Experiments with Translation

Translating life's journey in poetry, prose and pictures

harśacarita 2nd chapter: of elephants and horses in a royal encampment

निर्वर्तितस्नानाशनव्यतिकरो विश्रान्तश्च मेखलकेन सह याममात्रावशेषे दिवसे भुक्तवति भूभुजि प्रख्यातानां क्षितिभुजां बहूञ्शिबिरसंनिवेशान्वीक्षमाण: शनै: शनै: पट्टबन्धार्थमुपस्थापितैश्च डिण्डिमाधिरोहणायाहृतैश्चाभिनवबद्धैश्च विक्षेपोपार्जितैश्च कौशलिकागतैश्च नागवीथीपालप्रषितैश्च प्रथमदर्शनकुतूहलोपनीतैश्च दूतसम्प्रेषणप्रेषितैश्च पल्लीपरिवृढढौकितैश्च स्वेच्छायुद्धक्रीडाकौतुकाकारितैश्च दीयमानैश्चाच्छिद्यमानैश्च मुच्यमानैश्च यामस्थापितैश्च सर्वद्वीपविजिगीषा गिरिभिरिव सागरसेतुबन्धार्थमेकीकृतैर्ध्वजपटपटुपटहशङ्खचामराङ्गरागरमणीयै: पुष्याभिषेकदिवसैरिव कल्पितैर्वरिणेन्द्रै: श्यामायमानम्, अनवरतचलितखुरपुटप्रहतमृदङ्गैर्नर्तयद्भिरिव राजलक्ष्मीमुपहसद्भिरिव सृविकपुटप्रसृतफेनाट्टहासेन जवजडजङ्घां हरिणजातिमाकारायद्भिरिव सङ्घट्टहेतोर्हर्षहेषितेनोच्चै:श्रवसमुत्पतद्भिरिव दिवसकररथतुरगरुषा पक्षायमाणमण्डनचामरमालैर्गगनतलं तुरङ्गैस्तरङ्गायमाणम् … राजद्वारमगमत् ।

from my first foray into the world of sanskrit art-prose, a slice of bāna’s harṣacarita that I’m reading with a wonderful colleague at the university of michigan:

it was late in the evening and the king had already eaten. having bathed and eaten and rested a while, bāna leisurely set out with mekhalaka towards the royal palace gates. upon reaching the gate, his eyes lingered over the array of encampments of well-known kings.

the royal gate was darkened by rows of elephants–some bearing honorific turbans, others carrying drums. some were newly captured, others were acquired forcefully or received as presents. still others were sent by elephant guards. some others were brought as curiosities on a first visit, or sent upon encountering royal messengers. some were brought by village elders, yet others were demanded to stage battles for the king’s amusement. some were given, others snatched. some were free to wander, others were tied to posts. they looked like mountains forming a bridge, desiring to subdue all the islands in the ocean. they were adorned with flags, garments, kettle drums, conches, fly whisks and perfumed powders, making it seem as if it were the day of royal coronation.

as horses jumped up towards the sky, the royal gate seemed to rise with waves. the garlands and fly whisks that ornamented the horses gave the semblance of wings as they leaped, as if angry at the horses that pull the sun’s chariot. with their joyful neighs, it seemed as if they were challenging indra’s 7-headed horse to a combat. foaming profusely at the corners of their mouths, it appeared as if they were mocking the entire race of deers for being too lazy. it seemed as if they made royal splendor herself dance to the drum beats of their ceaselessly prancing hooves.

* please note that I broke up the passage into multiple sentences to facilitate easier reading, but what you have above in sanskrit is not even a complete sentence which went on for more than 35 lines 🙂 I am convinced that we can create eloquent renderings of the harsacarita in English, but that is the task for a more seasoned translator than myself.

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nītiśataka 1.95: guṇavadaguṇavadvā (a wise man should)

गुणवदगुणवद्वा कुर्वता कार्यजातं
परिणतिरवधार्या यत्नत: पण्डितेन ।
अतिरभसकृतानां कर्मणामा विपत्ते-
र्भवति हृदयदाही शल्यतुल्यो विपाक: ।।९५।।
नीतिशतके

a wise man should
ascertain with great care
whether his actions
are virtuous or not;
for reckless acts
are like fiery arrows
that lacerate the heart
until the final end. ||95||
nītiśataka

nītiśataka 1.94: śubhram sadma (luxurious mansions)

शुभ्रं सद्म सविभ्रमा युवतय: श्वेतातपत्रोज्ज्वला
लक्ष्मीरित्यनुभूयते स्थिरमनुस्यूते शुभे कर्मणि ।
विच्छिन्ने नितरामनङ्गकलहक्रीडात्रुटत्तन्तुकं
मुक्ताजालमिव प्रयाति झटिति भ्रश्यद्दिशो दृश्यताम् ।।९४।।
नीतिशतके

luxurious mansions,
gorgeous women,
and enviable wealth–
you will experience these
as long as you are good.
the moment you act nasty,
they will disappear
much like a string of pearls
that tears during
love-making. ||94||
nītiśataka

nītiśataka 1.93: yā sādhūṃśca khalānkaroti

या साधूंश्च खलान्करोति विदुषो मूर्खान्हितान्द्वेषिण:
प्रत्यक्षं कुरुते परोक्षममृतं हालाहलं तत्क्षणात् ।
तामाराधाय सत्क्रियां भगवतीं भोक्तुं फलं वाञ्छितं
हे साधो व्यसनैर्गुणेषु विपुलेष्वास्थां वृथा मा कृथा: ।।९३।।
नीतिशतके

o wise one,
to get what you desire,
propitiate the goddess ‘good action’
who instantly transforms
villains into good men,
fools into scholars,
enemies into friends,
visible into the invisible,
and poison into nectar.
give up your useless
devotion to
sensory pleasures ||93||
nītiśataka

nītiśataka 1.92: brahmā yena (all glories to fate)

ब्रह्मा येन कुलालवन्नियमितो ब्रह्माण्डभाण्डोदरे
विष्णुर्येन दशावतारगहने क्षिप्तो महासंकटे ।
रुद्रो येन कपालपाणिपुटके भिक्षाटनं सेवते
सूर्यो भ्राम्यति नित्यमेव गगने तस्मै नम: कर्मणे ।।९२।।
नीतिशतके

all glories to fate, which
shackled brahma to the task of creating
as if he were a potter,
forced vishnu to descend to earth
in ten incarnations in times of great danger,
coerced śiva into living a beggar’s life,
and makes the sun rise everyday in the sky. ||92||
nītiśataka