ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Poems of the First Buddhist Women

Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women, translated by Charles Hallisey; Cambridge, Massachusetts, London: Murty Classical Library of India, Harvard University Press, 2015; pp xli + 293; ₹295.

For many students of ancient Indian history, and perhaps for others as well, there was a series of blue books that we took pleasure in. These were small and easily handheld. Each contained a Sanskrit text in the Roman script, with an English translation, apart from a brief, lucid, introduction, annotations, and recommendations for further reading. There were two distinguishing features that set this series apart from others—one, most of the translations achieved and maintained a balance between the accessible and the scholarly. The second was the interleaving of text and translation, enabling the reader to go back and forth easily, and repeatedly, and savour both simultaneously.

When the publication of the series by the Clay Sanskrit Library wound up, many of us were sad. It was therefore more than a pleasant surprise when we learnt that the series would receive a new life, but with a far more expansive vision and perspective as the Murty Classical Library of India. The new series would not be restricted to Sanskrit and would, wherever possible, use Indian fonts (in the first five volumes, for instance, we find Gurmukhi, Persian, Roman, Devanagari and Telugu). The texts in this first set range from the compositions attributed to mystic poets such as Bulleh Shah and Surdas, and the Therigatha, the volume under review, providing a glimpse of the breadth and depth that the series can potentially achieve.

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