Speech of Dr. S.C. Jamir, Hon’ble Governor of Odisha on the occasion of release of “VACHANA” – Volume in Odia Language at Jayadav Bhavan, Bhubaneswar on 13.09.2016 at 11.00 A.M.
I am delighted to be here for the release of the translated version of selected ‘Vachanas’ from the 12th century Vachana literature into Odia language on the occasion of Golden Jubilee celebrations of Basava Samithi, Bengaluru. I am given to understand that the Samithi brings out the translation work in Odia and 12 other Indian languages in the second phase of multi-lingual Vachana translation project assigned by the Government of Karnataka. I would like to acknowledge and commend the wonderful work done by Basava Samithi in bringing out translated version of Vachana literature in altogether 23 scheduled languages of the country under the project. I am told that the Samithi will be doing the translation into four foreign languages — French, Spanish, Chinese and German in the third phase shortly. When Basava Samithi adds another feather to its cap I pay my respect and homage to the founder of Basava Samithi, late B.D. Jatti who was the former Governor of Odisha and former Vice-President of India. Hailed as a man who set an example of selfless service he always stood for value-based politics. He was a simple man with extraordinary thought and he rightly named his autobiography, “I’m My Own Model”.
Mr. Arvind Jatti, President of Basava Samiti and son of late B.D. Jatti, deserves special appreciation for being at the forefront in propagating the philosophy, life and teachings of Sharanas, including the 12th century social reformer Mahatma Basaveshwara and Vachana literature. As a worthy son and a deserving successor to the legacy left by his illustrious father, Mr. Arvindji has taken several steps to forward his father’s wish and further strengthened the work of Basava Samithi with his visionary leadership and able guidance.
Vachana literature of 12th century is an asset to Indian literature. There is melody and music of life in the innermost existence of our being and this literature makes one responsive to the music of the soul, and awakens finer shades of feeling in the depth of the soul. This literature is undoubtedly one of the finest spiritual literatures ever written in the country. The quality, truthfulness and reliability have given the literature a unique identity. We in our lives yearn for peace and happiness. Violence and conflict are one of the most serious problems facing the world today. If our minds are dominated by anger, we lose the best part of human intelligence – wisdom, the ability to decide between right and wrong. The role of spiritual literatures like ‘Vachana’ in providing wisdom and philosophical insight for readers is invaluable. Vachana literature is instrumental to Kannada literature being recognized as a classical literature of the country.
Mahatma Basaveshwara belonged to an era which was much earlier than that of modern social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dayanand Saraswati and Mahatma Gandhi. He was bold and was much ahead of his time with his free thinking, social reforms, and advocacy for woman emancipation and championing a casteless society and equality and the cause of poor and downtrodden. Arthur Miles observes in his book “The Land of Lingam”. “Whatever legend may say about Basava, the fact is pretty clear that he was the First Indian Free Thinker. He might be called the Luther of India”. For the present day social reformers he remains a role model.
This great Indian Free Thinker and his associate Sharanas started and enriched a literary form that had a universality of appeal, the Vachana or Brief Prose — Lyric Poetry. Vachana literature, a basic scripture of the Lingayat religion is committed to social upliftment and self-realization and is simple enough to be understood by the most ignorant and esoteric enough to be admired by the sophisticated. It is truly a priceless gift to humankind.
I understand that translating Vachanas is quite a challenge. Here it is from one classical language to the other I mean from Kannada to Odia. I take this opportunity to congratulate the translators who have translated the narratives with precision and have taken all care to retain the essence of original in the translations. The contribution of Shri Arvind Jatti and others who are associated in bringing such a valuable publication for Odia readers to get the taste of the richness and uniqueness of Vachana literature is quite praiseworthy.
Literature is a mirror of the social and cultural relationships within a people, a society and a culture. When works of literature are translated from one language to the other, the recipients in the new language get an insight into the social and cultural conditions of the prevailing society and that of people. Since dialogue between cultures requires channels, literature is a highly important tool in that dialogue. If one wishes to get to know a great piece of literature of other language, two options are available: either one learns the language, or one reads the literature in translation. Of course, learning the language is subject to limitations, simply because there are so many languages that it is impossible to learn them all; so translation continues to be the most important channel of communication between cultures.
The literary celebrity Goethe believed that a literature exhausts itself and its resources become vitiated if it closes itself off to the influences and contributions of other literatures. Not only literature but language itself thrives as it makes connections with other languages. We may say that the broadening of horizons that comes with translation does not affect only readers, speakers, and writers of a language, but the very nature of the language itself. The more a language embraces infusions and transfusions of new elements, the larger, more forceful, and more flexible it becomes as an expressive medium. Translation of a literary work reaches well beyond the literary scope of the source text.
In order to keep our own culture vibrant, it is essential that we expand the depth of literary options available. To truly be among the most enlightened, a culture must be open to and imbibe works from the great authors of the globe. As it stands, some of the best works ever written will remain unread by the vast majority of the world’s population simply unless an effective translation is made available.
The impact of literature may not be immediate or direct, but it is far more enduring: literature has long been an agent of momentous changes in human history. It has moved societies, sparked revolutions, and lit the light of knowledge. In honoring authors and poets, we recognize not just achievement and accomplishment but we also celebrate the sensitivity, the richness, the creativity and the power of the human mind and human spirit.
Translation expands our ability to explore through literature the thoughts and feelings of people from another society or another time. It permits us to savor the transformation of the foreign into the familiar and for a brief time to live outside our own skins, our own preconceptions and misconceptions. It expands and deepens our world, our consciousness, in countless, indescribable ways.
As the world shrinks and interest in multiculturalism grows, so too does the fascination with literature from around the globe. Unfortunately, the rate and level of literary translation has not kept a pace with demand.
There is a need for a vast majority of literary translators and to train a new generation of literary translators who will help bring literature of other Indian languages and also of world literature in a variety of languages to our own languages for the benefit of the reading public. They must know that when they translate literature, they are transcreating literature, and the text of the translation must adhere to the highest standards of literary quality and retain the essence of the original. After all, translation and literature have long been intertwined with each other.
Our good fortune is that we have a very rich tradition in literature and poetry going back to many centuries. It is a living tradition and it is incumbent upon us to protect and enrich it. No society can consider itself complete if it has insufficient room for creativity. To understand and enjoy life it is necessary to possess artistic sensitivity.
Our schools and colleges are understandably focused on providing children and young men and women with the means to go forward in life, to make the most of their abilities, to play their role in society and grow up as responsible citizens of our free country. Sometimes I believe we do not pay enough attention to the humanities that, as the word implies, will help them grow up as better human beings. We should ensure that even as our youth learn skills and equip themselves for employment, they are not deprived of access to literature and poetry. Every access to the visual and performing arts and to other forms and expressions of human creativity must remain unaffected. This would make their education more wholesome.
With these words, I once again express my happiness to release the translated version of such a unique and wonderful literature. I am sure it will receive reader’s acceptance and appreciation.