The Naval Kishore Press established in Lucknow by Pandit Naval Kishore in 1858 was once the largest publishing initiative in South Asia and second only to the Alpine Press of France. Before it was closed in 1950, it had published Urdu translations of over 500 Hindi, Arabic and Persian texts, and 124 Sanskrit texts, including the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita and Manusmriti. In keeping with the legacy of Naval Kishore Press, popular Urdu poet Anwar Jalalpuri has translated The Bhagavad Gita into Urdu shayari. Former chairman of Uttar Pradesh Madarsa Board and former member of the Urdu Akademi (UP), Jalalpuri had earlier translated Rabindranath Tagore’s Geetanjali and Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat into Urdu poetry. Jalalpuri tells Aishwarya Gupta that through his latest book, Urdu Shayari mein Gita, he aims at an interaction of Hindu and Islamic worldviews.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
What inspired you to translate the Bhagavad Gita into Urdu shayari?
I completed my MA in English in 1968 but have always been a poet by nature, writing in many forms — nazm, ghazal, naat, ruba’i, tareekh, qasida, salaam. On completing my MA in Urdu in 1978, I wanted to pursue a PhD, for which I was looking for a topic that would integrate both Hindus and Muslims. And that is when I decided to translate the Gita into Urdu shayari.
During my research, I found that over 80 such translations have been done in the past, of which over 60 were in prose while the remaining were in poetry. Of these 24 translations in Urdu poetry, I couldn’t find more than eight copies through references, having looked from Patna to Kolkata to Hyderabad to Rampur. Most of these early age manuscripts couldn’t be traced or were destroyed. Also, I realised that the subject and learning of the Gita in itself is so wide that if I pushed to crunch and completed it, I would not have been able to deliver justice. But the idea and philosophy of Gita remained close to me throughout and has resulted in this book after 35 years.