President of Basava Samithi Aravind Jatti with the translated books| Nagaraja Gadekal / Express
Basaveshwara or Basavanna and his vachanas needs no introduction for Kannadigas. The social revolution he started in the 12th century influenced scores of other vachanakaras who wrote lyrics capturing people’s imagination with their universal wisdom and humanitarian values. How does one pay tribute to such masters? The Basava Samithi has come out with one such way.
While compiling over 2,500 vachanas that is in Kannada, was itself an uphill task, the Samithi went beyond this. It decided to translate all the vachanas not only into eight major regional languages of the country, but also into English. So that one could easily enhance their knowledge from the spiritual oasis of vachanas if one knows one of the 10 languages, including Hindi, English, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
In an interaction with City Express, Aravind Jatti, President of Basava Samithi and Professor M Prasanna Kumar, co-ordinator of Basava Translation Project, spoke at length about the task they undertook, the hardships they underwent and about the Phase-2 part of the project. They also provided details of the Spiritual Parliament (“Anubhava Mantapa” as it was called by Sharanas), a project conceptualised by the Samithi.
It took over three years for a team of 100 members to bring out 2,500 vachanas in 10 languages. Aravind Jatti explained, “The objective of the Samithi is to spread the philosophy of Basavanna as a universal secular philosophy rather than a religious one. The Vachanas were just limited to Kannada and Karnataka. We wanted to spread their message across India and also worldwide.”
When M M Kalburgi, the former Vice-Chancellor of Kannada University, Hampi, heard about the project, he joined their endeavour with much enthusiasm in order to make the project a success. The state government also recognised the value of the project and granted `1 crore for this work. However, the sheer number of vachanas and the number of languages that needed to be translated was not as romantic as it seemed from the outset. In the process of translating, the team had to face a lot of hardship.
Sharing their experiences, M Prasanna Kumar, who coordinated the project, recalled, “While translating the vachanas into Tamil, the translators and the language experts were not ready to accept the Sanskrit words. Rather, they preferred to use Dravidian words.”
The nuances of each language posed new challenges to the translators while translating every vachana as bringing the original sense of a vachana was necessary for the real success of the project. “Selecting the appropriate words in other languages that matched the context was another major hurdle. But when we see these books in front of us today, we forget the hardships we underwent and we feel proud of our first phase of work.”
It was important for the editorial team to retain the essence of the Vachanas. “Though we have made an effort to retain the original essence, the vachanas are rooted to the soil and they remain more appealing and powerful in the source language, Kannada,” explained Prasanna Kumar.
The project is getting a good response from the book lovers even before the release. The complimentary copies of Marathi edition distributed in Maharashtra have already made the vachanas popular in the neighbouring state.
Moved by this response, the Samithi has decided to further translate vachanas into other languages like Assamese, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Nepali, Oriya, Santali and Sindhi.
“It is a herculean task to find language experts and translators in tribal languages like Bodo, Dogri and others. We are also planning to spread Vachanas across the world by translating it into German, Spanish, French and Chinese. A professor named Brinda Mehta has already come forward to translate vachanas into French. It is the spirit of the people like this that will egg us on,” says Aravind with a smile.