Translations from Sanskrit by Arthur W. Ryder

Arthur W. Ryder (1877–1938) translated several Sanskrit works into English. His goal in translation was to produce a work that stood by itself. At this he was successful. Especially in translating short memorable Sanskrit verses into equally memorable English verse (with metre and rhyme), he has no equal. Few other translators from Sanskrit into English manage to do so without making it sound awkward.

His masterpiece is his translation of the Panchatantra (1925), which is still popular and in print, but most other translations of his are still worth reading. All his works are now in the public domain. (His Panchatantra was the only one of his works whose copyright was renewed, so it was the last one to enter the public domain, which it did in 2021.)

A large number of verses, collected in a posthumous volume, is transcribed here on this website.

A list of translations, along with what’s available online (including some only on this website).

• The Little Clay Cart [Mṛcchakaṭikā]: A Hindu drama (1905)

This is a translation of Mṛcchakaṭikā, by king Śūdraka. It’s a pleasant translation with several nice touches, e.g. in the dialogue of Sansthānaka (Śakāra) he substitutes sh for s just as in the Sanskrit: “Shtop, Vasantasenā, shtop! […] Lishten to me, shir!”

Read it at:

• “The Old Tiger and the Traveller” (1908)

A short (4 pages, 1500 words) translation of a single story from the Hitopadesha.

Read it here on this website: just the story, the story side-by-side with Sanskrit text.

• Women’s Eyes: Being Verses Translated from the Sanskrit (1910)

One hundred verses, 85 from Bhartṛhari and 15 from other sources.

This was reprinted in his posthumous volume (below).

Kalidasa: Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works (1913)

Complete translation of Shakuntala, and partial translations of other works.

Just his Shakuntala is available online in a nicely typeset PDF by “In parentheses” publications.

For the whole book, read it at:

With Garnet Holme, he also did an abdridgment (“An Acting Version in Three Acts”), 1914: Internet Archive, Google Books.

• Malavika: A Five-act Comedy of Kalidasa (1915, University of California Chronicle)

Scanned copies on Google Books (start on page 123) of this, this, this, or this.

• Fables from the Hitopadesha (Jan 1917)

In the University of California Chronicle.

Scanned copy here or here or here.

• Lovers’ Meeting: translated from the Kathasaritsagara, canto 104 (Oct 1917)

Scanned copy here or here or here or here

Twenty Two Goblins (1917)

(One of the versions of) the famous Vikram-Vetaal stories. (Names are translated, e.g. Trivikrama is translated as King Triple-victory.)

Read it at:

Relatives: Being Further Verses Translated from the Sanskrit (1919)

More verse translations, some short and some long (the longest is the Caura-pañcāśikā, 50 stanzas long).

The verses here presented are from many sources, and the selections are of very different length and date. The only bond of union is this — that these poems are all taken from the ancient Sanskrit language, and all seemed to the translator worthy of an English rendering.

This was reprinted in his posthumous volume (see below).

The Panchatantra (1925)

His masterpiece. IMO the most delightful English work translated from Sanskrit ever published.

This is a translation of the Panchatantra, prose-for-prose and verse-for-verse. As with all his other works, Sanskrit verses are translated into English verses with metre and rhyme—something few other translators of the Panchatantra have managed, and none so well as here.

In places he makes it even funnier than the original.

He also published a selection (subset), under the name Gold’s Gloom: Tales from the Panchatantra.

• The Ten Princes (1927)

A good translation of Daṇḍin’s Daśa-kumāra-carita. Apparently Ryder worked on this for 25 years, and considered this his masterpiece.

Read it at:

• The Bhagavad-gita (1929)

The same talents and style that made his Panchatantra so delightful make this one possibly the most inappropriate translation of the Bhagavad Gita!

Kees W. Bolle, in his translation of the Bhagavadgītā, who mentions Ryder’s Panchatantra as the very foremost translation (pp. 222–3):

Among the outstanding translations from Sanskrit we have The Panchatantra of Arthur W. Ryder, who succeeds magnificently in rendering this most famous and down-to-earth, witty and instructive cycle of stories, and who succeeds even in reproducing the terse metric morals of the tales in laconic little rhymes—as if they were meant that way:

       After money has departed,
           If the wit is frail,
       Then, like rills in summer weather,
           Undertakings fail.
       Forest sesame, crow-barley,
           Men who have no cash,
       Owning names but lacking substance,
           Are accounted trash.

continues with (pp. 235–6, emphasis mine):

[…] I want to look for a moment at the translation of Arthur W. Ryder. Ryder, as I have already noted, showed himself a genius in translating the Pañcatantra from the Sanskrit. His translation of the Bhagavadgītā, first published in 1929 and reprinted one year later, is less well known. This is fortunate […] because of the form his translation took. The “cute” expressions and phrases that served Ryder so well in the popular, entertaining, and edifying tales of the Pañcatantra led to total disaster in this case. Indeed, it is hard to believe that anyone could have taken the work seriously at the time and that a reprint was called for within a year. Ryder maintained rhyme throughout, thereby arriving at such crambo as this:

and so on.

Is this “total disaster” of a translation best forgotten, or is there some value nevertheless? Read it and decide:

• Original Poems: Together with translations from the Sanskrit (1939, posthumous)

Reprints Women’s Eyes and Relatives along with a few previously unpublished verses. Also contains an account of his life and work, and some of his own poetry.

Read it on this website:


And if you like, you can help: proofread the verses, find Sanskrit originals for more of them, transcribe some of the things which are only available as a scan, improve the formatting of this website, or just share the joy of Sanskrit literature with others who may find delight in it.