I've just received Random House India's 2008 catalogue, and I'm delighted to see that Random House will soon be distributing the new and old releases of the Clay Sanskrit Library series in India. You will soon be able to buy these titles in your local bookstore at Rs.500-800 each.
As I've mentioned in earlier reviews of individual CSL titles, the Library is one of the most significant publishing projects of our age, bringing under one imprint a massive corpus of a millennium-worth of secular literature in Sanskrit, in new translations by some of the foremost scholars of our day.
The beautiful green hardback editions are small enough to fit into a handbag or even a good-sized pocket, and durable enough - in both the physical and the textual sense - to be enjoyed by your grandchildren.
Among the most enjoyable features of the editions are that they are facing-page translations (the original Sanskrit is presented in Roman script on the left-hand page), which makes it possible for the reader to get some sense of the sonic qualities of the original (and even teach himself or herself a bit of Sanskrit). Also, each edition is copiously annotated by the translator; textual cruxes are explained, and connections are made between the text and philosophical and aesthetic theories of the time.
For instance, in one text a character is described as being thirsty for battle, when the usual way of expressing this sentiment in English is "hungry for battle". The translator remarks that perhaps this difference in the metaphorical phrasing of a state of want and eagerness reflects "the desires of a hot and dry climate versus a cold and damp one". I have spent many enjoyable hours just browsing through these notes, one set of which is here.
A full list of Clay Sanskrit Library titles in alphabetical order is here (their Mahabharata will run into 20 volumes and their Ramayana to seven), and their April 2008 releases are here. Also, here is the essay "Seduced by Sanskrit" by Willis Regier ("Why care about Sanskrit literature? It is candid about sex, appreciates the power of money, and confronts the duplicities of war and religion. Its indispensable word is 'dharma' - duty, calling, or moral law.") and Robert Goldman's long introduction to the Ramayana.
And two older posts, on Kalidasa's Shakuntala and Dandin's enthralling pan-Indian adventure story Dasakumaracharita.