In the temple of language

Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury
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A family in Lucknow has been translating religious texts written in different languages of the world into Devnagri for generations

LOVE FOR LANGUAGES:At Bhuvan Vani Trust.PHOTO: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury.
LOVE FOR LANGUAGES:At Bhuvan Vani Trust.PHOTO: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury.

For the last 70 years, a family has been sailing through the ocean of various languages by rowing with two oars of transcription and translation.

The Awasthi family in Lucknow had taken up this job as a life mission and performed it well. Not only that, they established the only language temple on earth, where the deities are letters from different languages of the world.

Bhuvan Vani Trust, a publishing house, which was established to integrate and promote languages by late Pundit Nand Kumar Awasthi in 1969, is still exploring various books written in different languages in the world and scripting it in to ‘Devnagri’ (Hindi).

It all started in 1925, when India was boiling with the bloodshed of the freedom movement and young Nand Kumar reached Kolkata from Lucknow in search of a job to support his neo-middleclass family. He could find a job in Kolkata, but his mind was engraved with the crisis of independence.

Moreover, without any literary background and formal education, he was intrigued by literature and language. He started to grasp knowledge from various books. Much influenced by the stalwart writers and leaders of that age, passionate Nand Kumar started penning his thoughts for few local magazines in Kolkata.

“A secured job and a comfortable life could not lure my father. Rather he had chosen the path of uncertain life and left the job in 1928 to return home in Lucknow,” Vinai Kumar Awasthi, the son of Nand Kumar recalls.

He wanted to join the magazine ‘Madhuri’ published by the legendary publisher of Lucknow, Munshi Nawal Kishore. But the starlit magazine, which used to house literary maestros like, Munshi Premchand and others, hardly had any space for a novice like Nand Kumar.

However, nothing could stop his tremendous zeal to move forward. Without focusing on commercial gain, he started exploring the world of translation and transcription. It took him more than 20 years to get a foothold in this particular field.

In the early 1970s, with the engagement of a few scholars, he was able to finish the gigantic task of transcription of Quran into Devnagri language. The first published version was highly appreciated by Muslim prophets and scholars of the country. Immediately, it gained popularity among the large number of Muslims and non-Muslims who used to find it difficult to read Quran in Arabic.

There was no looking back after that. One after another big books such as, four parts of Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, Ramayanas written in 14 different regional languages, Mahabharata, Srimadbhagavat Gita, several religious books on Sikhism including Guru Granth Sahib, Bible and Jadid (Hindi-Urdu Shabdakosh (dictionary)) were published by the Bhuvan Vani Trust.

“So far, we have published 18 editions of Quran and several editions of other books. The demand for these books is rising and I feel that it will never perish,” Vinai asserts.

“In 1949, when Hindi was established as the Rastra Bhasha, my father felt the need of the hour. He observed the gap between Hindi and several other regional languages. His continuous efforts to enlighten the masses by bridging the language gap brought him several awards including the Padmashree,” Vinai says.

After his demise in 1988, Vinai took over the reins of Bhuvan Vani Trust and established the “Bhasha Mandir”, a temple of languages in 1990. The temple showcases the script of several languages of the world along with the scientific transformation in Devnagri.

To compete with the modern world, he changed the traditional printing press by introducing a computerised press with Hindi software. He took up the job to transcript the Bramhi scripts engraved on several stones during the period of King Ashoka. “Most of the scripts are on the life of Gautam Buddha and his vision for a better life,” says Vinai.



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