India in Translation, Translation in India seeks to explore the contours of translation of and in India-how Indian texts travel around the world in translation, how Indian texts travel across languages in the subcontinent and how texts from various languages of the world travel to India. The booleposes pertinent questions like:
What influences the choice of texts and the translations, both within and outside India?
Are there different ideas of India produced through these translations?
What changes have occurred over the last two hundred odd years, from the time of colonialism and anti-colonial struggle to that of globalisation?
How does one rate the success or otherwise of a translation?
What is the role of these translations in their host languages, in their cultural and literary polysystems?
The book includes eighteen essays from eminent academics and researchers who examine the numerous facets of the rich and varied translation activity. It shows how borders-both national and subnational, and generic-are created, how they are reinforced and how they are crossed. While looking at the theory, methodology and language of translation, the essays also enunciate the role of translations in political, social and cultural movements.
G.J.V. Prasad is Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University ONU), New Delhi. His major research interests are Indian English Literature, Contemporary Theatre, Dalit Writings, Australian Literature and Translation Theory.
India is a nation of translations. India is not a name given by Indians to India, nor did the majority of the population call themselves Hindu. These are the names given by others, names in other languages that they used to speak of people who lived on the banks of the river Sindhu, called Indus by the outsiders. One can see that the name India is derived from the river Indus. The river was called 'Hindu' in Old Persian, derived from the Sanskrit word `Sindhu. The Hindus were people who lived near the Indus. Herodotus, the so-called father of history, was perhaps the first one to call the people Indians. Thus, what the country is called today is because of how the name of a river was translated in other languages and how this translation was used further to refer to the people and a community. This naming is a political issue even today, since other countries in the subcontinent may ask what India refers to. This was a question raised during the partition-Pakistan had been a part of India., but India was not an independent nation then. After independence, shouldn't the name India be used for the pre-independent subcontinent? Shouldn't the two new nations be given different names? Obviously, Indian politicians thought otherwise, most of them did not even support the creation of Pakistan. However, while 'India' would ensure the breakaway status of Pakistan, wouldn't it actually make the country an invention of the British? Shouldn't the nation take a name that would refer to our civilisational past? The Constitution has visible traces of such a debate.
Having proudly declared in the preamble to the Constitution of India on 26 November 1949 that, 'WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a [SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC] and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, LIBERTY and EQUALITY, the members of the constituent assembly went on to say in Part I of the Constitution, which delineates the Union and its Territories, that 'India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States. (1.1)
The Constitution of India thus immediately points attention to the problematic issue of naming, that is, the translation-'India, that is Bharat. We the people of India are also we the people of Bharat. Why did the constitution makers do this? Did they think of our country as India or Bharat or both? Were these two names interchangeable? What about Hindustan? After all, Hindustan was also a name that was used for India for a very long time. Was India the nation in English, and Bharat the desh, the native land, in Indian languages? Or was it going to be Bharat in Hindi? Did it also signal a contestation between languages, a hierarchy of languages-India, that is Bharat' rather than 'Bharat, that is India'?
The answer to some questions is simple-the members of the constituent assembly thought of themselves belonging to both Bharat and India. Suggestions were made during the debate on this (17 September 1949) that instead of saying 'India, that is Bharat, the constitution should read, 'Bharat, or, in the English language, India, or 'Bharat, that is known as India also in foreign countries' or simply as 'Bharat, that is India'. One of the members went so far as to say that it should only be called Bharatvarsha. But interestingly, none of them suggested Hindustan, a name they used frequently in their own speeches in the Constituent Assembly. So why Bharat and not Hindustan? There could be conflicting reasons for this choice, one that Hindustan had been appropriated by the Hindu right-wing as the name of the land of Hindus and the other is that Hindustan was the name by which the Mughal North India was known and that Hindustan never really indicated the entire subcontinent. So, on the one hand, Hindustan was associated with the Muslim rule while on the other, Hindustan had been appropriated by the North Indian Hindu right-wing in the slogan, 'Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan'.
Thus, to move from Hindustan to Bharat was to move to pre-Muslim rule times, to the previous millennium. As put by one of the members of the assembly, Kamalapati Tripathi,
When a country is in bondage, it loses its soul. During its slavery for one thousand years, our country too lost its everything. We lost our culture, we lost our history, we lost our prestige, we lost our humanity, we lost our self-respect, we lost our soul and indeed we lost our form and name. Today after remaining in bondage for a thousand years, this free country will regain its name and we do hope that after regaining its lost name it will regain its inner consciousness and external form and will begin to act under the inspiration of its soul which had been so far in a sort of sleep. It will indeed regain its prestige in the world.
So, India had to shift back through time, from India, from Hindustan, to Bharat, a conceptual space which has existed in scriptures and in the Hindu imagination for a long time and was part of the cultural consciousness of the majority. Hence, India, that is Bharat. Ironically, the constitution never refers to the country as Bharat anywhere else! Interestingly, on 11 March 2016, the Supreme Court of India dismissed a petition to rename India as Bharata. 'If you want to call this country "Bharat", go right ahead and call it Bharat. If somebody else wants to call this country India, let him call it India. We will not interfere', said the Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur (The Hindu, 2016). Why would he? However, the third option was no longer available-the members of the Constituent Assembly had given up the name Hindustan.
While the debates on naming the country are fascinating in themselves, we are referring to them here to demonstrate the central role that languages and translation have had to play in the making of India. India has always been in translation, and translation has always been important in India. Many of our modern Indian languages were not only born in translation, mostly from Sanskrit and some from Tamil; they were also standardised and influenced by Europeans and translations from European languages. Having mentioned modern Indian languages, it is even more obvious that India lives many languages. The country does not work in only the two languages which are the official languages of the Union-Hindi and English (as declared in Part XVII, Chapter 1 of the Constitution), it has 22 languages recognised by the Constitution as languages of India in its Eighth Schedule (though it must be pointed out that the Constitution is not available in languages other than English and Hindi). English, which is not in this list of Indian languages is the official language or additional official language of twelve states and three Union Territories! In contrast, Hindi is the official language of or additional official language of 10 states and three Union Territories. About 33 other languages are official or additional official languages of Indian states and union territories. About 35 languages are the official languages of India, though the Constitution lists 22 while leaving out English and including six languages-Bodo, Dogri, Kashmiri, Maithili, Sanskrit and Sindhi-which aren't the official languages of any state. The only way that we were one civilisation, and can be a union now is through translation.
In a multilingual country like India, it is obvious that governance would depend on translation. For the colonial powers it was even more important. They translated with great zeal. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that our ideas of the majority faith and about our nation, including current assertions of its history, have roots in the motivated or simply uninformed translational activity of the colonisers. They needed the translations to understand, to frame, to fix, and to govern the subcontinent, they mapped our minds and culture just like they mapped our terrain. Many of their motivations are still current with those who want power, who want to impose their ideas of nationalism and India. Translation serves very many purposes.
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