From the Jacket:
The Mahabharata in its present form is equal to about eight times as much as the Illiad and Odyssey put together. The nucleus of the Mahabharata is the great war of eighteen days fought between the, Kauravas, the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandavas, the five sons of Pandu. The epic entails all the circumstances leading upto the war. In this great Kurukshetra battle were involved almost all the kings of India joining either of the two parties. The result of this war was the total annihilation of Kauravas and their party, and Yudhishthira, the head of the Pandavas, became the sovereign monarch of Hastinapura, symbolizing the victory of good over evil. But the progress of the years new matters and episodes relating to the various aspects of hanuman life, social, economic, political, moral and religious as also fragments of other heroic legends came to be added to the aforesaid nucleus and this phenomenon continued for centuries until it acquired the present shape.
This very fact that the Mahabharata represents a whole literature rather than one single and unified work, and contains so many and so multifarious things, makes it more suited than any other book of afford us an insight into the deepest depths of the soul of Indian people.
In the world of classical literature, the Mahabharata is unique in many respects. As an epic,
it is the greatest-seven times as great as the Illiad and the Odyssey combined, and the
grandest-animating the heart of India over two thousand years past and destined to lead
humanity for thousands of years in future. It is the mightiest single endeavour of literary
creation of any culture in human history. The effort to conceive the mind that conceived it is
itself a liberal education, and a walk through its table-of-contents is more than a Sabbath
The translation was completed and serially published in thirteen years from AD 1883 to
1896 in one hundred fasciculi. The original edition was out-of-print within the lifetime of
Mr Ganguli, and is made available once again.
Kisari Mohan Ganguli completed the translation of the Mahabharata and serially pub-
lished it in thirteen years from AD 1883 to 1896 in one hundred fasciculi.
Ganguli preferred public anonymity till compilation. But from the very beginning. though
anonymous to the general readers. the authorship of Ganguli was not secret to the numerous
oriental scholars and patrons of the enterprise. Indian and foreign with whom he was con-
stantly linked through direct contact or correspondence. The then Central Government also
recognised the services of Ganguli as translator of this great work by conferring the C.I.E.
title and awarding the first Honorary Literary Person for life to him.
The object of a translator should ever be to hold the mirror upto his author. That
being so, his chief duty is to represent so far as practicable the manner in which his
author's ideas have been expressed, retaining if possible at the sacrifice of idiom and
taste all the peculiarities of his author's imagery and of language as well. In regard
to translations from the Sanskrit, nothing is easier than to dish up Hindu ideas, so as
to make them agreeable to English taste. But the endeavour of the present translator
has been to give in the following pages as literal a renderingas possible of the great
work of Vyasa. To the purely English reader there is much in the following pages
that will strike as ridiculous. Those unacquainted with any language but.their own
are generally very exclusive in matters of taste. Having no knowledge of models
other than what they meet with in their own tongue, the standard they have formed
of purity and taste in composition must necessarily be a narrow one. The translator,
however, would ill-discharge his duty, if for the sake of avoiding ridicule, he
sacrificed fidelity to the original. He must represent his author as he is, not as he
should be to please the narrow taste of those entirely unacquainted with him. Mr.
Pickford, in the preface to his English translation of the Mahavira Charita, ably
defends a close adherence to the original even at the sacrifice of idiom and taste
against the c1aims of what has been called 'Free Translation,' which means dressing
the author in an outlandish garb to please those to whom he is introduced.
In the preface to his classical translation of Bhartrihari’s NitiSatakam and Vairagya
Satakam, Mr. C.H. Tawney says, "I am sensible that in the present attempt I have
retained much local colouring. For instance, the ideas of worshipping the feet of a
god of great men, though it frequently occurs in Indian literature, will undoubtedly
move the laughter of Englishmen unacquainted with Sanskrit, especially if they
happen to belong to that class of readers who revel their attention on the accidental
and remain blind to the essential. Buta certain measure offidelity to the original even
atthe risk of making oneself ridiculous, is better than the studied dishonesty which
characterises so many translations of oriental poets:”
We fully subscribe to the above although, it must be observed, the censure
conveyed to the class of translators last indicated is rather undeserved, there being
nothing like a 'studied dishonesty' in their efforts which proceed only from a
mistaken view of their duties and as such betray only an error of the head but not
of the heart.
VOLUME - I
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