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(Found this text of a speech I gave at my Toastmasters club (named “Innovators”, sometime in 2011, when I was organizing folders on my PC. Posting as is)
I come from India. If you did not know already, India is a land where you’ll find people speak hundreds of language and there are at least 30 languages with more than a million speakers. It is not hard to find people who can speak more than one Indian language. Typical of many urban Indians, I can speak in several of Indian languages too.
But there is one language that I can’t claim to speak, but I can understand quite well. This language is Samskrta. It is the oldest known language of India, and possibly one of the oldest surviving languages of the world. This language has influenced every other language in India to a varying extents, and has a literature that spans over four millennia. Even though it is not claimed as a mother tongue by any, due to the antiquity, and the influence it has on the vocabulary on Indian languages, it is still one of the 22 official languages of the country. Till the time of the colonization of India by the British in the 18th century, it was in fact the pan-Indian language for communication among the educated class. A great number of texts about yoga, Ayurveda (or the science of medicine), Jyotisha (or astronomy) and Ganita (Mathematics) etc are written in this language.
When I was in my elementary school, my parents enrolled me to Samskrta classes. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to go to those classes, and I don’t know if I had any other opinion, it would have mattered! It was not a language that was taught in my grade school. These classes were held throughout the year, without even a summer break! What this meant was that I had to wake up early, take a shower, go to the class, come back home and then head out for my school. Sometimes, there were additional classes in the evening too. Going to these classes were the routine for me from the time I was in my kindergarten to about my junior year in high school. Since I lived in a small town, I could walk or bike to the classes quickly, so that was not a big problem. But I had to be always aware of these extra two hours needed in my day, when it came to preparing for tests or other work at my school, because I could never use the last couple hours before school to finish up anything!
Over the years, I passed through several levels in these Samskrta language classes. The classes were grouped based on the level, and not on the age. Since I started out early, I was almost always the youngest student in my class! Since Samskrta is not really a widely spoken language, there wasn’t much thrust in learning to speak the language, but the emphasis was on understanding the structure of the language, grammar and and appreciating literary texts. Some texts, specifically poetry had to be memorized too. As we all know, things that are committed to memory at a young age generally remain with us till much later in my life. Although I stopped going to my Samskrta classes during mid-high school, I still remember those verses memorized years ago.
Luckily, my interest in this language did not wane even after I stopped going to those classes. About five or six years ago, I tried to translate some poetry from Samskrta, to Kannada, my mother tongue; generally I started out by those poems that I knew by heart, from my age old classes! I started a blog to post these translations, and the positive comments from readers encouraged me to try out more. Then I had to look for other poems that I did not know before. Now that I am not that young anymore, and and can not commit these verses to memory, it was indeed a good idea for me to try translating whenever I found a new verse that sounded good to me!
To make a long story short, sometime back I was asked if I would like to publish a collection of my selected translations, and a book was published this year! The book is titled “Hamsanaada” and it is in Kannada. It got some favorable reviews in the press too.
As the verse on the opening page of my book says, needless to say translated from an age old Sanskrtit saying – “Start your kids on good things, when they are really young. The pictures etched on a wet mud pot will stay even after you use it for cooking for a long time!”
Dear Innovators, start off your kids to some good things – be it sports,or arts like music and dance, or learning a new language, or whatever else that they can grow up with, and take into their adulthood. With the current life styles, it may be a hard choice to put kids into many activities, and the kids may even resent them now. But I am sure you can find one or two activities apart from the regular schooling, that they’ll like or at least lean to not hate! I’m sure they will be thankful for what you did for them, later in their adult life, because the pictures etched on a wet mud pot, indeed stay forever!
Balamukundashtakam is a collection of 8 Samskrta shlokas that describe some episodes from the childhood of Krishna. Although the first of the eight shlokas is found in Bilwamangala’s (also called Leelashuka) work Krishnakarnamrta, the rest of the shokas are not to be found there. I’m not aware if there is a agreement on the authorship of this work. Anyway, the ashTaka is very attractive, to say the least.
Here is the text in dEvanAgari script:
करारविन्देन पदारविन्दं मुखारविन्दे विनिवेशयन्तम् ।
वटस्य पत्रस्य पुटे शयानं बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥१॥
संहृत्य लोकान्वटपत्रमध्ये शयानमाद्यन्तविहीनरूपम् ।
सर्वेश्वरं सर्वहितावतारं बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥२॥
इन्दीवरश्यामलकोमलांगं इन्द्रादिदेवार्चितपादपद्मम् ।
सन्तानकल्पद्रुममाश्रितानां बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥३॥
लम्बालकं लम्बितहारयष्टिं शृंगारलीलांकितदन्तपङ्क्तिम् ।
बिंबाधरं चारुविशालनेत्रं बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥४॥
शिक्ये निधायाद्यपयोदधीनि बहिर्गतायां व्रजनायिकायाम् ।
भुक्त्वा यथेष्टं कपटेन सुप्तं बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥५॥
कलिन्दजान्तस्थितकालियस्य फणाग्ररंगे नटनप्रियन्तम् ।
तत्पुच्छहस्तं शरदिन्दुवक्त्रं बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥६॥
उलूखले बद्धमुदारशौर्यं उत्तुंगयुग्मार्जुन भंगलीलम् ।
उत्फुल्लपद्मायत चारुनेत्रं बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥७॥
आलोक्य मातुर्मुखमादरेण स्तन्यं पिबन्तं सरसीरुहाक्षम् ।
सच्चिन्मयं देवमनन्तरूपं बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥८॥
The shokas are notable for the extra-ordinary lilting quality, that makes even a simple reading of it makes you feel like you’re listening to a song! Such a delicate structure, does not make it an easy target for translation, and it is hard for any translation to make full justice to the original.
Anyway, I had made an attempt to translate this ashTaka into Kannada a while ago. I see a translation as a means for someone who doesn’t understand the original to get some familiarity and exposure. That translation features in my book Hamsanada as well.
Recently I made a renewed attempt to update the translation to follow metrical rules, thanks to Padyapaana – and here is the result. It is set in choupadi meter (4 liners):
ಕೈಯ ತಾವರೆಯಿಂದ ಕಾಲದಾವರೆಯನ್ನು
ಬಾಯ ತಾವರೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಇರಿಸಿದವನ
ಮಾಯದಾ ಶಿಶು ಆಲದೆಲೆ ಮೇಲೆ ಪವಡಿಸಿದೆ-
ಳೆಯ ಮುಕುಂದನ ನಾನು ನೆನೆವೆನಿಂದು ||೧||
ಜಗಗಳನೆ ಕೊನೆಗೊಳಿಸಿ ಆಲದೆಲೆ ಮೇಗಡೆ ಮ-
ಲಗಿಹಂಥ ಕೊನೆಮೊದಲು ಇಲ್ಲದವನ
ಮಗುಮುಕುಂದನ ನಾನು ನೆನೆವೆ ಮನದಿ ||೨||
ಕನ್ನೈದಿಲೆಯ ನೀಲ ಕೋಮಲಾಂಗದ ಹರಿಯ
ಮುನ್ನ ಇಂದ್ರಾದಿಗಳ ಪೂಜೆವಡೆದ
ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿ ಆಸರೆಯಲಿಹರನ್ನು ಕಾಯ್ವಂಥ
ಚಿನ್ನ ಕಂದನ ನಾನು ನೆನೆವೆ ಮನದಿ ||೩||
ಮುಂಗುರಳಲೆಸೆಯುವನ ಸರಗಳಲಿ ಮೆರೆಯುವನ
ಸಿಂಗರದಿ ಮೂಡಿರುವ ಸುಲಿಪಲ್ಲ ಚೆಲುವ
ತೊಂಡೆತುಟಿಯಲಿ ಕೊಳಲ ನಾದವನು ತುಂಬಿರುವ
ಚಂದಚನ್ನಿಗ ಮುಕುಂದನ್ನ ನೆನೆವೆ ||೪||
ಚೆಲುವೆ ಗೋಪಿಯರೆಲ್ಲ ಮನೆಹೊರಗೆ ಹೋಗಿರಲು
ನಿಲುವಿನಲಿ ಹಾಲ್ಬೆಣ್ಣೆ ಮೊಸರೆಲ್ಲವನ್ನು
ಸುಳಿವು ಬಿಡದೆಲೆ ತಿಂದು ಕಪಟದಲಿ ಮಲಗಿರುವ
ಖಳನಿವನ ಮುಕುಂದನನೀಗ ನೆನೆವೆ || ೫||
ಕಾಳಿ ಯಮುನೆಯೊಳಗಡಗಿರುತಿದ್ದ ಕಾಳಿಯನ
ಏಳುಹೆಡೆಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ಕುಣಿಯುತ್ತಲವನ
ಬಾಲವನು ಹಿಡಿದವನ ಚಂದಿರನ ಮೊಗದವನ
ಬಾಲಕನ ಮುಕುಂದನ ನಾನು ನೆನೆವೆ || ೬ ||
ಒರಳುಕಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಬಿಗಿದು ಕಟ್ಟಿರಲು ಶೌರಿಯಿವ
ಅರಳಿರುವ ಕಮಲ ಹೂದಳದಗಲ ಕಣ್ಣಿರುವ
ಪೋರನಿವ ಮುಕುಂದನ ನಾನು ನೆನೆವೆ ||೭||
ಮೊಲೆಹಾಲ ಕುಡಿಯುತಲಿ ತಾಯಮೊಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಂ-
ಡೆಳೆನಗುವ ನೋಡುತಿಹ ಕಮಲಾಕ್ಷನ
ಅಳವಿರದ ಮೊದಲುಕೊನೆಯಿಲ್ಲದಿಹ ಚಿನ್ಮಯನ
ಎಳೆಯನ್ನ ಮುಕುಂದನ ಮನದಿ ನೆನೆವೆ ||೮||
While in the original ashTaka, all the shlokas end with the same pAda – बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि – in the translation they are all changed but in line with the rest of the content of the shloka. Otherwise, I have tried to be follow the original as much as possible.
Your comments & feedback welcome!
Rajyotsava. Novermber 1st. A day no Kannadiga would forget. Last year, on Rajyotsava, I posted this video of Vidwan Ragavan Manian singing a varna in Kannada language that I composed. That varna had the sAhitya taken from a well known vacana of Basavanna – ನಾದಪ್ರಿಯ ಶಿವನೆಂಬರು. You can click here for the notation of that varNa in rAga nAgaswarAvaLi.
This year too, I am posting another composition of mine which I did a while ago, since it has gone through some “quality testing”! This too is a varna with lyrics in Kannada. No audio or video this time, because I don’t have one worthy of posting :-).
This varNa in rAga Madhuvanti, and set to Adi tALa. And, this time, the sAhitya lines are mine, although indirectly, they are inspired by a shloka of Bilvamangala in his classic Krishna Karnamrta.
Varnas generally have very limited sAhitya, and often have romantic themes. This one is also not an exception, and you could think the lines as being said by one gopika girl of Gokula to another.
ಗೋಕುಲವೆಲ್ಲಾ ಕೊಳಲಿನ ಇನಿದನಿಯಲಿ ತುಂಬಿದನೇ ||
gOkulavellA koLalina inidaniyali tumbidanE
(Translation: He filled Gokula with the melodies his flute)
ಅನುಪಲ್ಲವಿ: ಆಕಳ ಮಂದೆಯ ಕಾಯುತ ಗೋಪಿಯರ ತಾನು ಗೆಲಿದನೇ || ಗೋಕುಲವೆಲ್ಲಾ||
AkaLa mandeya kAyuta gOpiyarellare gelidanE
(Translation: The cowherd, won over the hearts of all gopis)
ಚರಣ: ಮಾತೇ ಮಧುವಂತಿದೆ! ಸಖೀ, ಇವನ || ಮಾತೇ||
mAtE madhuvantide! sakhi ! ivana || mAte||
(Translation: His speech is like honey! Oh my dear!)
The charaNa line was totally my imagination, to include rAga name “madhuvanti”
Here is the notation of the Varna for those interested:
A-Varna-in-Madhuvanti (Kannada version)
A-Varna-in-Madhuvanti (Notation in English)
Today is January 6th – Tyagaraja attained Samadhi at Tiruvaiyyaru 163 years ago this day.
Sort of to keep the tradition, I translated a kriti of Tyagaraja on this special day. You can see my earlier translations in the following links:
The composition I chose for translation is a somewhat less-heard one, set in the raga called Sruti Ranjani. Tyagaraja was indeed a great innovator, and experimented with new melodies. He was the first composer to use hundreds of raagas, that were not known before his time. Sruthi Ranjani is one such raga. A different version of this composition in a very close rAga called Kantamani is also available. Often such different versions have sprung up in different lineages of students of Tyagaraja.
Here is the original sAhitya – Thanks to V Govindan’s wonderful Tyagaraja resource:
E dAri sancarinturA ika palkarA
SrI-d(A)di madhy(A)nta rahita
sItA samEta guN(A)kara nEn(E dAri)
anni tAn(a)nu mArgamuna canaga
nannu vIDanu bhAram(a)ni(y)ADedavu
nannu brOvu dAsa varadA(y)aNTE ( alternately, nannu brOvu rA sadA yanTE as sung in the link below)
dvaituD(a)nedavu tyAgarAja nuta (E dAri)
You can listen to the composition here.
Here is a translation in Kannada. As with my earlier translations, I have tried to keep the sing-ability of the composition :
ಆವ ದಾರಿಯ ಹಿಡಿಯಲೋ? ಒಮ್ಮೆ ನುಡಿಯೋ! ನಾ ||ನಾವ ದಾರಿಯ ಹಿಡಿಯಲೋ||
ಸಿರಿಯೀವ ! ಕೊನೆ-ನಡು-ಮೊದಲಿರದ
ಸೀತೆಯೊಡನಾಡಿ ಗುಣದ ಗಣಿ ನಾನಾ ||ವ ದಾರಿಯ ಹಿಡಿಯಲೋ ||
ನನ್ನಲೇ ಎಲ್ಲವೂ ಇಹುದು ಎನಲು
ಎನ್ನ ಸಲಹ ಬಾರೋ ಎಂದೆನ್ನಲು
ನಿನ್ನೇ ಬಿಟ್ಟೆ ಎನುವೆ!** ತ್ಯಾಗರಾಜನುತ || ಆವ ದಾರಿಯ ಹಿಡಿಯಲೋ ||
In this composition, Tyagaraja asks Lord Rama to show the best path to reach him. If he followed the Advaita doctrine that preaches oneness with the Almighty, then Rama might say Tyagaraja has not still come out of the state of self-pride. On the other hand, if he followed the Dvaita doctrine (dualistic), then Rama might say that Tyagaraja has separated from him. So, either way, Tyagaraja thinks he is in trouble, and asks Rama to show him the right path.
As I was reading a subhAshita toady, I was stuck by the resemblance between that verse and a vacana of Akka Mahadevi, a Kannada poet-saint from 12th century.
Here is the subhAshita I am referring to:
छिन्नोपि चंदनतरुः न जहाति गंधं
वृद्धोपि वापणपतिः न जहाति लाभं ।
यंत्रार्पितो मधुरतां न जहाति चेक्षुः
क्षीणोपि न त्यजति शीलगुणान् कुलीनः ॥
ಛಿನ್ನೋಪಿ ಚಂದನತರುಃ ನ ಜಹಾತಿ ಗಂಧಂ
ವೃದ್ಧೋಪಿ ವಾಪಣಪತಿಃ ನ ಜಹಾತಿ ಲಾಭಂ |
ಯಂತ್ರಾರ್ಪಿತೋ ಮಧುರತಾಂ ನ ಜಹಾತಿ ಚೇಕ್ಷುಃ
ಕ್ಷೀಣೋಪಿ ನ ತ್ಯಜತಿ ಶೀಲಗುಣಾನ್ ಕುಲೀನಃ ||
The Subhashita tells that how noble men (or women) do not drift away from their good nature even when they are facing bad times. I just could not stop using two lines from AkkamahAdEvi’s vachana “chandanava kaDidu koredu tEdoDe” (ಚಂದನವ ಕಡಿದು ಕೊರೆದು ತೇದೊಡೆ) to bring this subhAshita into KannaDa, for they make such a perfect match!
ಚಂದನವ ಕಡಿದು ಕೊರೆದು ತೇದೊಡೆ
ನೊಂದೆನೆಂದು ಕಂಪ ಬಿಟ್ಟಿತ್ತೇ?
ಕುಂದಿದಾ ದೇಹದ ಮುದಿವ್ಯಾಪಾರಿಯೂ
ಸಂದು ಸಂದು ಕಡಿದ ಕಬ್ಬನು
ತಂದು ಗಾಣದಲಿಕ್ಕಿ ಅರೆದೊಡೆ
ನೊಂದೆನೆಂದದು ತಾ ಸವಿಯ ಬಿಟ್ಟೀತೇ?
ನೊಂದರೂ ಕುಂದಿದರೂ ಶೀಲಗುಣಗಳನು
ಒಂದೇ ಮನದಿ ಕಾಯುವರು ಅಗ್ಗಳರು!
(ಮಹಾದೇವಿಯಕ್ಕನ ಎರಡು ಸಾಲುಗಳನ್ನು ಸಾಲ ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಂಡಿರುವೆ – ಅಂತ ಸೊಗಸಾದ ಸಾಲುಗಳನ್ನು ಬಿಡಲು ಮನಸಾಗಲಿಲ್ಲ – ಆ ವಚನ ಚಂದನವ ಕಡಿದು ಕೊರೆದು ತೇದೊಡೆ ಎಂದೇ ಆರಂಭವಾಗುತ್ತೆ )