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Bhagavad Gita translated into Banjara dialect

Nemmani Sreedhar
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Divine song:M. Krishna, an officer of South Central Railway, who authored ‘Banjara Gitamrut’ - Bhagavad Gita in the Banjara language.- PHOTO: G. RAMAKRISHNA
Divine song:M. Krishna, an officer of South Central Railway, who authored ‘Banjara Gitamrut’ - Bhagavad Gita in the Banjara language.- PHOTO: G. RAMAKRISHNA

The 700 verses have held the imagination of people for centuries. The profound meaning that they convey has been interpreted and commented upon in many languages across the world.

But most translations of Bhagavad Gita, the song divine, have one character in common. The complex Sanskrit verses, pregnant with deep import, have been translated into the languages that have rich literary history.

However, translating Bhagavad Gita is no child’s play. And it is rare that a person, without any formal academic background, sets out to write the song into a dialect that does not have any literary tradition.

But M. Krishna, a serving Railway Officer at South Central Railway, belongs to the ilk that is not afraid of venturing into uncharted territories. He did not just translate the divine song into Banjara dialect, conforming to the original style of the Sanskrit text, he wrote verses in Banjara dialect and developed a new meter system to suit his purpose.

Reinvents words

In his translation ‘Banjara Gitamrut’, Mr. Krishna reinvented common Banjara words giving them fresh meaning and life, retaining the poetic form of the song and without losing its philosophical import. That is not all. He also composed lyrical couplets in Banjara dialect - ‘Gita Gao’ - and got them rendered into an audio CD, which conforms to the guidelines laid down in Samaveda, the Bible for Indian classical music.

“Mr. Krishna’s work is seminal in many ways. He did not just translate Bhagavad Gita into Banjara dialect; he rewrote it conforming to the literary style of the original text,” Manasa Channappa, Telugu professor at Osmania University, says. With this he brought Banjara dialect on a par with other major languages, he observes.

Highlighting the importance of this contribution to Banjara dialect, Dr. Channapa argues that Mr. Krishna could be compared with poet Tikkana Somayaji, who translated Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata, into Telugu.

“Mr. Krishna’s uniqueness lies in the fact that he pioneered a new literary tradition in that dialect. For all purposes, the title ‘Banjara Tikkana’ suits him well,” he maintains. Dr. Channapa reviewed Krishna’s translation for its consistency in both meter and meaning. “We worked for about two years putting each couplet through intense scrutiny,” he explains.

In an effort to give wider choice to the Banjara community, settled in various parts of the country, Krishna also rendered Bhagavad Gita into Hindi and used Devanagari script for the couplets in Banjara dialect. “These couplets too follow the same meter that was used in Telugu version,” says Mr. Krishna, a Banjara himself.

M. Krishna, a railway employee, rewrites Bhagavad Gita in a dialect that does not have a literary tradition


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