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The Word in words

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Damodar Thakur uses new devices to interpret the message in "Gita: The Song Extraordinary"

Right from its first translation into English by Charles Wilkins, the Gita continues to challenge scholars' pens. While most follow the commentary on it in Sanskrit by Adi Shankaracharya, others like Gandhi and Vinoba have written their own cerebral take on the Gita. Now eminent linguist Professor Damodar Thakur has tried something different. "In Gita: The Song Extraordinary" published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Thakur has interpreted the materialistic and spiritualistic, literary and linguistic, scientific and even futuristic aspects present in the multi-layered sacred text.Thakur, who has been working as Chairman of the Department of English at the University of Sana'a, Yemen, holds that the linguistic and stylistic interpretations based on etymology yield a better translation. "In English, the root meaning of the word may often be misleading. However, Sanskrit has a rich tradition of the study of etymology and synonymy where the knowledge of the root has always been given great importance," says Thakur.

The objection

He says all the interpretations of the Gita so far say Krishna gave the message of the Gita to Arjuna with the purpose of exhorting him to fight. "My objection is if Krishna really wanted to exhort Arjuna to fight, why did he praise non-violence, the control of anger, and forgiveness by making repeated use of words like ahimsa, akrodh and kshama." He calls it counter-intentional. "I have proposed that Krishna preaches the message of the Gita to Arjuna because Arjuna asks him to stop the chariot . Life is an infinite journey. The chariot of life must not be stopped. Krishna towards the end of the Gita emerges not only as a reincarnation but also as a symbol of the infinite. That's why the word anant has so often been used in the text as an attribute of Krishna." He believes the message of the Gita is the message of an infinite journey form existence to expansion, augmentation and exaltation.He avers his evaluation takes into account the Vedic and other philosophical echoes and the harmony between material prosperity and spiritual needs. "The message of the Gita is one of integrated togetherness." Thakur refers to the Gita as a perennial river joined by the tributaries of Yoga and Sankhya. He delves into the realm of science to show that recent discoveries in quantum physics, psychology, medicine and ecology look like a mere elaboration and validation of certain seminal statements in the Gita. Dr. A.N. Jha, Professor of English at the University of Thamar, Yemen, who has reviewed the book feels it brings out the therapeutic value of the Gita. ANUJ KUMAR

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