John P. Clay and the Clay Sanskrit Library

The Clay Sanskrit Library (CSL) is a book series initiated by John P. Clay covering a wide spectrum of Classical Sanskrit literature spanning two millennia. Today, the list of published volumes encompasses fifty-six works. Bound in the convenient pocket size (4.5″ x 6.5″) in an elegant design, each work features the original Sanskrit text in transliterated Roman letters on the left-hand page with its English translation on the facing page.

John P. Clay’s vision came to life in the late 1990’s, when he began to put the people and resources together for what would become the Clay Sanskrit Library. Since the publication of the first volume in 2005, fifty-six volumes have been published. The selection represents the richness and wide variety of Sanskrit literature, covering works of drama, poetry, satire, and novels, as well as the two famous epics, the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa.

The Clay Sanskrit Library titles are now being converted to digital format at the Digital Clay Sanskrit Library (eCSL). In eCSL, the editions retain the facing page translations and they provide additional search and navigation features, thus making it an immediate and practical platform especially to students of Sanskrit.


Bodleian Libraries MS. Ind. Inst. Misc. 15, fol. 4r.
Bodleian Libraries MS. Ind. Inst. Misc. 15, fol. 4r.
हस्ते लीलाकमलमलकं बालकुन्दानुविद्धं ।
नीता रोध्रप्रसवरजसा पाण्डुतामाननश्रीः ॥
चूडापाशे नवकुरवकं चारु कर्णे शिरीषं ।
सीमन्ते च त्वदुपगमजं यत्र नीपं वधूनाम् ॥

[In the city of Alakā]
the ladies have in their hands
lotuses to play with,
young jasmine flowers
woven into their hair, radiant complexions
blanched by the pollen of rodhra flowers,
fresh kurábaka blossoms
in their topknots,
pretty shirísha blooms
in their ears,
and, in their hair-partings,
kadámba flowers born of your arrival.

Meghadūta 1.65 (from Messenger Poems, Clay Sanskrit Library, p. 64-65).
Translated by Sir James Mallinson.

The painting on the left is from a volume of a set of drawings by an anonymous artist, presented in 1831 by the Reverend William Malkin of Bangalore to Lady Pritzler. The stanza is from Kālidāsa’s Cloud Messenger, a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature. The lasting influence of this poem may be felt in artistic as well as literary spheres. The flowers mentioned in this stanza bloom at different seasons, thus Kālidāsa is indirectly showing that in the marvellous city of Alakā all seasons happen at once.