Variations on Vyasa: The First Bengali Mahabharatas by Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya SignUp
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Variations on Vyasa:
The First Bengali Mahabharatas
by Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya Bookmark and Share
 

The first attempt to render Vyasa’s Mahabharata in a regional language was in Telegu by Nannaya in the middle of the 11th century C.E. It was, however, restricted to the first two books and a part of the third. Tikkana in the 13th century took this further but it was Yerrapragada who completed the Telugu adaptation of the unfinished Aranya Parva in the 14th century. In the 15th century a literary feature emerged in eastern India that became prominent by the 16th century not only in the East but also in the South. In the 15th century Vyasa’s Mahabharata was translated into Bengali (by Kobi Sonjoy), Kannada (by Kumara Vyasa, ten books only), then into Oriya (by Sarala Das) and in the 16th century into Assamese (Rama Sarasvati). None of these were literal, complete translations but rather adaptations, considerably reducing the massive bulk of the original Sanskrit composition. The reasons for this remarkable synchronicity in eastern India could be attributed to the felt need to assert the indigenous identity in the context of the Muslim invasion, but this calls for further study. For the present, let us look at the picture in Bengal. 

According to Dinesh Chandra Sen, it was a Muslim ruler of Bengal, Sultan Nusrat Khan or Nasir Khan (1285?-1325) who commissioned the first translation of the Mahabharata into Bengali named Bharat Panchali (S.K.Sen, 2008, 61), “panchali” signifying the Bengali language. The work is not traceable but Kobindro Poromeshvor (early 16th century) states in his Bengali Mahabharat: “The glorious leader Nasrat Khan had the panchali composed, the ultimate in merit.” However, history is ignorant of any sultan of Bengal by this name who ruled for forty years. Examining the evidence, S.K.Sen suggests that the reference may actually be to Nasiruddin Nusrat Shah (1519-1531 AD) who succeeded his father Sultan Hussain Shah of Bengal (1493-1519 AD) (S.K.Sen, 2008, 61). Nusrat Shah went to Chattagram (Chittagong) with general Paragal Khan as the king’s representative in 1515-1516. Paragal became governor there and got the Mahabharata condensed in Bengali, so that it could be heard in a single day, by Kobindro Poromeshvor who completed it up to the Ashvomedh Porbo (Ghosh, 1969, p.152). This came to be known as the Poragoli Mahabharat and also as Pandob-Bijoy (Bandopadhyay, 2006, pp.441-2). It includes basically the battle stories, especially in the Ashvomedh Porbo which draws on Jaimini’s version omitting most of the incidents of Vyasa’s composition.  Hussain Shah was a distant ruler while Nusrat, the crown prince, was a powerful patron at hand in Chittagong, as is evident from the verses of Shrikor Nondi. Kobindro would be referring to this Nusrat and to Shrikor’s panchali, not to an older unknown ruler and poetic work (S.K.Sen ibid.). Paragal’s son Chhuti Khan succeeded him as governor and got the Jaiminiya Ashvamedhaparva translated by Shrikor or Shrikoron Nondi which came to be known as Chhuti Khaner Mahabharat. Parts of it were included in the later Kashiram Das Mahabharat

Like Nannaya in Telegu, Kobi Sonjoy was Bengal’s Adi Kavi, the first poet to write in Bengali and the first to translate the complete Mahabharata into panchali (Bangla) for rustic audiences using the poyar meter. He states that as Vyasa’s Sanskrit composition remained shrouded in darkness, its salvific nectar not available to the public, he translated it into Bangla to succour the sinful. M.K.Ghosh dates this work to the first half of the 15th century,  before Chaitanya (1486-1533) and prior to the rule of Sultan Hussain Shah in Bengal (1494-1520) (Ghosh, 1969, p.123), being wholly devoid of any trace of that Vaishnava bhakti that permeates old Bengali literature. Instead, it contains several unusual Shakta-influenced episodes. Dinesh Chandra Sen feels that Kobi Sonjoy was possibly a contemporary of Krittibas, the translator of the Ramayana, not later than the 15th century (Ghosh, 1969 p.153). However, on the basis of language and style other scholars prefer to place him in the 17th century (Bandopadhyay, 2006, p.462). 

A resident of Laur in the Sunamganj subdivision of Shrihatta (Sylhet) district in north-eastern Bangladesh, Sonjoy was a Brahmin pundit of the Bharadvaja gotra. Laur is famed as the birthplace of Chaitanya’s companion Advaitacharya. Sonjoy praises Bhagadatta as the ruler of Laur and also calls him ruler of “Bangadesh” though the Sanskrit Mahabharata does not do so. This is because Shrihatta was part of Bhagadatta’s kingdom of Pragjyotishpura (modern Assam). Sonjoy departs quite freely from the Sanskrit epic’s contents unlike Kashiram Das, a later and much better known translator. The narration is interspersed with lachari (songs with dance) to be sung in various ragas and raginis indicated in the text such as Basant, Kamod, Bhatiyal, Shri, Barari, Pathamanjari. Sonjoy is the only poet whose composition owes nothing to the patronage of a ruler.

Kobi Sonjoy created a new genre, the Pauranik fairy tale in his version of Vyasa’s epic. Intending to put across to ordinary folk ignorant of Sanskrit the core of the epic, he pursues a single thread to tell the tale, omitting the numerous upakhyanas and philosophy that litter Vyasa’s composition, adding inventions of his own. A vivid reflection of contemporary social mores is found in the description of women’s rites during Draupodi’s marriage. He creates a world full of magical elements to capture the attention of villagers. The key elements are given below:
 
• Sonjoy provides a novel start to the epic. Jonomejoy (J) charges Byas (Vyasa) with failure to prevent his ancestors from leaping into the fratricidal battle of Kurukshetra. Byas laughs saying that people do not listen to prohibitions. As an example he issues an injunction that to avoid misfortune J must not make Kantoboti his chief queen, which is precisely what he proceeds to do. He also injures and insults the sage Rishyoshringo who curses him to be afflicted with bhogopida, syphilitic sores, all over his body. Byas reappears and tells him that to be cured he should listen to the epic recited by Baishompayon (Vaishampayana). After the recital of the Svorgarohon Porbo J is cured, bringing the tale full circle.
 
• In the Adi Porbo he adds a new story of Tokshok (Takshaka) pursued by Gorud (Garuda) escaping death by marrying his daughter Saroda to Porikshit. Before his death Porikshit wishes to hear the Purana and listens to Shuk reciting the Bhagobot Puran. The sage Uttanko who motivates J to avenge his father’s death is turned into J’s court priest by Sonjoy. The Kashyop Brahmin Tokshok bribes not to save Porikshit is turned into a folk character, the ojha (curer of snake-bite) Dhonnontori of Shonkhopur. The gods approach Astik to save Indra whom Uttanko is dragging into the sacrificial fire with Tokshok through magical incantations. The Shakuntala story is based wholly on Kalidasa, while Dushyanta returning in an airborne craft with Shakuntala and Bharata draws upon the Aja-Indumati episode from Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsa.
 
• The Shantanu-Ganga story is given a new twist, drawing upon the Mahabhisha-Jahnavi narrative of the Devi Bhagavata Purana (book 2). Brahma curses Mahabhisha to be born as a banor (vanara, monkey) for his shameless ogling of Ganga’s nudity. He worships Shib (Shiva) who grants his wish to possess Ganga, commanding her to comply. She, however, takes the ape aside and tells him that first he must become hairless like her and can do so by entering fire. To persuade him, when he tests a finger in a flame she magically protects him and he remains unhurt. When he enters the fire, however, she does not protect him and he dies. At this time Kuru is performing a sacrifice and finds dry land overflowing with hot water which he and the sages cannot cross. The monkey’s corpse comes floating by and they use it as a bridge. The touch of sanctified persons liberates the banor who is born as Kuru’s son Shantonu (in Vyasa he is Pratipa’s son). Shib berates Ganga and forces her to wed Shantonu. Kobindro Poromeshvor presents this episode in brief while Kashiram Das omits it. The story has roots in Bengali folklore where in the tale of “Buddhu-Bhutum”[1]  a monkey prince is revealed as human when his wife burns his skin (Mitra Majumdar, 2010, pp.19-20).

• Amba’s love for Bhishmo is a creation of Sonjoy’s. Her inveterate pursuit of revenge rises from love spurned.
 
• Chitrangod dies of TB, not in a duel with a Gandharva namesake. Bichitrobirja violates Bhishmo’s injunction against entering his palace in his absence to find out if he hid women there. Here he is crushed by the elephant with which Bhishmo used to wrestle daily to exercise.
 
• Durbasa demands that Kunti serve him hot milk pudding on her bare back. She obliges, winning a boon from him to retain a sixteen year old’s youth forever (which Matsyagandha obtains from Parashara in the Devi Bhagavata Purana) and to have five sons from gods. To preserve her virginity, Surya has the child emerge from her ear, because of which he is called “Karno”.

• Dhritorashtro plots with Durjodhon to build the lacquer house. 

• In the Khandob (Khandava) conflagration the survivors are sage Lomosh, Surobhi, Danobendro (Maya) and Bishvokorma (Vishvakarma), with no sign of Vyasa’s bird-sage Mandapal and his family and Takshaka’s son. 

• The Rajasuya yajna is held because Pandu, insulted in Svarga, despatches the sage Narod (Narada) to tell his sons to hold this sacrifice so that he can regain status. During the conquests, while proceeding to Lonka, Arjun encounters Honuman and an interesting folk-tale is spun. As Ram had shattered the bridge spanning the ocean, Arjun builds one with arrows which Honuman fails to break, much to his astonishment, and finds that it is supported by Narayan. Honuman accompanies Arjun to meet Bibhishon (Vibhishana) and obtains considerable tribute for Judhishthir. In the Southern recension of the Sanskrit text, Sahadeva dispatches Ghatotkacha to Vibhishana for the tribute. After returning from Lonka, Arjun breaks the bridge of arrows and Honuman gifts him a terrifying flag featuring himself.
 
• Durjodhon and Dron send a band of fasting sages including Durbasa to Judhishthir in exile but Krishna miraculously produces varieties of food after swallowing a grain of rice stuck to Draupodi’s cooking vessel. The sages bless the Pandobs with victory and a place in heaven. It is after this that Sonjoy has them obtain the magical cooking pot from the sun god.
 
• Sonjoy’s version of the Nala-Damayanti story concentrates on elaborating the golden swan’s role as go-between and on the gods competing in the wedding ceremony. It is rounded off cryptically with Koli and Dvapor deciding to ruin Nol. Sonjoy makes Nol the grandson of Kush (Rama’s son).
 
• Sonjoy creates a folktale of Durjodhon sending Dron to the Pandobs in the forest to demand fruit of a tree that does not grow on earth, and to curse them if they fail. By virtue of their merit, a tree appears on Judhishthir’s hand and grows a fruit that they present to Dron.
 
• In the Udyog Porbo a folktale is added about Kakalilasur who dwells on a tree in Kurukshetro under which Bhim rests while surveying the battlefield. Kakalilasur tells his son that the victor in this war will be one who takes the eastern side of the field, having seen this on countless occasions when Ram slew Rabon (Ravana), the goddess killed Mohishasur and the Pandobs routed the Kaurobs in previous yugas. Bhim conveys this to his brothers and they take their stand on the eastern side.
 
• In the Bhishmo Porbo the story of Brohmochandal is added and the beauty and valour of horses occupies considerable space. Brohmochandal conflates the stories of Ghototkoch’s son Barbareek and Ekalavya. He is born to the Brahmin girl Kausholya of Himraj a Kshatriya. When Dron refuses to teach him because of his mixed caste, the boy makes a clay image of his and practises archery before it. Noticing his astonishing skill, Dron takes his thumb as fee. Neither Judhishthir nor Durjodhon accept Brohmochandal as an ally because of his defective lineage. Furious, he enters the battle and destroys crores of both armies on the first day. Thereupon Krishna beheads him with the discus. As a boon, Krishna grants his prayer to witness the entire battle over eighteen days and then attain Boikuntho (Vaikuntha).
 
• In the Dron Porbo after Abhimanyu’s death Draupodi leads an army of Jadob (Yadava) women including Krishna’s queens, daughters-in-law, Reboti and Subhadra against the Kaurobs at night. By virtue of Uttara’s prayer, the full moon lights up the field. After violent battle in which Draupodi’s expertise with the bow, mace and sword equals her husbands’, she knocks Dron and Ashvotthama unconscious, routs Durjodhon, smashes Duhshason to the ground with her mace and whirls him about by his hair. She does not kill them because of the vows of Dhrishtodyumno and Bhim. She kills Dondodhor while Satyabhama beheads his brother Chokrodhor, appropriately with the discus, and knocks Kripacharya unconscious. Refusing to fight Draupodi, Karno attacks Rukmini who routs him. Prabhaboti beheads Sotrajit while Chandraboti, Gunoboti and Usha kill his four sons. Uttara beheads her husband’s killer Rudrodeb, Duhshason’s son (nameless in Vyasa), tying his skull to her horse’s leg. Interestingly, instead of Draupodi it is Subhadra who avenges Joyodrath’s molestation of her and his role in killing Abhimanyu by knocking him down, binding him and having her maids kick him unconscious. She does not kill him because Rukmini reminds her of Arjun’s vow. The Pandob-Jadob ladies return to the Pandob camp and roundly scoff at their men’s failure to protect Abhimanyu. The men beg them to return to the kitchen lest their honour as warriors be tarnished for ever.
 
• In the Karno Porbo the story of Tarokaksho, Mokoraksho and Bidyut with their three aerial forts is added. Shib destroys them with a single arrow.
 
• The Ashvomedh Porbo follows Jaimini’s work by and large. The battle descriptions surpass Vyasa’s. In the battle with Anushalva, Sonjoy has Surya give his grandson Brishoketu a chariot. Jaimini’s Jvala is turned into Jona and glorified specially. Dying, she turns into an arrow that Bobhrubahon uses to kill Arjun. Girish Chandra Ghosh, the father of Bengali theatre, wrote a powerful play “Jona” (1894) with her as the central character. The stories of Jona, Sudhanva, Bobhrubahon, Chondi, Chondrohas are narrated magnificently. Chondrohas’s story has been substantially changed, particularly Bishoya’s subterfuge in replacing the word bish (poison) with her own name. Joyodrath’s son does not die of fear but fights bravely with Arjun. Jaimini’s Bakadalbhya becomes Bokrodanto who steals the horse so that he can meet Krishna. Viravarma becomes Birbromha and his daughter Malini becomes Rotnaboti. Uddalaka is renamed Udyan in the story of Chondi and the curse is dispelled when both the horse and Arjun touch the stone. Jaimini’s remarkable story of the multi-faced Brahmas is omitted. In Sonjoy, Chitrangada is called a beshya (prostitute) by Arjun whereas in Jaimini he exclaims that Babhruvahana must be a son of a Vaishya—a telling instance of erroneous transmission from oral recital to written text.
 
• Sonjoy invents the grand episode of Sudhanva’s son Bibek who, immediately after birth, takes on Arjun and Krishna to avenge his father’s death. He routs Arjun’s army, vanquishes Arjun, Krishna, Hanuman, Bhim, Nokul and Sohodeb. The Jadob and Pandob women now rush to the rescue—a repeat of the post-Abhimanyu-death episode—and are felled unconscious by the phenomenal child. Finally, on his grandfather Homsodhvoj’s request, Bibek surrenders to Krishna.
 
• Jaimini’s story of Kusha-Lava fighting their uncles and father over the Ashvamedha horse is omitted. The description of the horse required for the sacrifice is different and, departing from Jaimini, the porbo ends with Krishna’s return to Dvaroka with the Jadobs.
 
• The Maushol Porbo has Arjun accompany Krishna at the end and, as they rest together, Krishna is shot and killed.
 
• The Svorgarohon Porbo has tirthas come up where each Pandob falls as they travel along the Ganga. The Daitya Meghnad tries to abduct Draupodi and is slain by Bhim who also quickly dispatches a Kirat along with his host. The reasons for the fall of Draupodi and the others differ from Vyasa. Draupodi falls because she considered only Arjun as her husband, looking upon Judhishthir as a father and Nokul-Sohodeb as brothers. Sohodeb falls because he was so vain of his physical perfection that he refrained from going all out in battle lest his bodily beauty be marred. Nokul falls because, despite knowing the future, he did not warn Judhishthir (in Kashiram Das’ work this is Sohodeb’s flaw, while Nokul’s is vanity). Arjun falls because of enjoying himself in heaven while his brothers suffered on earth. No reason is given for Bhim’s fall. Judhishthir visits not only the realm of Brahma, but goes to Boikuntho and then on to Shvetdvip where he sits on a royal throne surrounded by his brothers and Draupodi, worshipping Narayan. Curiously, Karno features nowhere. 

In Bengal the influence Jaimini’s Ashvamedha Parva was felt most powerfully. It influenced the Assamese and Oriya Mahabharats too and it was very popular in Kannada (Lakshmisha’s translation). Its pre-eminent popularity in the country in the 16th century is testified to by the emperor Akbar preferring Jaimini’s version to Vyasa’s for the book of the horse-sacrifice when he had the epic translated into Persian in 1582-84 as Razm Nama, the Book of War (S.K.Sen, 2008, p.67). 

According to Dinesh Chandra Sen (op.cit.), Kobi Sonjoy, Kobindro Poromeshvor, Shrikor Nondi and almost all the later translators have recorded that they translated the Mahabharat following the Jaimini-Samhita. Little is taken from Vyasa except for a few references. Jaimini was a leader among the pre-Shankaracharya revivalists of Hinduism. His disciple Bhattapada defeated the Buddhists in King Sudhanva’s court (S.K.Sen op.cit. p.22). Many ancient Bengali books contain references to the lost Jaimini-bharata. W.L.Smith (1999, p.402) mentions complete Bengali versions of the Ashvamedhaparva while A.K.Bandyopadhyay (op.cit. p.434) mentions Chandranath Basu’s Ashvamedhaparva in free prose (1317 B.S. i.e. 1910-11 AD). M.K.Ghosh refers to several others (Ghosh, 1969, p.214). Unfortunately, none of them state whether these works follow Vyasa or Jaimini, and what variations they contain.

The most popular Bengali verse translation remains that by Kashiram Das[2]  (17th century) which also follows Jaimini’s Ashvamedha Parva, but the influence of Chaitanya’s Vaishnavism is prominent. Kashiram’s work was a major influence on Bengali literature. He makes several innovations. Vyasa leaves his audience wondering about Janamejaya’s reaction to his project to annihilate serpents being aborted by Astika. The folk imagination is seen at work when Kashiram Das provides the answer in a sequel he creates:- 

Jonomejoy (J) was furious with sages for foiling his vengeful enterprise. He determined to follow the example of Karttabirja, the Haiheya monarch, who had waged war against the Bhrigu Brahmins. His ministers restrained him pointing out that this had invited the destruction of the Haiheyas by Poroshuram. Instead, they advised, he should uproot all “kush” grass without which Brahmins would not be able to perform their rituals. J had ghee, milk, honey and molasses poured at the grassroots so that ants destroyed them. Noticing the distress of the sages Byas visited J and, telling him that his father could not have escaped what was fated, persuaded him to abandon the campaign against Brahmins. J now wished to expiate the sin of having killed innumerable innocent snakes by performing the horse sacrifice as his ancestors had done after the fratricidal war. Byas told him that in Kali Yuga sacrificing horse or cow was prohibited, as was obtaining a son through the younger brother-in-law (niyoga) and serving meat in funeral rites. J, however, was insistent and went ahead with the sacrifice. After the horse had been beheaded, Indra made the decapitated head jump about, humiliating the king. A Brahmin youth clapped and laughed aloud at the spectacle. Enraged, J cut him in two with his sword. The assembled guests fled in horror, condemning him for brahminicide and boycotted him. Byas appeared before the dejected king and pointed out that the disaster had occurred because he had not heeded the warning. J, his pride humbled, fell at his feet and begged him to advise how his subjects could be reconciled to him. Byas told him that all the sins he had committed would be purged if he listened to the hundred thousand verses of the Mahabharat under a black canopy which would turn white when the recital ended. Not having the time to recite the epic, Byas engaged his disciple Boishompayon to do the needful. When the entire Mahabharat had been recited, everyone was amazed to see that the pandal had turned a pristine white. Everyone praised J who honoured Boishompayon profusely, drinking the water in which his feet had been washed, and distributed gold, cows, land and food to sages.

Kashidas states that his composition is based upon what he had heard from itinerant rhapsodes. Hence the folk element is strong in his composition. The variations from Vyasa created by him are:-

• Shib’s infatuation with the Mohini avatar leading to the Ardhanarishvar manifestation;
• King Shribotso’s trials by the god Shoni for having declared Lokshmi his superior;
• Krishna humbling Draupodi by the miracle of the unseasonal mango fruit (a tale common to South Indian Mahabharatas where it is a myrobalan);
• Bhishmo, Dron and Karno participating on behalf of Durjodhon in Draupodi’s svayamvara where Krishna prevents their arrows from hitting the mark by covering it with his discus;
• Karno winning Bhanumoti for Durjodhon in her svayamvara;
• Subhadra-Arjun’s love affair, with Satyabhama acting as go-between;
• Satyabhama losing Krishna to Narod as a gift and Uddhob buying him back with a tulsi leaf;
• Bibhishon, escorted by Krishna, being held up at the four entrances to the Rajasuya sacrifice by Satyoki, Ghototkoch, Aniruddho and Durjodhon;
• Gorud’s evil grandson Batapi who, pretending to be a friend of the Nagas, constantly harmed them;
• Kuru and Bohurupa’s love story;
• Honuman testing Arjun’s bridge of arrows that Krishna holds up in tortoise form;
• Draupodi’s earlier birth as Daksha’s daughter Ketoki whom Surabhi cursed to have five husbands;
• Kuber naming Arjun “Dhononjoy” on his bringing a thousand golden champak flowers from Kuber’s garden for Kunti to defeat Gandhari in a dispute over the right to worship Shib;
• Krishna giving Arjun the name Bibhotsu for carrying excrement;
• Dharma as a crane putting only four questions to Judhishthir in the Bono Porbo;
• Dharma as a water bird again testing Judhishthir on the way to heaven with the same questions;
• Satyoki abusing Krishna in Probhas, precipitating the massacre of Jadobs;
• Bhim killing Bok’s sister, rakshashi Bhishona, on Meghborno mountain during the journey to heaven;
• the Pandobs’ reconciliation with Ashvatthama at Badorik ashram;
• Judhishthir ending up in Shvetdvip, beyond Boikuntho.

Kaliprasanna Singha (b.1840/1841, d. 24 July 1870) authored the first Bengali prose translation of the Mahabharata.[3]  Educated in Sanskrit, Bengali and English, he left school in 1857 at the age of 16 and established the Bidyotsahini Theatre in his own house in which he enacted Venisamhara. Encouraged by its success, in the same year he translated Kalidasa’s Vikramorvashiya. In 1858 he wrote the play Savitri-Satyavan and in 1859 Malati-Madhava. These plays were staged in his theatre with him in the main roles. Purana-sangraha, a collection of Puranik stories from the Mahabharata, was published between 1860 and 1866. His greatest literary feat was his translation of the Mahabharata into Bangla in 17 volumes, the first work of its kind in Bangla literature. The work was begun in 1858 with a team of seven pundits and completed in 1866 omitting and adding nothing. Being unsure of the reception, 3000 copies of each parva were printed. Singha excluded the Harivamsha as he found its composition to be evidently of a much later date than the epic. He planned to publish its translation along with those of the Puranas, but this never came about because of his early demise aged only 30.

What the team of BORI editors of the critical text of the Mahabharata have done now, young Kaliprasanna did in 1858, collating manuscripts from the Asiatic Society, Shobhabazar Palace, the collections of Asutosh Deb, Jatindramohon Thakur and from his own great-grandfather Shantiram Singha’s collection in Kashi. He acknowledges with gratitude the help he received in resolving contradictions in the texts and making out the meaning of knotty Vyasa-kuta verses from Taranath Tarkavacaspati teacher in Calcutta Sanskrit Vidyamandir. He records with profound gratitude that Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar began a translation of the epic and had published some parts of it in the Brahmo Samaj’s Tattavabodhini magazine, but stopped the work on hearing of Kaliprasanna’s project. Vidyasagar not only went through Kaliprasanna’s translation but supervised the printing and the work of translation in his absence. Kaliprasanna writes that he has no words to express the benefits Vidyasagar showered upon him. He gives special thanks to several friends viz. the famous poet Michael Madhusudan Dutt for promising to turn the best parts of the translation into Amritakshar metre and a play; the Purana expert Gangadhar Tarkabagish, Raja Kamalkrishna Bahadur, Jatindramohon Thakur, Rajendralal Mitra, Dvarkanath Vidyabhushan (editor of Somprakash), Rajkrishna Bandopadhyay (professor of Bengali literature in Presidency College), Nabinkrishna Bandopadhyay (former editor of Tattvabodhini), Dinabandhu Mitra (the playwright of Nil Darpan) and Kshetramohon Vidyaratan (editor of Bhaskar). Deploring the death of 10 members of his team of translators, he thanks by name those engaged till the end and each proof reader. As it progressed, every evening the translation was read out to Raja Radhakanta Deb and other prominent leaders of Hindu society such as Raja Kamalkrishna Bahadur and Rajkrishna Mitra. In villages, he writes, the translation is read out in important gatherings morning and evening. He pays a fulsome tribute to Kashiram’s translation in Bengali verse (obviously, Kobi Sonjoy’s was little known), regretting that details of his life and dates are not recorded anywhere. He leaves out discussion and summaries of Sanskrit literature based on the Asiatic Society’s researches and Max Muller’s edition of texts to avoid any controversy that might harm the unrestricted acceptance of his translation. 

Dedicating his translation to Empress Victoria in gratitude for the British rescuing Bharatavarsha from the mortal clutches of the Mughals, Kaliprasanna compares his offering to the gods offering the Parijat flower churned out of the ocean to Purandara. The intention behind the translation was a faith that it would redound to the country’s good. He trusts that Hindusthan will be lit up during her reign by hundreds of lamps of Sanskrit literature as during Vikramaditya’s reign by Kalidasa etc. and in Queen Elizabeth’s reign by Shakespeare etc. to make her reign unforgettable. Today one is surprised that there is no mention of the 1857 Mutiny although the translation was started the next year. The elite of Bengal were not enamoured of the aborted effort, preferring to announce their loyalty to the British Empress as vociferously as possible.

Read Also:  Guru-Shishya, Vyasa and Jaimini: A Comparison


Footnotes:
1. “Kolaboti Rajkanya” in Dakhinaranjan Mitra Majumdar’s Thakurmar Jhuli (Grandmother’s Bag).
2. Kashidasi Mahabharat edited by Subodhchandra Majumdar, Calcutta, 1361 BS (1955).
3. Kaliprasanna Singha, Mahabharat, Hitavadi Karyalay, Calcutta, 1310 BS (1904).

Works Cited
1. Dinesh Chandra Sen, Bongobhasha O Sahityo, Gurudas Chattopadhyaya & Sons, Kolkata, 1896.
2. Major General S.K.Sen VSM, Indian Postal Service, Jaiminiya Ashvamedhaparva translated from Sanskrit into English shloka-by-shloka for the first time, Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 2008.
3. Asit Kumar Bandyopadhyay, Bangla Sahityer Itibritta, Vol 1, Modern Book Agency, Kolkata, 2006.
4. Munindra Kumar Ghosh (ed.) Kobi Sonjoy birochito Mahabharat, Calcutta University, 1969.
5. Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumdar, Thakurmar Jhuli, centenary edition, Mitra and Ghosh, Kolkata, 1416 B.S. (2010).
6. Kashiram Das, Kashidasi Mahabharat edited by Subodhchandra Majumdar, Probodhchandra Majumdar and Brothers, Calcutta, 1361 BS (1955).
7. W.L. Smith, “The Jaiminibharata and Its Eastern Vernacular Versions,” Studia Orientalia, The Finnish Oriental Society, Vol 85, Helsinki, 1999, p. 402.
8. Kaliprasanna Singha, Mahabharat, Hitavadi Karyalay, Calcutta, 1310 BS (1904).
    

29-Apr-2011
More by :  Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya
 
Views: 2820
Article Comment One of your best essays, enjoyed greatly.
Kumud Biswas
04/30/2011
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