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].”

Estimated Extent of Sāhib Rāms Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā

Sāhib Rām extends the original Persian text considerably in his adaptation. This is not so much due to him interpolating completely new content into the text, but rather due to rendering the text in verse, supplementing new details and references, and adding summaries. Based on the manuscripts currently available to us, we can calculate the overall extent to about 5 000 stanzas.

Chapter No. of Stanzas Anuṣṭubh Other Metres
2 54 49 5
3 70 60 10
4 83 72 11
5 61 51 10
6 31 22 9
7 65 59 6
27 31 24 7
32 119 ≈ 102 ≈ 17
33 223 ≈ 196 ≈ 27
38 139 ≈ 120 ≈ 19
39 487 ≈ 413 ≈ 74
Total 1 363 1 168 195

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