Metrical epic on the life of the Rajput heroine, Padmavati was written by Malik Muhammad Jaisi in the 16th century. Mr. (Later Sir) George Grierson, a very distinguished British scholar, began publishing translation of Padmavati in English in collaboration with MM. Pandit Sudhakar Dvivedi, whom he called "my old friend and and colleague" in 1896. Till 1911 some portion was published carrying the Text, Commentary and critical Notes. But the work remained unfinished due to passing away of Pandit Dvivedi.
Shri A. G. Shirreff, 1. C. S. in 1938 decided to complete Sir George Grierson's translation of the Padmavati and took his permission, which came readily. I am tempted to quote Shri Shirreff's own words in his introduction to the book: "It was in the hot weather of 1938 that I decided to attempt the task of completing Sir George Grierson's translation of the Padmavati of Malik Mohammad Jaisi. As Commissioner of Fyzabad I had at that time special advantages for the study of the poem. Ramnagar, in the Amethi Estate, where the poet spent the latter ~art of his life, is in the Sultanpur district of the Fyzabad Division, and [ais itself is within three miles of its border. [aisi' s language is the dialect still spoken or/the spot and his imagery is taken from the scenery and life of the countryside. In spite of the lapse of four hundred years there has been no great change in the language or in the way of life of the people, or in their surroundings, and the poet's name and fame still live in local tradition:"
No doubt Shri Shirreff got an unique opportunity of understanding the texts in its local milieu from where these were created. I hope the scholars in the field would be immensely benefited by the reprint of the book.
The contribution of the Asiatic Society of Bengal to the study of Sãnskrit and Pali, Arabic and Persian, in fact of the major classical languages of India, is well known. But it is generally not remembered or sufficiently appreciated that the members of the Society from its very inception have been making pioneer studies in some branches of the living languages of India. Bengali, Hindi, Maithili etc., attracted the attention of eminent scholars like Rev.. Carey, Rev. Long, Dr. Hoernle and others, as we find from that admirable work, A Corporative Grammar of the Gaudian Language (i88o). Mr. Etherington’s Hindi Grammar was already in the field and it provoked Mr. (Later Sir) George Grierson B.C.S., to write his Introduction to the Maithili Language published as an Extra Number of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1881-82). In 1896, Mr. Grierson began publishing the PadmvaU of Malik Muhammad Jisi, in collaboration with MM. Pandit Sudhakar Dvivedi. We quote below a few significant sentences from Mr. Grierson’s Introduction;
“The value of the Padmavati consists chiefly in its age. Malik Muhammad is we believe, the oldest vernacular poet of Hindustan of whom we have any uncontested remains. .. . The preservation of the Padmavati is due mainly to the happy accident of Malik Muhammad’s religious reputation. Although profoundly affected by the teaching of Kabir and familiarly acquainted with Hindu lore, and with the Hindu yoga philosophy he was from the first revered as a saint by his Muhammadan co-religionists His work is a valuable witness to the actual condition of the vernacular language of Northern India in the 16th century. It is so far as it goes, and with the exception of a few lines in Albernai’s India rhe only trustworthy witness which we have.”
In 1911 the fascicules VI was published carrying the Text, Commentary and critical Notes up-to Cantos I-XXV (vvii 1-286), but Pandit Dvivedi was no more. Mr. Grierson wrote feelingly: “With much Sorrow I have to record the lamented death of my old friend and colleague MM. Pandit Dvivedi the Joint Editor of this poem Until arrangements can be made by the Asiatic Society of Bengal for another scholar to carry on his task, the publication of this edition of the Padmvati is necessarily suspended”.
The idea of completing Sir George Grierson’s translation of The Padmavati occurred to Mr. A. G. Shire, I.C.S., in ‘938. He obtained Sir George Grierson’s permission to carry on the work and finished the bulk of the translation in x9o, i.e., exactly in the year of the tetracenteflary of the composition of the poem by Malik Muhammad Jaisi under the Patronage of Sher Shah. Mr. Shirreff has carefully consulted all the important texts of the poem publish so far and has also fully utilized the opinions and criticisms of scholars, European as well as Indian, who have made Padmavatj their favorite study. But the remarkable feature in his English rendering of this magnificent poem is that he had some special advantages for the study of the poem which was composed in and about the village of Jais in the Sultanpur district, Iaizabad division. Knowing as he does SO thoroughly the dialect of that area Mr. Sheriff could explain many obscure passages of the poem which appears to us to-day as a metrical encyclopedia of Hindu- Islamic lore of medieval India. The myths and legends, as well as the peculiar idioms and metrical devices of the Hindu and Islamic poets, have belie woven into a homogeneous and harmonious composition of inestimable value. What Altering achieved in prose in the middle of the eleventh century while surveying Hindu philosophy and sciences, was achieved with rare originality and thoroughness by Malik Muhammad Jaisi in his metrical epic on the life of the Rajput heroine Padmavati. As a worthy disciple of Kavir, he shines to us to-day as a real Pioneer in the path of Hindulslanijc cultural raPProachernent which found its culmination in the reign of Emperor Akbar, the four hundredth anniversary of whose birth has recently been celebrated Nanak, Kavir, Tulsidas and Jaisi thus inaugurated a new era of cultural collaboration which may serve as an example to later generations. Jaisi received a lasting tribute, which he fully deserved from a brother poet of Bengal, Alawal, who prepared his Bengali version of Format while working at the Court of Arakan in 1659.
Mr. Sheriff has placed all lovers of medieval Indian literature under special obligation by offering his Padrnavati to the public through our Bibliotheca Indica series. His English rendering has definitely caught the inspiration of the master poet and in offering our thanks to him, we congratulate him at the same time on his signal success.
The Present Work
It was in the hot weather of 1938 that I decided to attempt the task of completing Sir George Grierson’s translation of the Padmavati of Malik Mohamrnad Jaisi. As Commissioner of Fyzabad I had at that time special advantages for the study of the poem. Ramnagar, in the Amethi Estate, where the poet spent the latter part of his life, is in the Sultanpur district of the Fyzabad Division, and Jais itself is within three miles of its border. Jaisi’s language is the dialect still spoken on the spot and his imagery is taken from the scenery and life of the countryside. In spite of the lapse of four hundred years there has been no great change in the language or in the way of life of the people, or in their surroundings, and the poet’s name and fame still live in local tradition.
I obtained Sir George Grierson’s permission to carry on his work. He wrote “It was nice to get your letter and to learn that you have been taken captive by Malik Muhammad’s Padmavati. Like you, I think that it is a great pity that the poem is not more widely known in England. You ask about my translation in the Bibliotheca Indica. Alas, I am ashamed to say that I never finished it. When my fellow-worker and old friend Pandit Sudhakar Dvivedi died, I had no heart to go on with the work, and, to my shame, I let it drop, and have never had courage to take it up again. Of course, I should be much pleased if von completed it, subject to the approval of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal.”
It was not possible to begin the work of translation until I went on leave in 1940, though several readings of the poem preceded this; in particular, in the cold weather of 1939, I had great assistance in studying the Padmavati with Pandit Ram Naresh Tripathi. He is himself a resident of Sultanpur and his unrivalled knowledge of country life was of great value for the understanding of the poem. My translation was drafted during leave in England and on the long voyage out round the Cape. In revising it and my notes after my return to India I have received great help from several scholars, of whom I must specially mention Pt Kanta Nath Pande of the Harisir Chandra Intermediate College, Benares. He has kindly gone through the whole translation and the notes, and has contributed extremely useful suggestions and criticisms.
I was not able during my leave in England to consult Sir George Grierson about the work; his state of health prevented this. It was on my return to India that I learnt of his death in his ninetieth year. I was surprised and rather disappointed to find no mention of his work on Jaisi in the only obituary notice which I have seen. It seems to me that this work is the most characteristic of all his great achievements. In it he has shown his finest powers of scholarship and literary expression to forward what was the main purpose of his life-work, the interpretation of the East to the West. For this he probably did more than any other British scholar since Sir William Jones. I think that by this piece of work, perhaps more than any other, Grierson would wish his own name to be remembered, and I think it is fitting that the completion of the work should be in the nature of a memorial to him. I personally owe him a deep debt of gratitude for the help and advice which he gave me curoughout my service from the time of my first starting for India, when he spoke to me with enthusiasm of the delight of losing oneself in the fairy land of Hindi poetry. The phrase has often returned to my mind when reading the Padmavati.
In giving its approval the Society asked that the Benares edition of the work should be used, as the most complete edition available, this is the edition published by the Nagari Pracharini Sabha and edited by Pt. Ram Chandra Shukia. I have used the second (x5) edition. So far as the present translation is a reprint of Grierson’s, down to io (ro) 6, the text of course is Grierson’s and Sudhakar’s, but I have shown all important variants of Shukia’s text in my notes. For the rest I have used Shukia as the basis, drawing attention in my notes to variants in Grierson and Sudhakar,—whose critical work extended to 25(23),—and other sources. Pt. Ram Chand,ra Shukia also died at the beginning of ig.i, and it has been a matter of personal regret to me that I was not able to consult him about my difficulties. I have abbreviated my own notes by references to his introduction, which is a valuable piece of work and essential for the study of Jaisi; even where I have been inclined to differ from his opinions, I have always considered them deserving of respect.
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