Clay Sanskrit Library Newsletter: May 2006


These four new volumes will be available in May. Four new excerpts are available for download.

The Epitome of Queen Lilávati (volume two of two) by Jinaratna
Richard Fynes
The second volume of The Epitome of Queen Lilávati concludes Jina·ratna’s story. Embodied souls undergo all too human adventures in a succession of lives, as they advance to final release. (Download excerpt)

Five Discourses on Worldly Wisdom
Patrick Olivelle
The king despairs of his idle sons, so he hires a learned brahmin who promises to make their lessons in statecraft unmissable. The lessons are disguised as short stories, featuring mainly animal protagonists. Many of these narratives have traveled across the world, and are known in the West as Aesop’s fables.
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Messenger Poems by Kālidāsa, Dhoyī, and Rūpa Gosvāmin
Sir James Mallinson
Sanskrit Messenger poems evoke the pain of separated sweethearts through the formula of an estranged lover pleading with a messenger to take a message to his or her beloved. The plea includes a lyrical description of the route the messenger will take and the message itself. The first was the Cloud Messenger, composed by Sanskrit’s finest poet, Kali·dasa, in the fifth century CE. This inspired the next, the Wind Messenger, composed in praise of King Lákshmana·sena of Gauda (Bengal) in the twelfth century by Dhoyi, one of his court poets. Numerous more followed, including the third in the CSL selection, the sixteenth century Swan Messenger, composed in Bengal by Rupa Go·svamin, a devotee of Krishna.
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Ramáyana Book Three: The Forest by Vālmīki
Sheldon I. Pollock
The skies darken for the exiles, who have taken refuge in forest hermitages. First one demon, then another, attempts to harm or corrupt them. When these efforts fail, an army of demons is sent, and then a bigger one, but each time Rama again defeats them. Finally Rávana, the supreme lord of the demons, decides to cripple Rama by capturing Sita; he traps her, and carries her off under heavy guard to the island fortress of Lanka. Rama is distraught by grief, and searches everywhere without success.
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These seven new volumes are provisionally scheduled for July. You can now read translators’ Insights on two of the July volumes.

Maha·bhárata Book Two: The Great Hall
Paul Wilmot
The “Great Hall” relates some of the most seminal events of the epic, culminating in the famous game of dice between the Pándavas and the Káuravas. The Pándavas, happily settled in Indra·prastha, enjoy one glorious success after another. Yudhi·shthira, after erecting the most magnificent hall on earth, decides to perform the Royal Consecration Sacrifice, which will raise his status to that of the world’s greatest sovereign. His brothers travel far and wide and conquer all known kingdoms. Yet just when the Pándavas are beginning to seem invincible, Yudhi·shthira mysteriously gambles everything away in a fateful game of dice to his cousin Duryódhana.

Maha·bhárata Book Seven: Drona (volume one of four)
Vaughan Pilikian
After Bhishma is cut down at the end of the previous book of the Maha·bhárata, Duryódhana selects Drona as leader of his forces. Drona accepts the honor with Bhishma’s blessing, despite his ongoing personal conflicts as mentor to both the Pándava and Káurava heroes in their youth. The fighting rages on, with heavy losses on both sides. Furious and frustrated, Duryódhana accuses Drona of collaborating with the enemy, but he replies that as long as Árjuna is on the field, the Pándavas will remain invincible. When Árjuna is diverted from the main action of the battle, Yudhi·shthira entrusts Árjuna’s son Abhimányu with the task of making a breach in the Káurava formation. Abhimányu rampages through Drona’s army, but at last is cornered by several Káurava warriors and finally killed by Jayad·ratha.
Read Translator’s Insights

The Quartet of Causeries by Śūdraka, Śyāmilaka, Vararuci & Īśvaradatta
Csaba Dezső & Somadeva Vasudeva
Four monologue farces composed by four authors of the fourth-fifth centuries CE. The four are traditionally presented together, united in plot but divergent in style.

Rama Beyond Price by Murāri
Judit Törzsök
“Rama Beyond Price”, a dramatized remake of the Ramáyana, is one of the most challenging pieces of Sanskrit poetry to read. Because of its elegant style, learned allusions, and often striking imagery, the poem has been a favorite among pundits. The well-known epic story of Rama’s exploits is presented as a series of political intrigues and battles, and contrasted with lyrical passages of various kinds: on love and war, pride and honor, gods and demons, rites and myths, regions and cities of ancient India. This is the first English translation of the only surviving work by Murári, a brahmin court poet, who lived some time between the eighth and tenth century CE, perhaps in Orissa or in neighboring South India.
Read Translator’s Insights

Ramáyana Book Five: Súndara by Vālmīki
Robert P. Goldman and Sally Sutherland Goldman
The fifth and most popular book of the Ramáyana of Valmíki, “Súndara” recounts the adventures of the monkey hero Hánuman leaping across the ocean to the island citadel of Lanka. Once there, he scours the city for the abducted Princess Sita. The poet vividly describes the opulence of the court of the demon king, Rávana, the beauty of his harem, and the hideous deformity of Sita’s wardresses. After witnessing Sita’s stern rejection of Rávana’s blandishments, Hánuman reveals himself to the princess, shows her Rama’s signet ring as proof of identity, and offers to carry her back to Rama.

The Recognition of Shakúntala by Kālidāsa
Kashmir Recension
Somadeva Vasudeva
Kali·dasa’s The Recognition of Shakúntula scarcely needs an introduction. Admired by Goethe, it was one of the first works of Sanskrit literature to be translated into European languages. Reliving that original fresh appreciation, you can now read it in the hitherto untranslated Kashimirian recension, which raises the text to new heights of perfection.

Seven Hundred Elegant Verse by Govardhana
Friedhelm Hardy
When Go·várdhana composed his “Seven Hundred Elegant Verses” in Sanskrit in the twelfth century CE, the title suggested that this was a response to the 700 verses in the more demotic Prakrit language traditionally attributed to King Hala, composed almost a thousand years earlier. Both sets of poems were composed in the arya metre. Besides being the name of a metre, in Sanskrit arya means a noble or elegant lady, and Go·várdhana wished to reflect and appeal to a sophisticated culture. These poems each consist of a single stanza, almost as condensed and allusive as a Japanese haiku. They cover the gamut of human life and emotion, though the favorite topic is love in all its aspects.


Extended bibliographies from the original Princeton University Press publications of the Ramáyana are now available for download in PDF.
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A new review of “Much Ado About Religion” appeared in the University of Chicago South Asia Newsletter. Follow this link to read the article, which is printed on pp. 12–13.