The Bhagavad Gita contains the voice of God and it speaks to each of us, to every mind and heart-individually. This intimate communion transcends the merely intellectual, in every way.’
The Bhagavad Gita forms a part of the epic the Mahabharata. As the great Pandava hero Arjuna stands on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, Preparing to overcome by despair. He turns to his divine charioteer Krishna for solace and counsel. The ensuing exchange between the two is the highest expression of philosophical Hinduism.
During his discourse, Krishna reveals his viswarupa, blessing Arjuna with an awesome glimpse of the Cosmic Form.
Ramesh Menon’s translation of the Song of God remains rigorously faithful to the original, while never compromising its poetry.
My focus while translating the Song of God, of which there are already so many fine translations, was to remain as rigorously faithful to the original as I could, without compromising its poetry. I have deliberately tried to preserve the Sanskrit order of words, as far as possible, and also not to use any words or phrases which do not appear in the Sanskrit.
I hope that this brings a certain immediacy and directness (more than explanation) to the translation.
It is worth remembering that this Scripture belongs to another age, (the dwapara yuga), and was expounded not just to anyone but to Arjuna, the son of a deva and greatest kshatriya warrior of that time, between two vast armies, on the brink of a dharma yuddha, a war for truth.
However, I believe that the Bhagavad Gita contains the voice of God and that it speaks to each of us, to every mind and heart—individually. This intimate communion transcends the merely intellectual: sawa.ah, in every way
Also, mine is a bhakta, a devotee’s, translation, because this most Holy Book, which I first discovered almost forty years ago, did change my life and continues to do so.
I used The Concise Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Vasudeo Govind Apte for this translation, the larger The Student’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Vaman Shivram Apte, the online Anvaya of Bhagavadgita.org, as well as the ‘synonyms’ in Swami Prabhupada’s translation.
The actual translations that I consulted, for every sloka, were those by Swami Vireswarananda, Dr Sarvapalli Radha krishnan and Mahatma Gandhi. The marvellous rendering by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood always resonates in my mind, but I did not refer to it for this work.
When I began this translation this translation, my Sanskrit (apart from my fair fluency in Hindi and Malayalam was confined to what I learnt as a young child at home, later in school for a few years, and finally, in my mid-twenties, with the late Sri Parameswara Iyer, who read Kalidas’s kumarasambhava aloud to me and explained it, for all too short a time.
The last was surely my most enjoyable encounter with Sanskrit because by then I myself wanted to listen to and learn the language, and especially for the wonderful personality of my teacher- his faith, gentleness and equanimity, his sense of humour, his wisdom, his humility, personal austerity and his liberality all being unforgettable, particularly when I knew that he lived in straitened circumstances even when he was in his seventies. Of course, there was also his wonderful mastery over Sanskrit, which is a difficult language, and his obvious Joy both in the language and the tradition. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.
The late Mr Unnikrishnan, of Palakkad, who also knew Sanskrit, gave me the precious, well worn copy, which I still have, of swami Vireswarnanda’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita, Published by the Sri Ramakrishna Math. Unnikrishnan, when I met him, made his living as a room waiter at Harrison’s Hotel in Madras, where I stayed often during the 1980s and 1990s. He read the Gita every day, for many years and was a gentle and wise bhakta; you could sense God’s grace aroung him. This translation is also for him.
Finally my late grandfather, Sri K.R.K Menon , first introduced me to Sanskrit when I was a young boy and he engaged Pavamani Master to teach me. What I owe my grandfather remains beyond calculation, in so many ways.
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