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Murty’s initiative to take Indian classical literature to global stage

January is going to be a busy month for the Murthy family as its not-for-profit organization, Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI), releases the first few translations of Indian classics.

The books translated into English from the Indic languages are published by the Harvard University Press. 

“I started this (MCLI) four years ago when I was in Harvard University. Because in Harvard for example, when one wants to learn classics, they teach you only Greek and Latin. We are saying why these only, why not old Tamil poetry or Punjabi play or Malayalam text,” Rohan Murty told Business Standard. “So we are doing the translation and making the Indian classics accessible to not only people in India, but also the whole world.” 

The first five books that are being released this month include The History of Akbar or Akbarnama, Volume 1 by Abu’l-Fazl; Sufi Lyrics by Punjabi poet Bulleh Shah; Therigatha, a poetry anthology in Pali language by and about the first Buddhist woman. The series will also include the translated version of The Story of Manu by sixteenth-century Telugu poet Allasani Peddana and Sur’s Ocean: Poems from the Early Tradition by Surdas. 

MCLI intends to release five Indian classics a year for the next 100 years as a part of the endowment. “We have some 10 years worth of backlog now. The translations are being done by the best scholars in the world belonging to some 18 countries,” said Murty. 

The translated series will also retain the original scripts on the left hand side while the right hand side will have the translated text. 

“While in schools, we read Shakespeare, Charles Dickens etc. They are great writers. But I wish in addition to those we should have read some of our own classics. I hope with these (translated) books out, may be 15 years from now, our kids will be able to get a taste of our own classical literature,” he added. 

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