Jarasandhavadha Mahakavyam

by Pankaj L. Jani | 2010 | 82,365 words

The English translation of the Jarasandhavadha Mahakavyam: a Sanskrit epic poem written by Goswami Hariraiji. The story revolves around the story of Krishna’s vanquishing of the Magadha King, Jarasandha. The soul message of this epic Jarasandhavadha is “where there is righteousness there is victory”. The sources for this story include the Mahabhar...


Translation has been rightly understood as a process of semiotization of texts. The texts are codes and a translator tries to maintain that code while transferring and transforming that code from the source language to the target language. Translations are made from one language to another within the same culture and often across the cultures. The task of translation across the culture is obviously more complex and challenging, because the task of maintaining the purpose, situations, nature and effect of the source text in the target text is very difficult.

Literal translations are not so difficult, but the literary translations are quite complex. Among the literary translations, the translation of poetry is perhaps the most complex task, particularly when both the languages i.e. the source language and the target language belong to two different cultures. Three things are intricately involved in translation across the culture i.e. inter-cultural understanding, trans-cultural interpretation and the trans-cultural evaluation. As a translator, one has to pass through many situations where the translator has to take crucial judgements, which may prove to be correct or incorrect. He has to see to it that the intellectual and cultural strength of the source text does not lose due to the cultural gap in the target language. He also has to fix up his priorities and accordingly take decision.

The translation embodied in this dissertation is firstly a literary translation. Further, it is translation across the culture, as it is done from Sanskrit to English. Thirdly, the source text is an epic poem, which is rarely written in the modern times and hence capturing it and translating it becomes three times more complex. Of course, the text is composed by a contemporary poet in Sanskrit and hence the translator is fully conscious of the modern sensibility and has been trying to address the contemporary audience/readers and so uses language in such a way that it does not become ungraspable.

Nevertheless, an important challenge in the translation of this text had been the fact that the poet has chosen the theme from the Indian mythology. He has taken up the story of the killing of Jarasandha, the Mahabharata character, the other central characters being Lord Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima. Thus, the sensibility which is attempted by the poet to capture in the poem is classical one. Moreover, the poet has followed the typical style of the classical Sanskrit poets and endeavored to use language that way. Such a type of language is no more in use these days. Even the ethos and morality depicted in the poem happen to belong to that period and capturing that in an alien language was a tough task. How to say something which has never been said in a language and further, how to say that in that style was almost next to impossible at this juncture of time. Hence, the translator has dropped to capture the metre and rhythm of the source poem in this translation, but has strictly stuck to the spirit of the poem. In history of translation, there are instances when the translators have done what the have tried to do here. Some very well known texts like The Divine Comedy has been translated without following the poetic structure and features (metre and rhythm) of the poem. In future, some other translator may take up the task of putting the target language text in the original metre and rhythm.

Whenever there was a need to take judgement on whether to capture the overt features or the covert ones, or whether to capture the body or the spirit of the text, the translator has preferred to capture the spirit and the soul of the poem and has thus prepared a ground for better poetic translation of the poem in future.

The translator has also tried to introduce the epic traditions as employed by the contemporary Sanskrit poet to the readers in English within the country as well as outside through this translation. The poet has thus been introduced to the English readers through this translation. How does the poet handle the mythological material and use it to fulfill his poetic intensions is an interesting issue. May be the readers and critics would find it interesting to critique it in their own way.

The points, that Sanskrit language is not at all dead and creativity in Sanskrit literature is not at all behind any language, would be proved by this translation. The translator hopes that this translation will serve many literary as well as cultural purposes. He hopes that it will influence positively the English language and enrich it at least in the sense that the Indian users of English will have new idiom to articulate their sentiments in English language.

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