Monday, 27 June 2016


Translation in/and Hindi Literature
Avadhesh Kumar Singh
The paper is an attempt to study translational practices in
different periods in Hindi literature in the following broad
areas: (1) Indian linguistic realities and translation in the early
period (from early period to 1100) (2) Translation in the Bhakti
(1100-1700) and Riti (1700-1800) periods (3) Translation in
the Navajagaran Period (1800-1920) (4) Translation in the
Swachchandatavad period (1920-1950) (5) Translation in the
Adhunik Period (1950-1980) and (6) Translation in the
Adhunikottar Period (1980 onwards). The paper focuses on
translations into Hindi. It is argued that there are some
identifiable trends in each of these periods which help us
understand how Hindi internalized alien traditions and
defined its mainstream literary culture.
Translation in Hindi is bhashantar (‘linguistic
transference’), parakayapravesh (‘transference of spirit from one
body to the next, or transmigration’), sweekaran (‘making the other
as one’s own, appropriation’), and even paltukaran (‘domestication
of the source text in the target linguistic system and culture’). The
term is translated as anuvad in Hindi, as in so many other Indian
languages. Literally and etymologically, anuvad stands for the
‘subsequent’ or ‘following’ discourse (anu=following,
vad=discourse). I prefer the term anuvad to all others, as it means
‘subsequent discourse’ (target text) based on a vad (discourse,
i.e.source text). It presupposes an existing discourse, i.e. vad or
source text. The vad and anuvad lead to the third stage, which we
Translation Today Vol. 3 Nos. 1 & 2, 2006 © CIIL 2006
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 207
can term as samvad (dialogue) with one’s own self and other(s)
within and without1. This dialogue or samvad impacts the self and
the other in more ways than one in different historical periods.
Attendant political, ideological and economic considerations
notwithstanding, samvad becomes an instrument for transformation
of the self and the other, as can be discerned in the development of
Hindi literature.
The present paper endeavors to study translational practices
in different periods in Hindi literature, in the following broad areas:
(1) Indian linguistic realities and translation in the early period,
(from early period to 1100) (2) translation in the Bhakti (1100-1700)
and Riti (1700-1800) periods, (3) translation in the Navjagaran
period (4) translation in the Swachhandatavad period (1920-1950),
(5) translation in the Aadhunik period (1950-1980), and (6)
translation in the Adhunikottar period (1980 onwards). I have
limited myself to discussing translation into Hindi and will not
discuss translation from Hindi into other languages (something that I
propose to explore later). Though true adan-pradan (the process of
give and take from one language to another) through translation can
be understood only after studying both aspects, the present study,
however inadequate it might be, will help reveal the endeavors made
in Hindi to equip itself with its own and alien literary traditions in
order to transform itself, and in the process, transform other(s) as
Translation in the Pre-colonial Period
Albeit somewhat simplistically, translation in India can be
periodized as follows: (1) the pre-colonial, (2) the colonial, and (3)
the post-colonial.
The first period can be sub-divided into two: (1) from the
beginning (which may be difficult to specify) to 1100 and (2) from
1100 to 1757. To understand the translational practices in the period
208 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
it is necessary to remember that India has always been multilingual,
with Prakrit and Apabhransh as the languages of social transaction
and Sanskrit as the language of learned discourse. It was attended by
co-existence of diverse styles or riti e.g. Panchali, Avanti, Vidarbhi,
Daskshinatya and Gaudi named after various regions. The
description of the Kavyapurush2 and chakravarti kshetra3 in the late
tenth century Sanskrit poetician Rajashekhara’s Kavyamimamsa
bears witness to this. As late as the twelfth century Hemchandra
(1089-1173), a Jain monk and a precursor of Gujarati, wrote a
grammar of Prakrit but composed his critical treatises, e.g.
Kavyanushasana, in Sanskrit. The present Indian multilingualism is
a direct descendant of the linguistic pluralism of antiquity. Since
Indians have been living with this pluralism for long, they are
natural un/conscious translators, who translated without caring for a
methodology or theory of translation. Indians existed in multiple
languages simultaneously and could shift from one linguistic system
to another with ease. In India the sister languages cohabiting their
own or collective space were not adversaries. As late as the second
quarter of the 19th century, multilingualism flourished in India. For
instance, Dayaram in Gujarat wrote in Gujarati and Hindi. Bhartendu
Harishchandra (1850-1885) in Hindi called himself in his
“Evidence” before the Education Commission a poet of Sanskrit,
Hindi and Urdu and composed even in Gujarati. In this sense Indian
consciousness was/is essentially translational, though not in the
Western sense. The traditions of bhashya (commentary on Hindu
sacred texts), tika (sub-commentaries) and anvyaya (determination
or explaining meaning by establishing connections or relationships),
though written in the same language, were manifestations of this
Though anuvad is not an unknown term in Indian tradition,
the fact is that there was almost no tradition of translation in ancient
India in the modern sense of the term except for bhashya, tika, and
vartik (commentary on abstruse sense of text in the tradition of
hagiography), which can be considered as translation only in a very
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 209
loose sense. The first two, however, were practised in the same
The poets of the Bhakti period (1100-1700) were translators
in a different and loose sense, as they strove to translate ancient
Indian knowledge and wisdom manifested in different treatises
through Sanskrit by appropriating it in various bhashas (native
languages). The period from 1100 to 1700 was marked by the
lokabhashikaran4 of knowledge in Sanskrit. The Bhakti poets
namely Nanak, Kabir, Sur, Tulsi, Narsinh, Mira, Gyaneshvar
democratized the knowledge in Sanskrit, by transferring it into
dialects and lokbhashas (languages of ordinary people). Translation
from non-Indian languages into Indian languages and vice versa was
less than desired. The translation of the Upanishads into Persian in
the seventeenth century by Prince Dara Shikoh and the rendition of
the works of Sanskrit poetics into bhashas were notable activities in
the period.
The post-Bhakti Riti poets from middle of the seventeenth to
the hind quarter of the eighteenth century, operated in more than one
language. This period witnessed a continuation of the traditions of
tika (commentary), tippani (explanation of difficult words or
phrases), bhavanuvad (sense for sense translation) and vartik, the
last being marked by translation with explanation. In fact, it is
possible to use the term vykhyanuvad (translation with explanation)
for it. Along with literary and religious texts, texts belonging to the
Vedanta (literally ‘end of the Vedas’; it is used for the Upanishads),
Vaidyak (medicine) and Jyotish (astrology) schools of thought and
narratives from Prakrit and Persian were also translated in this
period. Sabal Singh Chauhan (1661-1724), king of Sabalgarh (near
Etwah distict in Uttar Pradesh), translated the Mahabharata in the
Doha and Chaupai metres in such simple language that it verges on
the unpoetic. By comparison, Gokulnath Gopinath’s translation of
the Mahabharata is more poetic and literary.
210 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
The seventeenth century witnessed translations of Sanskrit
works e.g. plays, puranas and narratives into Hindi. Damodardas
belonging to Dadu panth (Dadu sect) translated the Markandeya
Purana in 1648, and Meghraj Pradhan translated Adhyatma
Ramayan. In 1767 Ramahari translated Roopgoswmani’s Sanskrit
plays as Vidagdh Madhav Natak. Other religious and ethical texts
translated in this period included Devichand’s Hitopadesh Granth
Mahaprabodhini and Banshidhar’s Mitra Manohar (1717), both are
translations of the old Sanskrit verse narrative Hitopadesh. The
Nachiketpuran (the well-known story of Nachiketas in the
Kathopanishad ) was frequently translated – as Nachiketopakhyan in
1707 and then in 1831 as Nachiketpuran. Translated as it abundantly
was between 1754 and 1769 the Garud Puran (Book of the Dead)
was also a favorite among translators. Nazir Anandram’s translation
of a part of the Padmapuran (Rama’s life story) is also worth
mentioning here. Surati Mishra translated Vaitalpanchvinshaitika as
Vaital Pachchisi, which can be put in the category of chhayanuvad
(literally ‘shadow translation’).
Translation in the colonial period
The real impetus to translation activities came during the
foreign rule from 1757 to 1857 under the East India Company and
from 1857 to 1947 under the direct colonial rule, though most of
these activities were not free from colonial / political
considerations5. Thus the next phase of translation in India was a
consequence of its colonization in the second half of the eighteenth
century. In the first phase the most significant event was the
establishment of the Asiatic Society. Among many activities that it
supported was also translation of Indian texts into English such as
Abhigyanashakuntalam, the Gita, Manusmriti and so on. For the first
time translation was pursued in an unprecedented manner in order to
(re)discover, know and (re)fashion native knowledge systems which
would help to appropriate and control India. Knowing is controlling,
and more often than not, translation in the colonial period was the
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 211
means of achieving both goals. It became a means of cultural
transformation or conversion of the other that needed to be
intellectually domesticated after being politically vanquished.
Excepting the translation of some ancient Indian classics and
treatises into Western languages, most of the translations were into
Indian languages, and those selected for translation from Western
languages (e.g English) to Indian languages were such works as
would serve the colonizer’s purposes. While English translations of
Khayyam’s Rubbayat and some of the Indian literary classics were
attempted to eroticize the Orient to the West, the translations by
William Carey and company of the Bible into 16 Indian language in
the 1880s were motivated more by religious expansionist intentions
than by the ‘catholicity’ of Christianity. Translations from English to
Indian languages in subsequent years crushed the Indian creative
sensibility, though there is no denying the fact that these translations
helped in introducing some new literary trends and movements into
Indian literature.
The Asiatic Society was an Orientalist Institute, but not in
the Saidean sense, for it did not always act as the handmaid of
colonization. The Orientalists, or Indologists to be precise, of the
early period from 1757 to 1825, and their translational operations
(associated with the Society at least by the end of the first quarter of
the eighteenth century) were inspired by admiration for the Indian’s
cultural heritage. The translation of the Vedas, Upanishads,
Ramayana, Mahabharata, Gita, Manusmruti and
Abhigyanashakuntalam among other translations by scholars
associated with the Society and others – introduced Indian
knowledge systems to Europe. This process of translation from
Indian languages to European languages enriched Europe’s
knowledge about India as a new land with knowledge systems
different from its own. The establishment of Chairs of Sanskrit in
major universities of Europe, by the first quarter of the 19th century
212 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
was not a mere coincidence but a result of the orientation of Europe
towards India through Orientalism.
The nineteenth century witnessed a strengthening of
translation activities into Hindi, the Brijbhasha language, to be
precise. Lalloolal translated Hitopadesh as Rajneeti in 1802, and the
dialogue between the sage Shukdev and King Parikshit as
Kalyavankatha and Kimiya-e Shaadat (1817 edn.). Translation of
the Bhagavat by Sevaram Mishra and of the Siddhasiddhanta was
also attempted in the first half of the 19th century, which was marked
by the growth of prose in Brij. Quite a few non-literary texts on
religion, poetics, medicine, rituals, astronomy, geography and
mathematics were translated into prose mixed with verse. This
influenced the language of translation, as may be discerned in
Lallolal’s translation of Hitopadesh. The vartik and tika traditions
continued, and these could be considered as additions to the
categories of translation in the loose sense of the term. Also worth
noting are the translations of Ved Vyas’s Mahabharata and
Kalidas’s Rutusamhar by Sabal Singh Chauhan (1661-1724) and the
tika of the Gitabhashamrata of Ramanuji Bhagvandas (1698), Gita
Prashna by Swami Navrang in the eighteenth century, Nazar
Anandram’s Parmanand –Pravodh Tika (1704), Krishna
Chakravarty’s Bhagavad-Gita Bhashya, and Hari Vallabh Das’s
Gitabhashya Tika in verse and prose. Tulsidas’s Ramacharitmanas,
Bihari’s Satsai and Keshav’s Rasikpriya, Ramchandrika, Kavipriya
and Vairagyashatak also earned the attention of tikakars or
commentators. Though tika is not translation in the strict sense of the
term, it is translation with latitude - usually in the same linguistic
group. These commentaries can be put in the following categories as
translation from Sanskrit to the Brij dialect –i.e, commentaries from
one dialect to another in the same language group (e.g. from Avadhi
to Brij).
Tikanuvad (= translation with commentaries) of different
texts in the Riti period were also attempted, for example
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 213
Bhashaupanishad, Bhashapadmapurana, Bhashayogavashishtha,
Mallinathcharitavachanika, Sudrashti Tarangini Vachanika, and
Hitopadeshvachanika. Bhashaupanishad is a Persian translation of
22 Upanishads, including Taiteriopanishad. The manuscript of this
1719 translation is preserved in the Asiatic Society, Calcutta. The
translation of Daulatram Jain’s Ramakatha as Bhashapadmapurana
or Padmapuran Vachanika from Prakrit to Khariboli, profusely
mixed with Rajasthani and Brijbhasha, is worth noting. The
interaction between Khariboli and Persian continued in this period,
i.e. in the first quarter of the 18th century, as can be seen in Paras
Bhag, a translation of Keemia Shaadat by Sevapanthi Addanshah
and Kriparam from Persian to Khariboli. Some of the translations
from Sanskrit include Gitanuvad, of doubtful authorship but
generally ascribed to Birbal (1723 edn.) and Suryasidhanta, a
translation of the Sanskrit text of astrology of the same title by
Pandit Kamodananda Mishra from Sanskrit in 1782. In general, texts
from medicine, astrology, religious and spiritual scriptures,
geography, history, philosophy and narratives from Sanskrit and
Persian were more commentaries than true translation.
Pandit Yogadhyan Mishra translated Hatimtaee, a famous
Kissa which is a narrative dealing with the world of magic and
fantasy in 1838; Tarinicharan Mitra translated Purush-
Parikshasangraha dealing with human attributes in 1813; and
Dayashankar, the younger brother of Laloolal, translated Daybhag, a
text dealing with inheritance of property in 1832. Quite a few Sufi
and Islamic religious texts were translated into Dakhini Hindi, which
is dominated by Urdu and is closer to Khariboli in word-form and
sentence construction. Significant contributions include a translation
of Miran Yakoobi’s Shamaylul Atakia and Dalaylul Atakia,
Mohammad – Valiullah Kadari’s translation of Mariftussuluk and
also of translation of Saiyad Shah Mohammad Kadiri’s Risala-e-
Vajoodiya, Shahmir’s Asararuttauhid and Abdul Hamid’s Risalae
Tasavvuf. Quite a few texts by anonymous authors that were
translated in this period are narratives – e.g., Tutinama, Anware
214 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
Suheli, and Kissa-e-Gulo Hurmuz. Sittae Samasiya and Risala Zarre
Saken are medical texts translated into Dakhini Hindi. Some of the
translations were attempted in consonance with an attitude towards
Hindi that was, to a large extent, shaped by the language policy of
the rulers. Sadal Mishra’s translations of Nachiketopakhyana and
Adhyatma Ramayana are its examples. At Sir John Gilchrist
instance, Mishra translated the latter work as Ramcharitra in about
320 pages. He wrote:
“The most kind reservoir of all human attributes Mr.
Gilchrist Sir resolved to render Sanskrit texts into
Bhasha. One day he asked me to render the Adhyatma
Ramayana in a language that would have Persian and
Arabic words in it. So I started using Khariboli for my
purpose” (cited in Ganapatichandra Gupta Vol. II. 737).
Along with original compositions, the Bharatendu period
(1850-1885) in the second half of the nineteenth century was marked
by sustained translation from Sanskrit and English, the latter activity
an offshoot of colonization. Raja Laxman Sigh (1826-96) translated
Kalidas’s Raghuvansh and his epic poem Meghdoot in simple yet
poetic Brijbhasha in Savaiya metre. Bharatendu himself translated a
Narad Bhakti Sutra and Shandilya’s Bhaktisutra as Tadeeya
Sarvaswa in 1874 with greater focus on sense than on linguistic
considerations. Babu Totaram (1848-1902) translated Valmiki’s
Ramayana as Ram Ramayana from Sanskrit to Hindi. In this period,
works by the fifth-century poet and dramatist Kalidasa were
translated repeatedly from Sanskrit. Thakur Jag Mohan Singh’s
translations of Kalidasa’s Ritusamharam (1876) and Meghdoot
(1883) deserve our attention, for he consciously prioritized
preservation of sense over literal translation and indirectly tried to
adopt translation strategies such as deletion and addition in terms of
sense. Lala Sitaram ‘Bhoop’ (1858-1937) translated Meghdoot
(1833), the play Kumarasambhavam (1884), the play
Raghuvamsham (1885-92) and Ritusamharam (1893) without
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 215
achieving the effect of Jag Mohan Singh. The major difference
between the translations of the two was that the former used tatsama
(Sanskrit) phraseology and Kavitta and Savaiya metres, whereas the
latter used Doha, Chaupai and Ghanakshari metres. Apart from
these, ‘Bhoop’ translated verses nos. 73 to 85 from the “Adisarga”
of Ved Vyas’s the Mahabharata as Devyani and also Kapil Muni’s
Sankhyasutra from Sanskrit to Hindi, although he did not publish it.
He also translated Byron’s The Prisoner of Shilon as Shilon Ka
Bandi. Among English works, Oliver Goldsmith’s Hamlet and the
poem Deserted Village were translated as Ekantvasi Yogi (1886) and
Oojad Gram (1889) by Shridhar Pathak into Brijbhasha-mixed
Khariboli. Pathak also translated Goldsmith’s poem The Traveller as
Shranta Pathika. The credit for initiating the process of translating
English works into Hindi thus goes to the Bharatendu period.
In 1863 Raja Laxman Singh translated Kalidas’s Abhigyana
shakuntalam which became popular for two reasons -- the
subconscious engagement during the age with Shankuntala’s exotic
and Dhushyanta’s amnesiac story, and the advocacy of purity of
language to which Laxman Singh subscribed and practised as well.
In this period, apart from Kalidasa, the poet Bhavabhuti was another
favourite with the translators of Sanskrit literature. Their works were
translated again in this period, showing dissatisfaction with earlier
versions. After Raja Laxman Singh’s translation of Abhigyana
shakuntalam attention was drawn to other works as well. Nandalal
Viswanath Dubey also tried to translate the play in 1888, and Lala
Sitaram translated Klidasa’s play Malvikagnimitra in 1898. Devdutta
Tiwari, Nandalal Vishwanath Dubey and Lala Sitaram translated
Bhavabhooti’s Uttar Ramcharita in 1871, 1886 and 1897
respectively. Sitaram translated Bhavabhooti’s play Malatimadhava
and Mahavircharita in 1898 and 1897. Lala Shaligram also rendered
Maltimadhava in 1881. Shitalaprasad and Ayodhyaprasad Chaudhari
translated Krishnamitra’s Prabandhachandrodaya in 1879 and 1885
respectively, while Gadadhar Bhatta translated King Shudraka’s play
Mrchhakatikam in 1880. Important Sanskrit plays translated in this
216 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
period included Harsha’s Ratnavali (translated by Devadutta in 1872
and by Balmukunda Singh in 1898) and Bhattnarayana’s
Venisanhara (translated by Jawalaprasad Singh in 1897). The
period, i.e. the second half of the 19th century, is marked by a few
tendencies. Most of the translators were creative writers who wanted
to enrich their languages with translations. The texts chosen for
translations included Sanskrit texts, particularly epics and plays
along with English works and even from Bhasha literatures like
Bengali and Marathi.
Among other plays, Bharatendu translated the Sanskrit play
Chaurpanchashika into Hindi from its Bangla translation in 1868,
Ratnavali from Sanskrit in 1868, Pakhand Vikhandan (a translation
of the Act III of Krishna Mishra’s Pravandhchandrodaya) in 1872,
Dhanjayavyaya (a translation of Act III of the Sanskrit play of the
same title by Kanchankavi) in 1873, Karpoor Manjari (a translation
of Vishakhdutta’s play) in 1878. Bharatendu also translated
Shakespeare’s Merchnt of Venice as Durlabh Bandhu in 1880. The
Parsi drama companies staged Shakespeare’s plays, and this gave
impetus to translation. Arya translated Merchant of Venice as Venice
ka Vyapari in 1888, Munshi Imdad Ali rendered Comedy of Errors
as Bhramjalak in 1885, while Lala Sitaram rendered it as
Bhoolbhulaiya in 1885. Other translations of Shakespeare’s plays
were As you Like It as Manbhavan by Purohit Gopinath in 1896,
Romeo and Juliet as Premlila by Purohit Gopinath in 1877, and
Macbeth as Sahsendra Sahas by Mathuraprasad Upadhyaya in 1893.
Babu Totram translated Joseph Addison’s tragedy Cato as Kratanta
in 1879. This trend of translating English plays signalled the
importance of English through colonial encounter, and it gave a new
direction to Hindi drama, which had availed itself primarily of
Sanskrit and folk dramatic traditions. From Bangla, Michael
Madhusudan Dutt’s plays -- e.g. Padmavati (translated in 1878 by
Balkrishna Bhatt), Sharmishtha (in 1880 by Ramcharan Shukla) and
Krishnamurari (in 1899 by Ramkrishna Verma) – were translated
along with Manmohan Bahu’s Sati (in 1880 by Uditnaranyan Lal),
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 217
Rajakishore Dev’s Padmavati (in 1889 by Ramkrishna Verma) and
Dwarakanath Ganguli’s Veer Nari in 1899 by Ramkrishna.
Apart from Bangla plays, novels in Bangla by Bankim
Chandra Chatterjee (1833–94), Rameshchandra Dutta (1848-1909)
and Tarkanath Ganguli (1845–1907) were also translated. Notable
translations include Gadadhar Singh’s translation of Rameshchandra
Dutt’s Bangavijeta (1886) and Bankim’s Durgesh nandini (1882),
Pratap Narayan Mishra’s translation of Bankim Chandra’s Raj
Singh, Indira, Radharani, and Yugalanguriya, Radhacharan
Goswami’s translation of Damodar Mukherjee’s Mranmayee and
Munshi Haritnarayanlal’s translation of Swarnkumar’s Deep
Nirvan.Apart from these, Ramkrishna Verma’s translation of
Chittorchatki in 1895, Kartikprasad Khatri’s Ila (1896), and Jaya
Madhumalti and Gopal Das Gahamari’s Chaturchanchala (1893),
Bhanumati (1894) and Naye Babu (1895) deserve to be noted here,
for these translators did not mention the names of the source authors.
Gopal Das Gahamari’s translations in particular and others in
general can be put in the category of translation-cum-adaptation.
Translations from Marathi and Urdu novels included
Bharatendu’s Poornaprakash Chandraprabha from Marathi and
Ramkrishna Verma’s Sansardarpan (1885), Amala Vratantamala
(1884), Thag Vratantamala (1889) and Police Vratantamata (1890)
from Urdu. Some of these translations were discussed and
commented upon, with Badrinarayan Chaudhri’s ‘Premaghan’
criticizing Gadadhar Singh’s translation of Bangvijeta in detail in
Anandakadambini and Balmukund Gupta critiquing the translation
of Goldsmith’s Hermit as Ekantayoga.
Apart from writing about fifty original works, Mahavir
Prasad Dwivedi (1864-1938), after whom the period is named the
“Dwivedi Yug [era]” (1893-1918), translated thirty texts.6 Rai Devi
Prasad ‘Poorna’ (1868-1915) translated Kalidasa’s Meghdoot as
Dharadhar-dhawan in 1902.
218 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
In the Dwivedi era, Sanskrit, English and Bangla dramatic
texts translated were Savananda Avasthi’s translation Naginenda
(1956), Mrichohhakatika by Lala Sitaram in 1913, and
Uttararamacharita by Kaviratna Satyanarayana. Also, the plays of
French dramatist Moliere were translated from their English versions
by Lalluprasad Pandey and Gangaprasad Pandey.
Gopaldas Gahamari had introduced detective themes
through his detective novels, and he strengthened this with his
translation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet as
Govindram in 1905. The fascination with detective themes and
novels continued in the twentieth century. G.W.M. Reynolds’ novel,
Mysteries of the Court of London was translated as London Rahasya
and his Loves of the Hair as Rangmahal by Gangaprasad Gupta in
1904. The fascination with detective stories and the supernatural and
miraculous disallowed the use of translation as a mode of
introducing new and rich models of novel from non–English
traditions such as Russian, French, German, and Spanish, among
others. That is how colonization impacts and limits the choices of
the subject. However, there were some exceptions as well. For
instance, fictional works of literary merit like Daniel Defoe’s
Robinson Crusoe (under the same title by Janardhan Prasad Jha
“Dwij”), and Sir Walter Scott’s The Abbott (as Rani Mary in 1916
by Lala Chandralal). Also, there were some non-English novels like
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (by Durga Prasad Khatri as Abhage
Ka Bhagya in 1914-15), and Harriet Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (as
Tom Kaka Ki Kutiya in 1916 by Mahavir Prasad Poddar). From
Bangla, the novels of established novelists like Damodar
Mukhopadhyaya, Bankimchandra, Panchakauri De, Rabindranath
Tagore and Rameshchandra Dutt were translated respectively by
Ishwari Prasad Sharma, Kishorilal Goswami, Gopalram Gahamari
and Jonardhan Jha ‘Dwij’. All these source texts barring a few
exceptions dealt with miracle, mystery or detective incidents in their
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 219
thematic concerns. The absence of translations of serious socially
oriented novels speaks of the taste of the then readership in Hindi.
Translation played a role in developing and establishing a
critical sense in Hindi. In the Bharatendu period Jagannath Ratnedar
had attempted a verse translation of Alexander Pope’s Essay on
Criticism as Samalochandarsha in 1897. Later Acharya Ram
Chandra Shukla translated Joseph Addison’s “Essay on
Imagination” as Kalpana ke Ananda, and he also translated Edwin
Arnold’s Light of Asia as Buddha Charita in 1922. Interestingly, this
is not in Khari boli Hindi but in Brijbhasha, and Shukla did not take
recourse to literal translation. Rather he added to the translation at
will. He had previously translated Megasthenese’s India as
Megasthenesekalina Bharata in 1897, John Henry Newman’s
Literature as Sahitya in 1904, and Sir T. Madhava Rao’s Minor
Hints as Rajprabandha Siksha in 1913. Others, such as Mahavir
Prasad Dwivedi, made profuse use of English critics without
translating or at times even acknowledging them.
Munshi Premchand was a unique case. He used to write his
novels in Urdu and then translate them into Hindi – e.g., wrote
Bazare Hunsa, Gosh-e-Afimat and Gogane Havti and then translated
them as Sevasadan, Premashram and Rangbhoomi. In fact the task
was easier, for linguistic code switching between Urdu and Hindi
was not difficult for Premchand like northern Indians who operate
between the common vocabulary of Hindi and Urdu and their
common Gangajamuni culture. Ironically, they were first published
in Hindi. In between he translated two of his existing Urdu novels –
Jalva-e-Isar as Vardan in 1921, and Hamkhurma va Hamsawab as
Prem Arthat Do Sakhiyon Ka Vivah. He rewrote the Hindi variance
of Prema in Hindi and published it as Pratigya in 1929. He was not
happy with the state of the pre-Premchand Hindi novel in
comparison with the Urdu and Bengali novel. He saw translation as
a means of enriching Hindi literature, but not simply through
translation. He was highly critical of the indiscriminate translations
220 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
from Bengali, particularly in the last quarter of the nineteenth
century and the early part of the first quarter of the twentieth
century. Premchand wanted the treasure of Hindi to be enriched by
its own jewels, as well as by the best from other world literatures
such as Russian and French. So in his essay “Upanyasa” (Premchand
1962: 33-38) he called upon young people to learn these languages
and then translate their good literary works into Hindi.
Acharya Vishweshar translated Abhinavgupta’s Abhinav
Bharati, Kuntaka’s Vakrotijivit, Anandavardhana’s Dhwanyaloka,
Ramchandra Gunachandra’s Natyadarpan and Mammata’s
Kavyaprakasha. Under the editorship of Dr. Nagendra, Aristotle’s
Poetics, Longinus’s The Sublime and Horacles’ Arts Poetica were
translated as Arastu Ka Kavyashastra, Kavya Mein Udatta Tattva
and Kavyakala respectively.
Quite a few travelogues from Gujarati, Marathi and Bangla
by Kanhaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, Kaka Kalelker and Shanker were
translated respectively as Badrinath Ki Yatra (1959) Sooryodaya Ka
Desh (195), Himalaya Ki yatra (1948) and A Par Bangla O Par
Bangla (1982). Other notable translations in the middle decades of
the twentieth century include the translation of important short
stories of the world as Sansar Ki Sarwashreshtha Kahaniya in 1940
and a translation by Shamsher Bahadur Singh, the Marxist poet, of
Aijaz Ahmed’s history of Urdu literature as Urdu Sahitya ka Itihasa
in 1956.
Memoirs were translated from different languages in the
post-Independence period. Ilachandra Joshi was one of the pioneers
with his translation of Gorky’s Memoirs as Gorky Ke Sansmaran in
1942. Hazari Prasad Dwivedi translated Rabindranath Tagore’s
memoirs as Mera Bachpan from Bangla. Manuben Gandhi’s
memoirs were translated by Kurangiben Desai as Ba Meri Man and
by Ram Narayan Chaudhary as Ba Aur Babu Ki Sheetal Chhaya
Main in 1954. From Panjabi, Amrita Pritam’s memoirs were
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 221
translated as Atit Ki Parchaiyan in 1962. Upendra Nath ‘Ashq’
edited and translated Urdu memoir as Urduke Bhatareen Sansmaran
in Hindi in 1962. Mukundilal Shrivastava brought out Nayan Tara
Sahgal’s Prison and Chocolate from English to Hindi as Mera
The Indian mind’s fascination with Shakespeare that had
begun in the nineteenth century as a by-product of the colonial
literary enterprise continued in the twentieth century. If in the first
half of the century Harivanshrai Bachchan translated Shakespeare as
part of his academic, creative and personal pursuits, Rangeya
Raghav, one of the most prolific translators of Shakespeare, did so
more out of his love for Hindi than for Shakespeare. “A language
which does not possess translations of Shakespeare, cannot be
counted among the more developed languages” (cited in Trivedi
1993, 33). Further, retranslation of Shakespeare’s plays speaks of his
dissatisfaction with the preceding translations of Shakespeare, for
Shakespeare was already there in Hindi but not in the kind of
translations that Rangeya Raghava wanted.
Another notable feature of translation into Hindi in the
second half of the twentieth century was the participation in the
translational enterprise of noted creative and critical writers, both
established and emerging, against the backdrop of a realization of
the significance of translation as the means of enriching their
literature and their own creativity. Vishnu Khare’s translation of The
Wasteland and Mohan Rakesh’s translation of The Portait of a Lady
speak of their choice of Anglo-American-centric texts more out of
their fascination for them and less out of their canonical status in the
Hindi academic world. Incidentally, both of these translators were
not directly concerned with the academic world. Others moved away
from the Anglo-American space to a large extent, such as the
translation of Albert Camus’ The Stranger by Rajendra Yadav and
Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Kamleshwar.
Kedarnath Singh translated Paul Eluard’s poems and discovered his
222 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
own poetic talent in the process, and became one of the significant
Hindi poets of the last quarter of the twentieth century.
In the 1960s and 1970s, translation into Hindi moved further
away from England and America to central and eastern European
countries such as Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland and
Russia. Through the choice of source texts this constituted indirect
resistance to American hegemony. The case of Nirmal Verma stands
out. The translations of Czech creative literature (particularly of
Milan Kundera) by this eminent Hindi novelist and essayist
introduced Czech creativity to the Hindi readership even before it
reached English, and Verma made use of Czech locales in his
maiden novel. Raghuvir Sahay, a distinguished poet, translated
Hungarian poets, the Polish novelist Jerzi Andrezejewaski, and the
Yugoslavic/Bosnian poet Ivo Andric. Sahay’s translation of Andric’s
epic novel Na Drini Chupriya as Drina Nadi Ka Pul (1986) is
significant because of his choice of the text for translation. He
selected it after becoming fascinated with Andric’s delineation of
characters and their conduct, the struggle for oppositional values
within European history, and also in an attempt to make the
sympathetic Indian reader conscious of the present state of India and
its future. Commenting on Andric’s appeal to him, he said,
“In his work, while people accept the new, they do not
barter away the old for it. This is the true meaning of
knowing one’s tradition; and this is also the Indian
philosophy of history.”
In Sahay, translation thus becomes an instrument of
knowing and reinstating one’s own cultural and philosophical
traditions through similar literary works and traditions from hitherto
unknown lands. Writings from Latin America, Africa and the
Caribbean came to be translated into Hindi. Virendra Kumar
Barnwal translated Wole Soyinka’s poems as Wole Soyankaki
Kavitayen in 1991 out of his love or affinity for the poet and his
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 223
work, not out of any translational ideals. The shift of the centre of
fictional creativity to the non-American and non-European world
such as South America, Africa and Asia, discernible as it is, in
awards like the Nobel Prize and the Commonwealth and Booker
Prizes to non-European and non-American writers introduced the
works of these writers to Hindi literature through translation. In
addition to Teen Saal (Chekhov) Agneya Versha (Constantine
Faydin), Surkh aur Syah (Stendhal), Dheere Bahe Don (Mikhail
Sholokhov), Pahala Adami, Azanabi, Plague, Patan, Sukhi Mratyu
(all by Albert Camus), Kisan (Balzac), Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s
One Hundred Years of Solitude as Ekant Ke Sau Varsha were
translated. Indian English writing such as Vikran Seth’s A Suitable
Boy and An Equal Music were translated as Ek Achchha sa Ladka
and Ek sa Sangeet respectively, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the
Sea of Stories as Haroon aur Kahaniyon ka Samunder, Khushwant
Singh’s Train to Pakistan as Pakistan Mail, and Shobha De’s Starry
Nights as Sitaron ki Raten.
This period was remarkable for another translational
tendency viz. of translating Urdu poetry into Hindi, though it meant
mere transcription of Urdu poets like Ghalib in Devanagari script
with meanings of difficult words given in Hindi.
In the post-colonial period various literary and cultural
institutions (Central and State Sahitya Akademis) and publication
houses such as Katha, Macmillan and the National Book Trust
encouraged translation to facilitate interaction among various
linguistic identities. The main tendencies included a critique of
colonial translations and their motivations and ideologies,
translations of works from post-colonial societies into Indian
languages and also from Eurasian countries, a shift from the
word/sentence/paragraph or vision to culture as the unit of
translation, and the use of English as an intermediary language.
Towards its close the twentieth century witnessed ‘horizontal’
translations (Adan Pradan) among Indian languages more than ever.
224 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
The declining decades of the twentieth century witnessed a
new upsurge in translation that was unbridled by colonial complexes
and calculations but not always politically innocent. The translation
scenario in Hindi might not compare favourably with English, but it
is quite healthy because of the large Hindi readership and greater
acceptance of Hindi among other sister languages. Among several
reasons that may be adduced for this phenomenon are the emergence
of a new crop of good writers in Indian languages who want to have
an access to Hindi readership through translations. Some concerted
efforts by the Sahitya Akademi (the National Academy of Letters)
were made in collaboration with other agencies in this direction. The
entry of some new publishing houses such as Bharatiya Gyanpith
and Sahitya Akademi along with Hindi Akademis in many states
have given a new impetus to translation in Hindi by getting most of
the award winning works translated into Hindi. Academic Hindi
publishers like Vani, Rajkamal, Radhakrishna, showed greater
inclination for publishing important works from non-Indian
languages like English, French, German, Russian, and also Latin
American and African languages. Another notable feature was the
emergence of dalit and feminist discourse. So, literary works dealing
with them were translated. Since the dalit discourse flourished more
in Marathi than in any other language, the works of Daya Pawar and
Sharan Kumar Limbale were translated and published in Hindi by
Vani, Rajkamal and Radhakrishna in particular.
I will conclude with the remark that translational practices
prevalent at that time in India, especially in Hindi, have to take note
of the linguistic clusters in the country, as there used to be five
Prakrit or natural languages of the people viz. Panchali, Avanti,
Vaidarbhi, Gaudi, and Dakshinatya. In ancient India there were eight
linguistic clusters:
1. TMKT: Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu
2. MKKT: Marathi, Konkani, Kannada, Telugu
3. HGM: Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 225
4. HPGMBO: Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarat, Marathi, Magadhi,
Oriya, Bengali
5. ABO: Assamese, Bengali, Oriya
6. AGK & NE: Assamese & North-eastern
7. PDHT: Panjabi, Dogri, Hindi, Tibetan/Ladakhi
8. HOTM: Hindi, Oriya, Telugu, Marathi
They exist on the geographical map of India. The need is of
greater translational interactions among them. The interaction among
Indian languages would lend impetus to translation in Hindi because
Hindi touches major linguistic clusters barring the southern
linguistic cluster. This is what I would term as ‘Home and Abroad’
approach to translational activities followed by ‘Home and Abroad’
phenomenon which has plagued translational pursuits in India. First
there should be translation amongst sister languages of India and
then between Indian and non-Indian languages. Hindi, by virtue of
its leadership and demographic space covering more than forty
crores of people within India, would be the greatest beneficiary of
this ‘Home & Home’ and then ‘abroad’ proposal of translational
1. The terms vad, anuvad and samvad are a variation of the title of
the book Vad, Vivad aur Samvad by the noted Hindi critic,
Namvar Singh. The title of the book is a creative translation of
Hegelian dialectical terms: thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. In
both the cases the beginning and the end are the same though, in
the second and central stage anti-thesis and translation or
subsequent discourse occupy the central place in their respective
paradigm. I consider samvad and synthesis to be reciprocal
processes because synthesis is a consequence of dialogue.
226 Translation in/and Hindi Literature
2. Kavyapurush (=verbal/literary discourse incarnate) is a mythical
account of the origin of literature and its forms given in Chapter
III of Kavyamimamsa. Goddess Saraswati, mother of
Kavyapurush, appreciates him, as he is the first creator of verse:
“Words and meaning form your body, Sanskrit your
mouth, Prakrit dialects your arms, Apabhrmsha your
legs, Pisachi your feet and Mishra languages your
bosom. You are complete, happy, sweet and largehearted.
Your speech is elevated. Rasa is the soul.”
3. In Chapter III of Kavyamimamsa, Chakravarti kshetra is
described to be from the Southern Sea to the Himalayas covering
an area of one thousand yojanas (about four thousand miles).
The poets of the country can describe the apparel, manners,
customs and speech of these geographical areas.
4. I prefer this term to ‘vernacularisation’ because it has a
politically dismissive connotation in it. Lokbhashaikaran
includes in it democratization of knowledge, first composed in
Sanskrit through the process of its transference into lokbhashas
(‘native’ laguages is politically incorrect). For an elaborate note
on this, see AK Singh (my article) “Neither Amnesia nor
Aphasia: Knowledge, Continuity and Change in Indian Poetical
traditions” in Indian Knowledge Systems, Vol. 2, 372-3.
5. For an elaborate discussion, see (my article) “Renaissance Self-
(Re) Fashioning” in South Asian Review, Pennsylvania
6. Panditraj Jagannath’s Bhavini Vilasa from Sanskrit in 1891 and
Yamunastrota as Amrutalahiri in 1896, Bacon’s famous essays
as Bacon Vichar in 1901, Herbert Spenser’s essay “Education”
as “Shiksha” in 1906, John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty as
Swadheenata 1907, the Mahabharata as Hindi Mahabharata in
1908, Kalidas’s Raghuvansha, Kumar Sambhava and Meghdoot
in 1912, 1915 and 1917 respectively, Bhattnarayana’s
Avadhesh Kumar Singh 227
Venisnghara 1913, Bharavi’s Kiratarjuniyam in 1917, and
Akhyayika Saptaka, the translation of seven selected narratives,
in 1927.
7. For an elaborate discussion of this point, see (my articles)
“Decolonising Engish Studies in India” in Decolonisation: A
Search for Alternatives eds. Adesh Pal et al. New Delhi:
Creative books, 2001, and “A Case for Comparative Literay
Studies” in English Studies: Indian Perspective. eds. Makarand
Paranjape et al. New Delhi: Mantra Books, 2005.
Gupta, Ganapatichandra (ed) 1995 Hindi Bhasha and Sahitya
Vishwakosha Vol. II. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers.
Harishchandra, Bhartendu 2000 Bhartendu Samagra Varanasi:
Pracharak Granthavali.
Nagendra 2001 Hindi Sahitya Itihasa Noida: Mayur Paperbacks.
Premchand, Munshi 1962 “Upanyasa” Vividh Prasang Vol. III (ed)
Amrit Rai Allahabad: Lokbharati.
Sahay, Raghuvir 1986 “Prastavana” Drina Nadi ka Pul (translation
of Ivo Andric’s novel Na Drini Chupriva) New Delhi:
Sahitya Adkademi.
Shukla, Acharay Ramchandra 2003 Hindi Sahitya Ka Itihasa New
Delhi: Prakashan Sansthan.
Singh, Avadhesh Kumar (ed) 1996 Translation: Its Theory and
Practice New Delhi: Creative Books.
Singh, Bacchchana 2000 Hindi Sahitya ka Doosara Itihasa Delhi:
Radhakrishna Prakashana.
Trivedi, Harish 1993 Colonial Transactions: English Literature
and India Culcutta: Papyrus.

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