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सुप्रसिद्ध कवि, न्यू मीडिया विशेषज्ञ एवं प्रधान संपादक, सृजन ऑस्ट्रेलिया

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डॉ. शैलेश शुक्ला

सुप्रसिद्ध कवि, न्यू मीडिया विशेषज्ञ एवं
प्रधान संपादक, सृजन ऑस्ट्रेलिया

श्रीमती पूनम चतुर्वेदी शुक्ला

सुप्रसिद्ध चित्रकार, समाजसेवी एवं
मुख्य संपादक, सृजन ऑस्ट्रेलिया

Importance of Translation from Indian Perspective


The communication through the signs and symbols with one to other is a hallmark of human beings society. It is difficult to measure the regions, different human beings groups and their medium of expression. The medium is a language through which people express and share their ideas, knowledge, and feelings when the both interlocutors know the language or medium in which they communicate. Indeed, considering the geographical area and population on this earth planet, it’s difficult to have only on language. So, there are uncountable languages which are bound by the culture, religion, and tradition. To resolve this barrier translation came as an solution through which the whole humanity are able to communicate not just ideas or problems but share very rich sources of knowledge and information. The word ‘translation’ consists of two Latin words ‘trans means ‘across’ and lation means ‘to take’ (derived from the Latin verb transfero, transfere, translatum). The ancient Greek word for translation was metaphrasis meaning ‘a speaking across’. To put it very simply, translation means transferring or taking across to or expressing in one language what has already been said in another language.

In the contemporary world, translation is indispensable, a vital means of transferring information and knowledge. It unites diverse languages, literatures, cultures and peoples, enabling their progress. By importing ideas, words and idioms from one language into another, translators have shaped the very languages into which they have translated, since times immemorial. Translation plays a major role in international relations, governance, education, trade, tourism and media.

Thus, this paper is going to expose the importance of translation in the field of Indian English literature to present its multi-cultural, multi-religious, multilingual, multiregional diversities and heritage to the world audiences.

Key words: Translation, trans-creation, multi-cultural, multilingual, multiregional diversities Indian heritage, Indian English literature.



My article analyzes the role of translation from the Indian perspective, which is a nation of ethnic and cultural diversity and where people speak multi-languages. Without translation, India with its twenty two languages, different scripts, hundreds of mother-tongues and thousands of dialects would have remained a mono cultural world, deprived of its rich and diverse ancient heritage. As a discipline, translation studies is comparatively new and is still in the process of mapping its territory because the mode of transmitting cultural elements through literary translation is a complicated task encompassing compendium of experiences which includes history, social structure, religion, traditional customs and everyday usage. In recent times, there seems to be a sudden upsurge of interest for translation in English studies in India perhaps due to the impact of decolonization in our outlook and rejection of the uncritical acceptance of literature in dominant western languages. English is now admittedly a vast reservoir of translation in India.

Translation is related to words and words are nothing but a translation of ideas or experiences. In this sense, every act of communication is an act of translation. In the absence of words there would be no world and there would be no sharing of knowledge. The process of translation runs through different stages. They are initiating from the source language to target language, transliteration and transcreation. Transliteration or literal translation is word to word, phrase to phrase or sentence to sentence carrying over the target text to the source text. The aim of such translation is to reproduce meanings of the source text and the immediate effect it has on the readers of another culture in whose language the text is to be translated. Transcreation on the other hand means a partial or complete freedom to the translator in dealing with the source text. The translator renders the Source text in a recreated form in the Target Language. Another step in translation is Transfer stage in which the analyzed material is transferred in the mind of the translator from the Source Text to Target Text. The final stage is the restructuring of the transferred material .When translation produces the same effect as on the original audience then translation can be considered equivalent to the Source Text.

Translation in India: Origin and History

In the West, there exists a rich tradition of translating the Bible from Hebrew to Greek, Greek to Latin, and from Latin to French and English, right from the second and third centuries B.C. to the middle of the twenty century A.D. Greek classics were translated into Latin by Roman scholars around the third century B.C. The middle ages and especially the Renaissance saw many famous translations of Greek and Latin classics into Italian, French, German and English. The trend was prominent in Elizabethan England and continued during the Neo-Classical, Romantic and Victorian ages with even Arabic and Sanskrit classics being translated into English.

In India, first references could be found in religious or mythical books. It is believed that the practice of translation in India has been prevailing “without a name or style”. Mr. Khubchandani, the critic considers Narad a character from Hindu mythology as the first example of an interpreter in intercultural setting. He also refers to another religious figure i.e. Buddha who delivered messages. Sujeet Mukherjee believes that translation in India derived from the master language Sanskrit to other modern languages like Hindi, Bangla, and Gujarati etc. Unlike the west where translation originated from the biblical works, the source languages texts in India were not religious scriptures like the Vedas but myths and famous poetic works like the “Ramayana” “Mahabharata” and the “Srimad Bhagavat Gita”. Up to the nineteenth century our literature consisted only of translations, adaptations, interpretations and retellings of literary works as well as knowledge-texts: discourses on medicine, astronomy, metallurgy, travel, ship-building, architecture, philosophy, religion and poetics from Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Persian and Arabic. These kept our cultural scene vibrant and enriched our awareness of the world for long. Most of our ancient writers were multilingual such as Kalidasa’s Shakuntala has Sanskrit and Prakrit; poets like Vidyapati, Kabir, Meerabai, Guru Nanak, Namdev and others composed their songs and poems in more than one language. It is only through the medium of translation that the stories of Panchatantra went westward to reappear in form of Aesop’s Fables and the stories of different countries and languages could be adapted and abridged easily. Examples are the stories of Hans Christian Anderson from English to Indian regional languages.

If we look back at history then it is observed that during the Mughal period in India, the focus of translation shifted from Sanskrit to “Persian”, the “ruler’s language”. Emperor Akbar patronized Persian and got translated the great epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and many other works into Persian. After the coming of the East India Company in India, translation of Indian languages to European languages became popular. Charles Wilkins in 1785 translated the “Bhagavat Gita” first time into English directly from Sanskrit. However despite the invasion of English, Indian languages had their own individual identities and rich literary traditions though no great initiative was taken by the British for promoting translation activity among the Indian languages. The freedom movement and the nationalistic temper resulted in translation of Bankim Chandra in Bengali and Premchand in Hindi. Numerous European texts were also translated into Sanskrit, Bengali and other local languages. Translation during this period was more an expression of cultural identity and assertion of the native self. The major authors of this period like A.K. Ramanujan, Dilip Chitre, Sujit Mukherjee approached translation from the regional, local and democratic outlook towards culture and nation.

Post-colonial period:

 In the post-colonial period, the need was felt to reconstruct and rediscover various new perspectives on the relationship between source and target texts. It was during this period that we witnessed Rabindranath Tagore’s translating his own poems “Gitanjali” from Bengali to English which is thought of as a landmark in the history of Indian literature in English translation and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913. The reasons that prompted Tagore to translate into English seem to be valid even today for the regional Indian writer to be known at the national level you have to be translated into English rather than any other language. It seemed to embody the spirit of India. The activity of English translation begun by Sir William Jones with his Abhijnana Sakuntalam, was also an attempt to ‘discover’ India’s ancient cultural roots and showcase them to the west. This was an orientalist enterprise. Indian translators also employed translation as a tool to knit the country with concepts of nationalism and the nation.

Importance of Translation in Multilingual and Multicultural Context:  

Translation became very popular in the post-independence period and translation theorist P. Lal conceived of a new translation method which he termed as “transcreation” meaning, “recreating a source Language text in the target language, taking absolute liberty with it and yet being fidel with it”. Transcreation in form of translation were made of famous epical works like ‘The Ramayana’ and ‘The Mahabharata’ by R. K. Narayan and Chakravarti Rajagopalchari respectively. People realized that translation of literary works from one Indian language into as many or most of all other Indian languages will achieve the target of the Indian audience and promote unity while preserving diversity. There were translations made from one Indian language to another, as well as, translations from Indian languages into English. Take for instance, A. K. Ramanujam’s translation of his English poem ‘Prayers to Lord Murugan’ in contemporary language. The spurt in the activity of translation into English was an indicator of a larger socio-cultural phenomenon which is understood as globalization.

The India government in 1980s took the initiative towards the development and preservation of languages and literatures in India by instituting “Sahitya Academy”, an Indian government organization. The wave of Globalization broke down the artificial barriers between languages and cultures, obliterated boundaries between the real and the imagined, between the orient and the accident. In recent years, not only the number of translation has increased but there is more focus in publishing and marketing translation. The scene today is that Macmillan, Penguin and Katha are but a prominent few publishing houses which publish quality translations in English.

In translation studies there are different areas of language transfer like literary, scientific, technical translation et and. translation takes various forms such as; Literary translation that translates foreign literature into Indian languages, Indian literature into foreign languages and Indian literature in one language into other Indian languages. The mentoring tool of such translation is the Dictionary .The recent spate of literary festivals all over the world and the recent book fairs organized across the globe at Frankfurt, Paris, London, Bologna, Abu Dhabi etc have contributed to this rising fascination. The Government of India has also recently responded to this new interest by launching a new mission, Indian Literature Abroad (ILA). Big Indian publishing concerns like Penguin, Macmillan, Orient Longman, Oxford University Press, Harper-Collins, etc as well as smaller houses are encouraging translations of literary and discursive works in a big way. Knowledge Translation is another form that translates textbooks and classical works in areas like sociology, history, geography, geology, medicine, chemistry, physics, mathematics, linguistics and political science into the Indian languages. This helps to render accessible current and cutting-edge knowledge, to the rural poor and the backward sections of the society. In the domain of Cultural Translation the receptor’s culture attains centrality and translational strategies are accordingly used.

Translation in India:

India has one of the oldest and richest literary traditions in the world. The history of Indian literature is the history of hundreds of languages and dialects. In the colonial era, the entry of the English language led to widespread translation of Indian literatures into English. Scholars like William Jones, MacDonnell, MaxMuller, Wilson, Griffiths and Jacobs were the pioneers. By late 19th century, Indian scholars like Romesh Chandra Dutt also joined the effort, sometimes with the noble intention of correcting Western perceptions of Indian texts. This is a living tradition as we realize from the practices of P.Lal, A.K.Ramanujan, Dilip Chitre, Velcheru Narayana Rao, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Arshia Sattar, H.S. Shivaprakash, Ranjit Hoskote, Vijay Nambisan, Bibek Debroy, and several other poets and scholars”. The world has been enriched by English translations of the Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Buddhist texts and Panchatantra, the masterpieces of Panini and Kalidas in Sanskrit, Tulsidas, Surdas, Kabir, Meera, Premchand, Bharatendu, Dinkar, Agyeya in Hindi, Ghalib and Iqbal in Urdu, Chandidas, Saratchandra and Tagore in Bengali, Narsi Mehta in Gujarati, Pothanna and Vemana in Telugu, Jagannath Das in Odiya, Shankar Dev in Assamese, Purandardas in Kannada, Kumaran Asan and Vallathol in Malayalam, Kusumagraj and Vijay Tendulkar in Marathi, Kamban and Andal in Tamil to name only a few.

Translating Indian literatures into a global language like English is a potent means of revealing to the entire nation and to the world the rich cultural heritage, the similarities and differences amongst these literatures, their humane vision and lofty ideals, their quest for truth, beauty, liberty, justice and happiness. English translation has helped Indian literatures to transcend the barriers of place and time and become accessible to layman and critic alike. There is immense scope and urgent need for more such translations of old and new works in Indian literatures, so that new meanings are discovered and innumerable hidden treasures are brought to light.

The translator has to essentially play three roles that of the reader who must grasp the original text in its entirety, of the bi-linguist who must master and equate the unique rules, styles, socio-cultural contexts and worldviews of two different languages, and, of the creator who creates a new text keeping in mind the essence, sensibilities and intentions of the original text and writer, and the nature of his readers. Translation demands creative imagination just like original writing. In fact, the translator’s task is more difficult as he/she has to capture and convey the essence of the heart and mind of another individual. Right from Cicero and Horace to John Dryden, translation theorists have been concerned about maintaining the fine balance between literal translation and creative paraphrase that enables equivalence between original and translated texts.

The major difference between translation practice in the West and in India:

The major difference between translation practice in the West and in India is that in the West, translation is considered a complicated linguistic and literary act while in India it is an inevitable way of life. In the West, translation is critically scrutinized by different theories of Structuralism, Deconstruction, Psycho-analysis, Gender, post-colonial discourse etc. In contrast, the focus in India is on the realistic aspect of the process of translation. Keeping in perspective the Indian tradition of multi-culturalism and multi-lingualism translation has been a major tool for negotiating social tensions, language-conflicts, social transitions and cultural experience for understanding the remarkable unity underlying them.

Recent trend:

In the last thirty years similar to the west, translation theories have also developed in India and in this context two renowned theorists worth mentioning are Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Harish Trivedi. Spivak translated Jacques Derrida from French and Mahashweta Devi from Bengali into English. Besides Spivak and Trivedi, there are other translators of whom Tejaswini Niranjana and Rita Kothari are of international acclaim. Niranjana like a post-colonist believes that the translated text should disrupt the text to show the contemporary difficulty  in modes of cultural exchange. Reviewing the translation tradition in India, translation theorists have realized that translation is an uphill task and it is probably much easier to rewrite the text in the other language than to translate it.

Translation is no longer thought of as a linguistic activity done in isolation, but as the product of a broader cultural context that encompass plural belief system. Translation needs to be studied in connection with power and patronage, ideology and poetics.

Challenges in Translation:

As far as the translation of native Indian literatures into English is considered, the translator faces three major issues.

  1. The first is grasping the meaning of the original text which requires a deep understanding of its linguistic structure and idiom, subtle cultural nuances and varied interpretations of the same word or phrase. The same Hindi expression aankh lagna can have widely different meanings when used in slightly different ways. Kisi ki aankh lagna denotes ‘sleep’, kisi se aankh lagna denotes ‘falling in love’, while kisi par aankh lagna denotes ‘desire’.

  2. The second issue pertains to transferring the exact meaning of the original text. Here the translator may have to retain the original usage, find its equivalent or give explanations. For example, the Hindi word chamaar can be translated in four different ways depending upon the context ‘chamaar’, ‘cobbler’, ‘tanner’, ‘untouchable leather worker’.

  3. The third issue involves communicating the meaning of the original text. Here, the translator has to adopt a reader-based approach with due reverence for the structure and idiom of the target language, the place and time of his readers. That is why chaitra ka mahina in Hindi is variously translated as ‘the Hindu month of Chaitra’, ‘the month of April’ and ‘the end of the spring season’.

Translating Indian literature into English is thus a serious task demanding a selfless and passionate devotion to literature, skill, hard labour, scholarship and creative genius, profound experience of life and deep social commitment.


It has been acknowledged that translation has always been central to Indian literature, and especially Indian English literature. We have to admit that in certain cases it was very difficult to differentiate between an original book and a translated on. In the contemporary world, translation is indispensable, a vital means of transferring information and knowledge. It unites diverse languages, literatures, cultures and peoples, enabling their progress. By importing ideas, words and idioms from one language into another, translators have shaped the very languages into which they have translated, since times immemorial. Translation plays a major role in international relations, governance, education, trade, tourism and media. In a multi-lingual country like India, translation is essential for national unity and in every sphere of life. Today translation is an organized and multi-faceted profession catering to varied needs. In this era of globalization, translations of Indian literature into English are essential not only for India to discover her own self but also for India to connect with and take her rightful place among the community of nations. Such translations make vital additions to the essence of India’s national unity and also showcase India’s rich diversity to the world.

 Thus, translation as a medium has played a key role in understanding, analyzing and dissecting the socio-political aspects of Indian literature. It has helped to knit India together as a nation throughout her history linking lands and communities together. Ideas and concepts like ‘Indian literature’, ’Indian culture’, ’Indian philosophy’ and ‘Indian knowledge systems’ are the outcomes of translation. Undoubtedly translation has been a mirror and has led to the promotion and enrichment of indigenous literature by translating masterpieces of great masters of world literature.


  1. Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Earl McPeek, USA, 2003.

  2. Andre Lefevere. Essays in contemporary literature: A Systems Approach. Calcutta: Papyrus, 1988.

  3. Bassnett Susan. Translation Studies.1980 Rev Ed.London: Routedge. 1991.

  4. Bassnett Susan and Trivedi Harish. Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 1999.

  5. Cassagrande, J.B, “The Ends of Translation”. International Journal of American Linguistics.20.4.335-340

  6. Das, Bijaya Kumar. Handbook of Translation Studies. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2008.

  7. Kachru Braj Bihari (ed.), The Other Tongue: English across Cultures, University of Illinois Press1982.

  8. Khubchandan, Lachman M. “Sources and Target”: Translation as Cultural Filter”. Translation, Text and Theory: the paradigm of India. Ed. Rukmini BhayaNair.New Delhi; Sage Publication, 2002.Print.

  9. Kothari Rita. Translating India: The cultural politics of English.U.K: St. Jerome’s .2003.Rev. Ed. Delhi: Foundation,2006.

  10. Gentzler, Edwin. Contemporary Translation Theories. London: Routledge, 1993. 192.

  11. Tejaswini Niranjana. Sitting Translation: History, post-structuralism and Colonial Context. Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1955.

  12. Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994.

Last Updated on March 8, 2021 by srijanaustralia

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