Now, teachings of Marathi saints in German

Shirish Shinde
Thursday, 5 April 2018

Pune: Writers get varied experiences besides the joy of creativity. Pune-based multi-lingual author and poet Vinita Mahajani has written books in Marathi, English and German. She is a retired professor of German Studies from Fergusson College, Pune. 

Pune: Writers get varied experiences besides the joy of creativity. Pune-based multi-lingual author and poet Vinita Mahajani has written books in Marathi, English and German. She is a retired professor of German Studies from Fergusson College, Pune. 

Mahajani has translated from Marathi 'Manache Shlok' by Samarth Ramdas as 'Geistesverse aus Indien von Samarth Ramdas' and 'Pravachane' by Gondavalekar Maharaj as 'Zum formlosen Gott durch das Intorieren des Gottesnamens' into German. She has other books in German to her credit such as 'Lebenswege von Samarth Ramdas' and 'Deutsch in Indien'.

She has also translated Wilhelm Busch's comic illustrations with comments into English and Marathi titled 'Wilhelm Busch-chi Hasari Paane'. 

Speaking about the inspiration behind writing in German, Mahajani said, "Our saints from Maharashtra and from across the country were not blind devotees. Teachings from Vedanta and Upanishadas ask commoners to go beyond your mind. The shlokas by Samarth Ramdas impart spiritual teachings but also are artistic and poetic. He studied propagated the Adwait philosophy or the theory of non-duality. I found his verses very easy to translate into German." 

She said the verses by Ramdas in German are regularly sung by students of the Department of German of the Fergusson College, to the tunes composed by their German teacher Savita Kelkar. 

About 'Geistesverse aus Indien von Samarth Ramdas', Mahajani said that New-York based maths professor Kishor Marathe bought 15 copies of the book and gifted them to his colleagues in the Max Planck University in Germany, where he teaches as a visiting faculty. The teachers from the university praised the book by saying that the verses sound as though they are composed by a native poet. 

This book was on display in the world famous Frankfurt book fair, along with Mahajani's couple of other books, in 2006. Manya Verlag, the German publisher, from Munich was the distributor for the book. 

When asked why she chose Gondavalekar Maharaja's selective discourses to translate into German, Mahajani said once she was visiting Gondavale in Satara district, where the spiritual guru used to hold his discourses. There she met a German man, who was working as a volunteer in the ashram. He had participated in the Second World War. He lost his peace of mind after watching the massive destruction of life and property by the war. He left his home in search of spiritual peace and travelled across the world. Finally, he decided to settle down in Gondavale. 

"He suggested to me to translate 'Pravachane' into German," said Mahajani. 

Mahajani was pleasantly surprised one day some years ago when one of her relatives from San Jose, California told her that her bilingual Marathi-English translation of Wilhelm Busch's comic illustrations with verses 'Wilhelm Busch-chi Hasari Paane' was being taught to children learning Marathi in classes conducted by the Maharashtra Mandal in San Jose. 

Giving details about her association with Sakal Media Group, she said, "Many years ago, Sakal Group used to publish a weekly magazine 'Swarajya', in which my Marathi translations of German writer Heinrich Boell's war stories were published regularly by then editor Bapu Gokhale. 

Detailing the challenges that one faces while translating a literary work from a foreign language, Mahajani said she had presented many research papers in international seminars at many places on the topic. 

She said the culture, history, geography, weather and such local factors influence writings in German. For example, Heirich Heine's poem 'Im Nebel' (In the Fog) in German has negative connotations with the word 'fog', which is not thought to be a pleasant experience. However, Puneites enjoy fog during winter around Pune in Khandala and at Sinhagad fort. 

Mahajani said she had to give footnotes for German translation of Ramdas's shlokas for certain concepts and images which are not part of Western culture. 

She said, "Basically, the core Indian spirituality has a universal appeal. Hence, these books are being liked by people from other countries and cultures as well."  

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