Sub title: The Tale of an Anklet
"‘Men and women of Maturai of the four temples! I curse this city. Its king erred in killing the man I loved’ One of the world's masterpieces, The Cilappatikaram (5th century ce) by Ilanko Atikal is India's finest epic in a language other than Sanskrit. It spells out in unforgettable verse the problems that humanity has been wrestling with for a long time: love, war, evil, fate and death. The Tale of an Anklet is the love story of Kovalan and Kannaki. Originating in Tamil mythology, the compelling tale of Kannaki—her love, her feats and triumphs, and her ultimate transformation to goddess—follows the conventions of Tamil poetry and is told in three phases: the erotic, the heroic and the mythic. This epic ranks with the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as one of the great classics of Indian literature and is presented for the first time in a landmark English verse translation by the eminent poet R. Parthasarathy, making it accessible to a wider audience. Winner of the 1995 Sahitya Akademi prize for Translation (English), the 1994 PEN/ Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Citation of the PEN American Centre, and the 1996 Association for Asian Studies A.K. Ramanujan Book Prize for Translation."
The Bhagavad Gita
"‘A true votary of Gita does not know what disappointment is. He ever dwells in perennial joy and peace that passeth understanding.’—Mahatma Gandhi The Bhagavad Gita, a scintillating jewel embedded in the great Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna set against the background of war. At the beginning of the poem, we learn that there is going to be a great war for the rule of a kingdom. On the battlefield, with armies of the Kuru clan ranged against each other, Arjuna and Krishna explore the necessity of war and the nature of the human soul. The eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita encompass the whole spiritual struggle of a human soul, and the central themes of this immortal poem arise from the symphonic vision of God in all things and of all things in God. Juan Mascaro’s illuminating translation conveys the essence of the original Sanskrit in pure, poetic English."
The Giver of the Worn Garland
Sub title: Krishnadevaraya’s Amuktamalyada
"And below her hair, she would put on a garland and spend a few minutes just gazing into a pond, seeing her reflection and satisfying her desire before turning away and returning the worn garland to her flower basket The emperor Krishnadevaraya’s epic poem Amuktamalyada (Giver of the Worn Garland) depicts the life of the medieval Vaisnava poet-saint Andal, or Goda Devi as she is also known, and her passionate devotion to Lord Visnu. Krishnadevaraya’s unique poetic imagination brings to life a celestial world filled with wonder, creativity, humour and vibrant natural beauty. The mundane is made divine and the ordinary becomes extraordinary; the routine activities of daily life become expressive metaphors for heavenly actions, while the exalted gods of heaven are re-imagined as living persons. The poet’s ability to see divinity in the most commonplace activities is an extension of his powerful belief that god is everywhere, in everything, at all times."
Jibanananda Das's lyricism is unparalleled in Bengali literature. His early poems are vivid, eloquent celebrations of the beauty of Bengal; his later works, written in the 1940s and 50s, are darker, comments on political issues and current affairs like the Second World War, the Bengal Famine of '43 and Hinduâ€“Muslim riots at the time of Partition. Born in 1899, Jibanananda belonged to a group of poets who tried to shake off Tagore's poetic influence. While he is best known for poetry that reveals a deep love for nature and rural landscapes, tradition and history, Jibanananda is also strikingly urban, and introspective, his work centring on themes of loneliness, depression and death. He was a master of word-images, and his unique poetic idiom drew on tradition but was startlingly new. Jibanananda died in a tram accident in 1954. His Shrestha Kavita (Best Poems) won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1955.
Lifting the Veil
At a time when writing by and about women was rare and tentative, Chughtai explored female sexuality with unparalleled frankness and examined the political and social mores of her time. She wrote about the world that she knew, bringing the idiom of the middle class to Urdu prose, and totally transformed the complexion of Urdu fiction. Lifting the Veil brings together Ismat Chughtai's fiction and non-fiction writing. The twenty-one pieces in this selection are Chughtai at her best, marked by her brilliant turn of phrase, scintillating dialogue and wry humour, her characteristic irreverence, wit and eye for detail.
"One of India’s greatest epics, the Ramayana pervades the country’s moral and cultural consciousness. Believed to have been composed by Valmiki sometime between the eighth and sixth centuries BC, the Ramayana tells the tragic and magical story of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, an incarnation of Lord Visnu, born to rid the earth of the terrible demon Ravana. An idealized heroic tale ending with the inevitable triumph of good over evil, the Ramayana is also an intensely personal story of family relationships, love and loss, duty and honour, of harem intrigue, petty jealousies and destructive ambitions—all this played out in a universe populated by larger-than-life humans, gods and celestial beings, wondrous animals and terrifying demons. Arshia Sattar’s translation makes this monumental ancient classic accessible to the present-day reader."
"Tryambakayajvan is almost certainly the famous Tryambakarayamakhin (AD 1665-1750), minister to two of the Maratha kings of Thanjavur (Sahaji and Serfoji). Famous in his own right as a scholar of religious law, he is described in a contemporary text as a learned minister, the performer of Vedic sacrifices, and a patron of scholars. In the Stridharmapaddhati, Tryambaka summarizes for his eighteenth-century audience a tradition that was then already over a thousand years old. The treatise advocates conformity and Tryambaka is interested in women not as individuals but as parts that fit into and strengthen the whole. That whole, for him, is dharma. The work is, in itself, an admission of the power of non-conformist women to wreck the entire edifice of Hindu society. For, when women are 'corrupted', all is lost. Translated from the Sanskrit by I. Julia Leslie"
Kamleshwar's Kitne Pakistan enjoys cult status as a novel that dared to ask crucial questions about the making and writing of history. With India's partition in 1947 as its reference point, the novel presents a limitless canvas against which the most extraordinary trial in the history of mankind runs its course. Present in a court that transcends space and time are Mughal Emperors Babar and Aurangzeb, Spanish adventurer Hernando Cortez, Lord Mountbatten, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. Along with political leaders, religious zealots and scheming gods of mythology, they stand accused of creating countless fractured nations, leaving a never-ending trail of hatred and distrust. The arbiter for suffering humanity is an unnamed adeeb or littérateur who must sift through the testimony of casualties from the killing fields of injustice at home and abroad, ranging from Kurukshetra to Kargil, Hiroshima to Bosnia. As recorded history unravels to reveal the sinister realities that lie beneath, the scholar finds himself travelling back through the centuries over oceans of blood, so that he may carry forward for posterity the enduring lessons of love, compassion, peace and hope. Translated into English for the first time, this boldly provocative saga is a triumph of poetic imagination that relentlessly probes our underlying assumptions of history and truth, religion and nationalism.
The Home and the World
There is nothing static, earthbound or lifeless about it . . . It has the complexity and tragic dimensions of Tagore's own time, and ours"-Anita Desai Set against the backdrop of the Partition of Bengal by the British in 1905, Home and the World (Ghare Baire) is the story of a young liberal-minded zamindar Nikhilesh, his educated and sensitive wife Bimala, and Nikhilesh's friend Sandip, a charismatic nationalist leader whom Bimala finds herself attracted to. A perceptive exposition of the difficulties surrounding women's emancipation in pre-modern India, and a telling portrayal of the chasms inherent in the nationalist movement, Home and the World has generated endless debate and discussion. This classic novel by Nobel Prize-winner Rabindranath Tagore, first published in Bengali in 1916, is now available in a lucid new translation.
Sub title: The Poems of Lal Ded
"The poems of the fourteenth-century Kashmiri mystic Lal Ded, popularly known as Lalla, strike us like brief and blinding bursts of light. Epiphanic and provocative, they shuttle between the vulnerability of doubt and the assurance of an insight gained through resilience and reflection. These poems are as sensuously evocative as they are charged with an ecstatic devotion: Lalla does not surrender meekly to enlightenment but embraces it with wild passion. The poet Ranjit Hoskote’s new English translation restores the jagged, colloquial power of Lalla’s verse, stripping away a century of ornate, Victorian-inflected translations and paraphrases. In a radical break with the established convention of treating Lal Ded as a single author, Hoskote instead proposes the theory that her name stands for a contributory lineage of questors and reciters who followed in her wake. While introducing the reader to the philosophical, political and social contexts of the original poetry, Hoskote also attempts to address the troubled history of Kashmir through the figure of Lal Ded. Emotionally rich yet philosophically precise, sumptuously enigmatic yet crisply structured, Lalla’s poems in Ranjit Hoskote’s translation are glorious manifestos of illumination."