Vande Mataram library to challenge Sheldon Pollock’s Murty Classical Library of India

Dr. Sampadananda Mishra is planning to set up the new library.

By Sreekanth A. Nair

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Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, director of the Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture at the Sri Aurobindo Society in Puducherry, is planning to set up a new library to translate Sanskrit scriptures to English.

The library called ‘Vande Mataram’ library will be an open-source, volunteer-driven project.

Mishra had earlier signed a petition demanding the removal of Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock from his post as general editor of the Murty Classical Library of India established through a $5.2 million gift from Rohan Murty, the son of Infosys co-founder N. R. Narayana Murthy and social worker and author Sudha Murty.

Mishra is working with businessman and amateur historian Rajiv Malhotra who drives the campaign against Pollock and has written a book called ‘The Battle for Sanskrit,’ in which he has criticized Pollock’s conclusions on Sanskrit writing.

He has also written another book called ‘Being Different’ and Mishra had closely worked with him for this book.

Mishra is working on Sanskrit projects at the Sri Aurobindo Society and also on a project on the potential healing power of certain Sanskrit chhandas (metres of verse).

The concept of the new library is said to be a challenge to Murty Library.

In an interview with Scroll.in, Mishra said that the library is still in the conceptual stage and nothing more has been decided. There will be three trustees. One among them will be Mishra and the two other members are to be decided. They are planning to produce 500 volumes of religious and non-religious Sanskrit work.

“The whole vision is to create – you know with this [technology entrepreneur] Narayana Murthy’s contribution to Columbia University and all – the whole idea is to create a virtual library with authentic people and authentic translators, which will be a technologically empowered project. Everything will be transparent and authentic. Unquestionable,” Mishra told Scroll.

“The idea was floated only two or three days ago. With what is going on – the petition and all these things – I floated this idea. Let that battle go on one side, but at the same time, we should create a virtual library and prove our competence. If people are saying Indians are not competent enough to do that [translate Sanskrit], let’s prove it by creating good works, not fighting just like this,” he added.

He said that the publications of Murty library are good, but sometimes they lack the spirit of the poem. He also said that Western and European scholars always tried to twist Sanskrit words at crucial places.

“For them, it will be like Chhatrapati is “Lord of Umbrella”. Or Ramakrishna Paramhansa will be the “Great Swan”. A common reader will be convinced that he is great, but the word “supreme” will not seed. “Great Swan” is fine. But where is the whole spirit behind the word Paramhansa? It is not the word but the spirit that has to be translated,” he said.

The library will be concentrating on Sanskrit texts, even scientific texts and unpublished manuscripts. It will also consider secular texts. They are also planning to translate Sanskrit works into other languages like Hindi.

23 Comments

  1. Commendable .. Kindly consider an alternative name! Vande Mataram doesn’t carry the appeal (not ideal) for an initiative of this magnitude in Indology space or in Theological space.

  2. Suresh Nair

    Happy to learn about the indigenous effort to make available authentic translations of classical sanskrit works. Sanskrit means well done / made. It is a well made language and faulty translations should not take away the spirit of the language. Translations have always been a problem in all languages. In fact Xuanzang / Huen Tsang / Mokshadeva traveled long distances to reach Nalanda University only to correct the faulty translations that were available in China. May faulty translations fall by the way side and authentic ones live through the ages.

  3. Jigar Joshi

    If there is commitment and led by people with strong aptitude and Integrity , it can destroy the farce being propagated — hope Mr. Malhotra and Mishraji build strong structure – if this is apparent people will contribute. i promise my measly couple of thousands to it.. even if a lakh indians chip in 5000 – we can create something LEAN but lasting and impactful.. co-opt all small guys like me and we will have something credible

  4. Great effort by you guys. I will also support this effort financially if, required.

  5. RAMDAS TIWARI

    UNTIL NOW THERE HAVE BEEN HUNDREDS OF VERSIONS OF “TRANSLATION” & “TRANSLITERATION” OF THE GREAT INDIAN SANSKRIT SAHITYA BY THE ‘WESTERN’ / WEST-THINKING ACADEMICIANS. HOW CAN THEY DO JUSTICE TO THE ‘CRUX’ OF THE MEANING, THE REAL SOUL EMBEDDED IN THE SANSKRIT (CIVILISED) LITERATURE ? IN GEETA 18/67,The Lord has Ordained, The Gita should not be taught to one who has not undergone a certain degree of austerity, who is not a devotee, who does not respect the guru, who is highly selfish, who is not interested in listening, anyone who has objection to the notion that there is Ishvara, and purely materialistic individuals who are content with their existence.THIS IS BECAUSE SUCH INDIVIDUALS WILL NOT UNDERSTAND THE REAL INHERENT MEANING OF THE WORDS; Though they may translate the script literally. {THIS RESTRICTION SHALL APPLY TO ALL SANSKRIT TEXTS}!!!

  6. venkata ramanayya oruganti

    Please go ahead with the project. It is a very good initiative . When your intentions are clear and dharmic, you need not look back. Our support will always be there. Let this divine project be blessed by the gods above .

  7. sudhindra gargesa

    For any goods initiative there has to be synergy with understanding of Individuals. Sreekant Nair ji, Rajiv Malhotra has been rendering yeomen service towards creating the ‘pride of being an Indian’ Spirit since a long time after he gave a lucrative business career. Hats of to Dr. Mishra ji and Sri Rajeev Malhotra ji.

  8. sudhindra gargesa

    Great Initiative. The effort must represent true spirit of the sacred texts with out any bias. What scares us Indians is just that. We have grown on history of India written by westerners. Thanks to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan which has published an authentic history of India. Now this Indian History is available as DVDs also.

  9. setup crowdfunding for raising funds

  10. Ravikumar Naik

    Mishraji great initiative, our good luck and support is always with you. I had to learn the colonial version of India, I don’t want my son to learn the American version of India. Better we Indians take control of these translations.
    Looks like the author is completely ignorant about Rajivji’s work, calling him a businessman and an amateur historian, this guy is complete lost it.

  11. Excellent initiative. It’s prudent to start a new project with genuine intentions of rightly projecting our Sanskrit tradition, rather than fighting the wrong forces which is only going to be futile. I would love to be a part of this venture and contribute in whatever little way we can. My email id vrindacharya@gmail.com

  12. This is an excellent initiative and reply to the Murthy’s. For some vedic books authentic translations are available but getting all together in virtual library is requirement of the day. This would be draw more response from genuine seekers and be blessing for future generation compared to the biased Murthy Classical Library. Even the name ‘Classical’ has flaws when evaluated technically.

  13. This is best way out to counter arrogant Murthys who have more trust in foreign English men than our own Indian scholars who are attached with the essence of Dharma & not just Sanskrit language. Wish you luck Mishra sir !

  14. Very inspiring. Let’s translate all our scriptures in Hindi. This will definitely institute a movement to build our nation. History is evidence. Hindi served as the language for awakening in medieval and modern times against mughals and British respectively. Hindi will also serve against pseudo Indians and Indologits…

  15. An excellent intitiative! Authentic translations that are true to the spirit of the meanings will be far far more valuable to the world than the reductive approach devoid of holistic understanding that appears to be the hallmark of many foreign translators, and certainly that of Sheldon Pollock, the editor of the Murthy Classical Library. The Vande Mataram Library project deserves and will get huge support from all those who genuinely care about the preservation of sanskriti past and present.

  16. Kailash Vishnu

    Writer of this article Mr. Sreekanth A. Nair, please correct your article.
    FYI : Mr. Rajiv Malhotra has not been a businessman for 25 yrs. Never was “amateur historian”

  17. Please read the attached comments by Kanchi Seer Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati on Indology studies by Westerners. From the book “The Vedas” Seer’s explanation of Vedas in a very lucid manner.

    *****
    [Page 3]
    RESEARCH ON VEDAS
    It is a matter for regret that the main source of the knowledge
    about the Vedas for most of us in India is the research done
    by foreigners called orientalists and our scholars who follow
    in their footsteps and conduct research. I agree that foreign
    scholars have indeed made very useful contributions concerning
    the knowledge about the Vedas. We must acknowledge it and thank
    them for it. Many like Max Muller have really taken great pains
    to collect material and analyse it as they were inspired by the
    grandeur of the Vedas. They have written volumes on the Vedas.
    We would be struck with wonder at the number of publications
    released by the Asiatic Society, founded over 200 years ago by Sir
    William Jones, who was then a Judge of the Calcutta High Court.
    Max Muller, with the aid of the East India Company, had serially
    printed and released Rig Veda with Saayana’s commentary and
    also many other Hindu religious texts. Englishmen, Germans,
    French and even Russians have worked hard with their researches.
    They have collected and published translations of the Vedas
    along with the extant aphorisms, which were scattered in parts
    all over India.
    There are foreigners who have also served the cause of some
    other aspects of our cultural heritage. When Lord Curzon was the
    viceroy, the Protection of Ancient Monuments Act was enacted.
    This stopped vandalism. Ferguson took photographs of all
    sculptural treasures throughout the century and rr:ade us aware
    of their importance. Cunningham, Mortimer Wheeler} Sir John
    Marshall are all noted archaeologists. Mackenzie gathered ancient
    palm leaf scrolls from all over the country without which we could
    not have known about some of our sastras. A separate departm-
    ent of epigraphy was instituted only during the British Rule.
    thus a lot of gain accrued to us from foreign domination. But in
    their wake came losses too. The Indologists and orientalists were
    [end page 15]
    [Contd…THE VEDAS]
    committed to writing ancient h~story from m~t~rial taken from
    Vedic texts and, in the process, introduced the till then unheard
    of concept of Aryans and Dravidians, which created mutual hatred.
    Their conclusions were based on what they called rationalisation,
    according to which anything outside the ken of the sense organ,
    can only be regarded as allegorical. This would permit them to
    regard the ancient Rishis as primitive men inferior to the modern.
    Their analysis of our religious texts was motivated by the desire
    to show Christianity as a better religion. All the while they kept
    up the facade of impartial research and, in the process, denigrated
    our religion.
    Noting the points of similarity between Sanskrit and their
    language, many studied our texts purely in the interests of corn-
    parative philology.
    We can admire them for their tenacious research, and the
    publicity they gave to the greatness of the Vedas. But they missed
    the essential purpose of the Vedas which is to ensure the well·
    being of the universe at large by spreading the sound of Vedic chant
    and ensuring the performance of Verlie rites. Setting aside. these
    two essentials, the Vedas, which are beyond its reach, have been
    sought to be analysed by the brain. What should subsist as a liv·
    ing force in word and deed of the common man has been entombed
    in voluminous books adorning the shelves of libraries, like
    keeping fauna in museums which house skeletons and archalc
    objects.

  18. Sagar Raichura

    A much needed initiative and hard hitting response to Mr. Rohan Murty’s claim that there aren’t enough Indian scholars to carry out the translations. Mr Murty is just not able to understand the difference between a secular worldview and spiritual worldview and how loose translations can change the whole perspective or meaning of what the original author has been trying to say or convey. The focus, when translating the texts, has to be on connotation, i.e. the idea or thought behind the words as Dr. Mishra so rightly pointed out in his article and not the denotation i.e. the literal meaning of the word. And this understanding or capability can come only from those who have lived the tradition and not just observed it from outside like Mr. Murty and Mr. Sheldon Pollock. Hats off to Dr. Mishra and Mr. Rajiv Malhotra for taking the battle head on and take it to the next level.

  19. Shriram Bhandari

    So this is going to be more of a virtual library correct? So our Sanskrit texts will be accessible through translations and transliterations then ?

  20. Sanjay Vaidya

    Excellent initiative a positive step in the right direction to claim back all our heritage. Full support.

  21. This is a very commendable move. Let us make sure the dharmic way of interpreting our texts are retained, rather than a microbe under the microscope approach and that too under a twisted western lens. This is critical to preserve the heritage and also continue this legacy for posterity. We need definitely to focus on this and make this a successful model. Eventually, we may want many many such initiatives as Indian literature is an ocean.

  22. Rajendra Poul

    If Indians used thier mother tongues, this whole videshi translation thing will be unnecessary. Either way, serves the west so long language is videshi. Videshi pubs r needed and should be done only after completinh work in swadeshi languages. Otherwisr natives will use videshi language to understand swadeshi, an unnecessary roundtrip.

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