The Mahabharata, Book 13: Anusasana Parva
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.
Om! Having bowed down to Narayana, and Nara the foremost of male beings, and the goddess Saraswati also, must the word Jaya be uttered.
It is of immense importance to the culture of the Indian subcontinent, and is a major text of Hinduism. Its discussion of human goals (artha or purpose, kama or pleasure, dharma or duty/harmony, and moksha or liberation) takes place in a long-standing tradition, attempting to explain the relationship of the individual to society and the world (the nature of the 'Self') and the workings of karma.
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 rendering as 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 claims of what has been called 'Free Translation,' which means dressing the author in an outlandish garb to please those to whom he is introduced.
The Anusasana Parva, like the Santi Parva before it, is a long hiatus in the narrative of the Mahabharata. Set on the deathbed of Bhishma, the Anusasana Parva is a huge treasure-trove of Brahmanic lore which is obviously a later interpolation in the epic.
"Yudhishthira said, 'O grandsire, tranquillity of mind has been said to be subtile and of diverse forms. I have heard all thy discourses, but still tranquillity of mind has not been mine. In this matter, various means of quieting the mind have been related (by thee), O sire, but how can peace of mind be secured from only a knowledge of the different kinds of tranquillity, when I myself have been the instrument of bringing about all this? Beholding thy body covered with arrows and festering with bad sores, I fail to find, O hero, any peace of mind, at the thought of the evils I have wrought. Beholding thy body, O most valiant of men, bathed in blood, like a hill overrun with water from its springs, I am languishing with grief even as the lotus in the rainy season. What can be more painful than this, that thou, O grandsire, hast been brought to this plight on my account by my people fighting against their foes on the battle-field? Other princes also, with their sons and kinsmen, having met with destruction on my account. Alas, what can be more painful than this. Tell us, O prince, what destiny awaits us and the sons of Dhritarashtra, who, driven by fate and anger, have done this abhorrent act. O lord of men, I think the son of Dhritarashtra is fortunate in that he doth not behold thee in this state. But I, who am the cause of thy death as well as of that of our friends, am denied all peace of mind by beholding thee on the bare earth in this sorry condition. The wicked Duryodhana, the most infamous of his race, has, with all his troops and his brothers, perished in battle, in the observance of Kshatriya duties. That wicked-souled wight does not see thee lying on the ground. Verily, for this reason, I would deem death to be preferable to life. O hero that never swervest from virtue, had I with my brothers met with destruction ere this at the hands of our enemies on the battle-field, I would not have found thee in this pitiful plight, thus pierced with arrows. Surely, O prince, the Maker had created is to become perpetrators of evil deeds. O king, if thou wishest to do me good, do thou then instruct me in such a way that I may be cleansed of this sin in even another world.'
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