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Adibhatla Narayana Dasu’s The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Acclaimed a Rare Literary Feat

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Pandit Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasu (Agust 31, 1864- January 2, 1945), the Harikatha Pitamaha, was a polyglot, He had mastery over the several languages which include  Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, English, Arabic, and Persian.

He wrote three Yakshaganams, two Satakams, and some other smaller works in Sanskrit. In another great achievement, he translated the Rukkus of Rgveda into Telugu.

His Navarasa Tarangini is a compilation of translations of beautiful passages from Shakespeare and Kalidasa into the nine Rasas.

The flamboyant Telugu poet felt Edward Fitzgerald’s English translation of Omar Khaiyam’s poetry was not up to par and did not do justice to the Persian poet.

As he was well versed in the Persian language as well, he ventured to translate both the original quatrains of  Omar Khaiyam and Edward Fitzgerald’s English translation into Sanskrit and Atcha Telugu (అచ్చ తెలుగు), Telugu language unmixed of Sanskrit.

He undertook the translation in order to demonstrate what was lost in Fitzgerald’s translation and how the Persian poet was misunderstood.

It was published as Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam in 1932. Even Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishna is also said to have praised the work as an ‘astounding feat’.

The works were acclaimed as a literary feat. The Hyderabad Bulletin, a noted  English Newspaper of those days carried an excellent review of Narayana Dasu’s book. The review appeared in the form of an editorial in the issue dated January 16, 1937, with a caption A Monument of Scholarship

Here is the editorial.

A MONUMENT OF SCHOLARSHIP

We have pleasure in acknowledging a copy of the “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khaiyam, translated into Sanskrit and Telugu by Pandit A. Narayana Das, retired Principal of Sri Vijayarama Gana Pathasala, Vizianagarm, and a careful perusal of the book fills us with admiration at the astounding scholarship of the learned Pandit.

There are, of course, dozens of translations of the immortal “Rubaiyat”, the most popular and probably the best known being that of Edward Fitzgerald. Pandit Narayana Das, who frankly expresses the opinion that Fitzgerald’s work is not a literal translation, has gone back to the original Persian in order that the letter and the spirit of Omar Khaiyam may not be missed.

In these degenerate days when scholarship has fallen on evil times, it is incredible to learn that a Hindu, with Telugu as his mother tongue, should have been so filled with admiration for a Persian poet that, after he had passed his sixtieth year, he took the trouble to master so alien a language and translate the masterpiece not only into Telugu but into another classical language, Sanskrit.

We find in the book that while Fitzgerald’s translation is rendered into Sanskrit and into Telugu of the Kandam metre, the hardest perhaps in the Telugu prosody. Omar Khaiyam’s original text is again translated into Giti and the Bhujangi metres.

We are certainly unaware of any recent instance in India where so much learning has been brought to bear on what is no less certainly a labour of love, for it is evident that there are few persons familiar with the Sanskrit language who are anxious to have a rendering of the Persian original.

Pandit Narayandas’s erudition is enhanced by the fact that even in using his own mother tongue, he has selected what is called Atchha-Telugu, a language that only a handful can understand. The work therefore is not intended for the masses, and the learned author expects no profits out of his scholarship.

But literature transcends the limitation of language, age and country, and it is most gratifying that a Telugu writer of the twentieth century should have paid the most splendid tribute to a Persian Poet of the twelfth century. He has added a most copious glossary at the end of the book to facilitate an appreciation of the original, its translation by Fitzgerald, and the author’s own translation into Sanskrit and Telugu.

In inviting the attention of H.E.H. the Nizam’s Government to the Pandit’s work, we trust that, in consonance with their liberal support of classical scholarship; they will extend their patronage to the Pandit, and thus bring about a sympathetic understanding and interpretation between the two classical languages.

 

(The Hyderabad Bulletin.16-1-1937. Source: wikidot)