Why add one more to the numerous English translation of the Bhagavad Gita? It is said to have already been translate at least two hundred times. In both poetic and prose forms. My excuse is that, though many fine translations exist, forms. My excuse is that, though many fine translations exist, none that I know of presents the original Sanskrit version along with a transliteration and a readable English translation. This permits the reader to learn the sound as well as meaning of the text. It should also enable the studious reader to savour something of the origina language, which is elegant and extremely concise. The line of transliteration is designed to show the reader how the words are pronounced. The reader should note that diacritical marks have only been used for Sanskrit words in these preliminary essays and in the transliteration. In making the readable translation that appears at the transliteration. In making the readable translation that appears at the bottom of each verse, my object has been to stick as closely as possible to literal meaning rather than to attempt a masterpiece of English prose. Such grand poetic concepts as appear in the translation are inherent in the poem. I have added nothing, and what I have striven for is simple clarity along with a reproduction of something of the force and economy of the original.
I have consulted numerous previous translations, among them those of Franklin Edgerton, S. Radhakrishnan, Eliot Deutsch, Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, And Swami Chidbhagananda, Juan Mascaro and P. Lal. I have found them all worth reading, each, as I suppose is inevitable, showing a slightly different approach. In writing the introductory chapter on the setting of the poem as the principal didactic jewel of the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharta, I have had recourse to numerous sources –Pratap Cahndra Roy’s translation of the epic, Chakravarthi Narasimhan’s The Mahabharta. C. Rajagopalachari’s condensed version, the account given undervarious headings in Benjamin Walker’s The Hindu World, and in connection with other matters I have consulted the admirable prefaces to Swami Nikhilananda’s the Upanishads as well as his translations of these works, Surendranath Dasgupta’s History of Indian Philosophy , Sukumari Bhattacharji’s The Indian Theogony, Ralph T.H. Griffith’s translation of the Rg Veda, Dr. J.A. B. van Buitenen’s translation of Ramanuja’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, his translation of the Mahabharta and countless works on Hindu religion and philosophy that I have read in the past, along with such useful staples of Sanskrit study as Whitney’s Sanskrit Grammar, the Oxford Sanskrit Dictionary edited by Monier-Williams, and the abridged version of Bohtlingk and Roth’s St. Petersburg Lexicon.
I am greatly indebted to Dr. J.A.B. van Buitenen, of the University of Chicago, who kindly offered to read the manuscript before publication, who made innumerable small corrections and many suggestions, nearly all of which I have followed, and who read the proofs. I would also like to express belated gratitude to the late Sarat Lahiri, a Bihari Brahman, resident in New York, from whom I learned my first Sanskrit many years ago. I am also grateful to Alice Morris for much patient copying and to my old grateful to Alice Morris for much patient copying and to my old friend Biancolli for encouragement.
As to my own qualification, though Imam known primarily as a magazine writer and music critic, I am interest in the Sanskrit language has been of long duration, and I have spent a considerable amount of time in India as a journalist. As a Sanskrit scholar I am largely self taught, but am certainly competent for the task in hand. Moreover, the present translation has been read and approved by the highest authority. I have been acquainted for many years with the Bhagavad Gita in translation, and have found many translations somewhat unsatisfactory because of deviations in meaning, and because few of them give any idea of the poem’s structure, either metrical or grammatic. My aim has been to fill the gap. I have translated the poem afresh, and I know many parts of it by heart in the original language. The work has been a labour of love. If it in any way clarifies the poem to the reader, or interests him in the language in which it was originally written, my aim will have been realized. In a project as complex as this one, as few errors are apt to occur, and for these I ask the reader’s indulgence.
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