Painting and Poetry. W.G. Archer.
  A recent study about the figure of Krisna (Krishna) in miniature painting, considering at the same time his role in the
Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana and devotional poetry.

c) Islamic
Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. A. Petersen (1996).
  Definitions of terms related to images displayed in the Aga Khan Visual Library.

-Fatehpur Sikri: A Sourcebook. Ed: M. Brand & G.D. Lowry (1985).

  Compilation of historical and literary sources descriptive of the monuments of the city (distant 37 km of Agra), capital of Mughal emperor Akbar between 1569-86.

© 2009 Alejandro Gutman



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