Adaptive transliteration

Several times, Sāhib Rām creates a new meaning for Persian (or, Arabic) proper names and place names derived from their Sanskrit designation. The city of Herat, for example (located in today’s Afghanistan), is referred to as hīrātta, which Sāhib Rām explaines in the commentary by hīrair āttaḥ „to be furnished with a diamond mine“.

Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā explanation in commentarytext passage
alin alatīt[y] alī 1.106
Harāt (the city of Herat)
hīrāttahīrair = vajrākarair ātto = gṛhīta iti hīrātto deśaviśeṣaḥ

is a place name [derived from]:hīrair āttaḥ, [i.e.] ‘to be furnished with a diamond mine’
šokr (thanksgiving)śukra/śukla[śukraṃ =] śuklaṃ [=] śuddhaṃ karmety ar­thaḥ
means] bright, in the sense of: good deeds
Sajyasa-jya: jyayā = ūrvyā samānaḥ
like (sa-)the earth (-jya) [concerning forbearance (=title of the chapter in question)] 


The Sassanid ruler Khosrau I Anušīrwān (r. 531-79) representing justice, and his famous minister Borzūya, representing wit and cleverness, appear in many anecdotes of Kāšefī’s mirror. Anušīrwān is given the name Nava-śarin, or, Nūtna-śarin by Sāhib Rām, both meaning „having new arrows“.

Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī
text passage
yakī az ḫulafāʾ one of the caliphs
Khala-pū (barn sweeper) 2.26
Dāvūd David Dāmodara
Nūtna-śarin (having new arrows) 39.28

Nava-śarin (having new arrows) 39.30


Using narratives and storytelling to capture the audience’s attention while communicating main concerns and offering moral advice (pand; naṣīḥat) is a dominant feature of Persian medieval mirrors for Princes. Throughout the Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī, we find more than 100 anecdotes of various length, featuring figures such as prophets (e.g. Moses), semi-legendary (e.g. Hatim al-Tayy) or historical persons (e.g. the Saljuq ruler Sultan Sanjar).
Sāhib Rām, while adapting these stories, deals with proper names and place names in different ways. He either transliterates them or creates Sanskrit counterparts. Here, we can see some examples of transliterated names:

Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī
Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā     text passage
Sulṭān Sanǧar
Sañjala 4.35
Umara 39.24
Madāyin arab. “the Cities”  (i.e. Ktesiphon)Madīna 39.25
yamānī Yemenite yamanīya 39.26
hażrat-e Mūsā Moses Mosa 39.153
banī esrāʿīlthe IsraelitesBhaṇī-Īsraphel 39.192

tools of translation: formation of synonyms (paryāya)

Multiple synonyms of the main topic appear in every chapter of the Vīraratnaekharasikhā, some of them are semantically clearly not synonyms, but the commentary makes it clear, that the author uses those phrases in the same sense. The following examples are taken from chapter four “on Thanksgiving” which is defined by Kāšefī as “offering thanks and being grateful for the favour bestowed by the benefactor (i.e. God) (sepās-o setāyeš bāšad monʿem rā bar enʿām-e ū). Thanksgiving is referred to by Sāhib Rām as:

  • kṛtajñatvam: gratefulness
  • tatprāpitānumoda: pleasure about what has been granted by him
  • śuklakarman/śuklīkaraṇa “bright” action (cf. transliteration of the Persian šokr “thanksgiving”)
  • bhagavaccharaṇāgati: taking refuge with the venerable
  • tadekaviṣayāgati: the state of having him as the only goal

Tools of translation: Transfiguration of Quotes

The Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī quotes from various sources such as the Qur’ān as well as classical Persian poetry. In some cases, Sāhib Rām remodeled quotes or replaced them by an adequate quotation or imagery from Indian mythological sources such as various purāṇa-texts. In chapter five “on Patience”, where Kāšefī quotes Hāfeẓ:

“If you remain patient like Noah facing the catastrophe of the storm flood, misfortune turns into the opposite and great fortune will be bestowed upon you.” (Gazal 234)

this is replaced by the following verse in the Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā:

“In former times, when [everything] was filled with water, the venerable Matsya[-Avatāra of Viṣṇu] was patient. Depending on him a ship with sages [on board], filled with seeds, persisted and was used by the creator, […], in a new creation [of the world].”

Translation Bureau?

During the reign of Ranbir Singh, several efforts in the educational system were undertaken. Traditional institutions such as madrasa and pathshala were promoted and government-funded schools following the British model were opened, too. During this time, the founding of a “translation bureau” should have taken place where scholars were engaged to translate classics from Persian and Arabic as well as contemporary material for practical purposes into Indian languages:

[…] the institution of translators through which he tried to enrich the languages spoken and understood in the State and the classical language Sanskrit […] A large personnel was employed for the purpose and an elaborate system had been worked out. About a hundred men were proposed to be appointed for translation and compilation work – 40 from Srinagar, 40 from Jammu and 20 from out side. Their pay ranged between ten rupees to fifty rupees per month, and 50 of them were stationed at Srinagar and 50 at Jammu. Some were appointed on monthly pay and some on work charge system […]

– Charak 1985: Life and Times of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, p. 261

We do not know much of the exact scope and range of this “translation bureau” and its output which would allow us to draw further conclusions, however.

Portrait of Ranbir Singh at the Dogra Art Museum, Jammu