This is a Sanskrit translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali which has occupied a distinguished place in world literature since its first appearance in 1931. The 103 prose songs in the English original were rendered into Sanskrit in 264 verses, using the Mandakranta metre, and this work was first published in 1961-62, the year of the Centenary celebrations of the Visva Kavi, and was well-received by scholars and critics.
While appreciating it, Professor Manmohan Ghosh stated: “….. from my personal association with Tagore and Santiniketan where I stayed for about seven years, it can be said without any reservation that your work has been invaluable; had Tagore been alive he would have greatly appreciated your Sanskrit Gitanjali”.
Recipient of the President’s Certificate of Honour as an eminent Sanskrit scholar and Padma Shri from Government of India and many prestigious awards and honours from various institutions, P. Sri Ramachandrudu is an erudite scholar in Sanskrit, Telugu, English and Hindi with about 150 works, big and small, on various subjects in the first three languages. He is also an excellent poet in Sanskrit and has to his credit three collections of poems and a full-length drama in six acts, Susamhatabharatam. His work on Vyakarana, Poetics and Vedanta are very popular among scholars and students.
A retired Professor of Sanskrit and former Director of Sanskrit Academy, Osmania University, he is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize.
Siromani Pandit Sri Ramachandrudu, M.A., of Warangal College has done me the honour of asking me to express my opinion on his Sanskrit rendering of Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali’ which is being published during the Rabindra Centenary Celebrations. Due to my utterly inadequate knowledge of Sanskrit Grammar and Prosody on the one hand, and complete ignorance of Bengali on the other, I do not consider myself component to offer any, valuable opinion regarding this work. Nevertheless, I have purely in defence to his wishes, glanced through his manuscript and have made some sampling comparisons with the English version of the Poet himself, which has become superb literature and a world-classic in its own right, and which I presume, was the matrika or original for this Sanskrit rendering.
The translation of any great work of one language into another is a difficult task; the difficulty increases in proportion to the nature and excellence or greatness of the original work. ‘Gitanjali’ is, not an ordinary work of prose-poetry which may be categorized as devotional literature. It consists of the outpouring of a music and a sage whose subtlety of thought and excellence of expression is derived from his spiritual experience with the background of Upanishadic philosophy coupled with a wide range of cultural traditions of a universal character. The task of rendering it into another language is, therefore, sufficiently formidable. One who undertakes such task will not only have to be a person who has full or adequate command of both the language, but also one who identifies, in some measure, with the subtlety of thought of the Poet, and whose heart beats in unison with the Poet's. A good translation must be faithful to the original and avoid the pitfalls of over-expression. The excellence of thought and the beauty of expression of the original should not be lost in its rendering. The translator should not be tempted to indulge in elaboration or extra-ornamentation in any attempt to improve upon the original. Above all, when the rendering is read, all by itself, it should impress, as far as possible, upon the reader, that it can well be regarded as an independent production and not as a laboured translation. The success of a translator lies in the degree of his comformity with the above criteria generally applied to such rendering. Judging from these principles and based on my limited study of this Sanskrit 'Gitanjali', I am of the opinion that this writer has acquitted himself extremely well in his rather difficult task.
The choice of Mandakranta metre was, I think, extremely happy. This slow-moving, but extremely elegant vritta is an exceedingly suitable vehicle for the expression of subtle thoughts- be it in the romantic or in the devotional field of literature. The metre has considerably contributed to the excellence of translation. It is the same which was adopted by Mahakavi Kalidasa for his Meghaduta and many others for their Sandesa-kavyas. The metre is difficult to handle and it must be said to the great credit of Sri Ramachandrudu that he has skillfully employed it both for obtaining mellifluous expression and spontaneous flow of thoughts. There are 103 songs in the English version which have been rendered in 264 slokas or verses. Most of the smaller songs have been packed into two verses with exquisite economy, without losing anything in thought or diction of the original. The bigger songs have naturally taken more verses, but I did not find in the translation any elaboration which was not required for legitimate purposes of clarity. The verses can be read and appreciated even without reference to the original. It would be invidious to pick and choose verses and try to prove by comparison with the orignial, that, by and large, the criteria mentioned by me above have been well satisfied by the translator. As a mere lay man without any pretensions to scholarship, I can only leave the detailed and critical examination of the book to competent Pandits (Sahridayas) who may probe into its literary and other merits with competent and discerning eyes, and with a proper appreciative attitude. I, on my part, congratulate Sri Ramachandrudu Gara for his successful rendering of 'Gitanjali' as well as on his good fortune for obtaining the consent of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to dedicate this book to him.
In 1962, the year of the centenary celebrations of Visvakavi, Rabindranath Tagore, declared and observed by the governement of India, I translated the Gitanjali which won Noble Prize for the Visvakavi, into Sanskrit, using the Mandakranta metre of slow and graceful gait, immortalized by Kalidasa through his famous lyric poem Meghaduta.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India had graciously conceded to my request to dedicate this poem to him . It was published in 1962. For the great satisfaction of the translator, it could get the appreciation of both the reviewers and scholars.
It is now published exactly after 50 years by the Sahitya Akademi, the National Academy of Letters, which has been celebrating the 150th year of Rabindranath Tagore in a highly dignified and befitting manner by conducting seminars, writers-meets, publishing books on Tagore and instituting special Awards and Prizes.
I am thankful to my respectable friends on the Sanskrit Advisory Board of Akademi, for having accepted the suggestion to publish this work.
I am specially beholden to Sri sunil Gangopadhyay, the Honorable President of the Sahitya Akademi, Dr. Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, Vice President, Sri Agrahara Krishna Murthy, Secretary and Sri K. Sreenivasarao, Deputy Secretary, who is in charge of the work in the Sanskrit section.
I hope many of my friends who have been asking me to make this work available would be happy to see it again in the present form.
Gurudeva's Gitanjali has been translated into all the principal languages of the world, including the Indian languages, and enriched their literatures. The translations have, naturally been restricted to modern, 'living' languages. No one, for instance, has thought of rendering the Gitanjali into Old Greek, Latin or Avesta : it would be pointless. But the same cannot be said with regard to Sanskrit. Although more ancient than Greek or Latin or Avesta, Sanskrit is still a living language in India. It is the medium of instruction and examination in hundreds of Oriental Schools and Colleges throughout the country Debates, discussions and speeches in Sanskrit can be heared even in small Indian towns. Classical Sanskrit dramas are frequently staged in Colleges and Universities. Some of our Universities use exclusively Sanskrit at their Convocations. A number of monthly and weekly journals in Sanskrit appear from various centres both in the North and in the South; and dozens of Sanskrit books, written by modern authors, are published each year. Sanskrit literature is still being enriched, as it constantly has been ever since the first verse of the Rgveda was composed, perhaps about 2000 B.C and it needs to be enriched further especially in the areas of modern thought.
Translation of the Gitanjali into Sanskrit, therefore, is not pointless. It was, in fact, a desideratum. And I am glad that Shri Ramachandrudu has rendered these gems of songs, inspired and influenced by ancient Sanskrit texts, into Sanskrit.
Translation of any work from one language into another is a difficult task. It is doubly more so if the work happens to be of such great poetic beauty as the Gitanjali possesses. Shri Ramachandrudu has had the courage to undertake this task and he has succeeded in accomplishing it. His Sanskrit rendering is lucid, idiomatic and faithful. I am sure, all lovers of Sanskrit will welcome this attempt.
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