Bangalore arrives in a furious flurry – a bustling city, surprising even ordinarily, but truly vast in scope and scale after the Panauti footpaths. Miles flash by on the highway: shops-shrine-shacks-sprawl-signs-shops, start, stop, start-stop, start-stop, sudden speed and splashes of colour and movement paint the car windows, and I feel I’ve lived a thousand other lifetimes in strange places before reaching the destination.
The hotel, in contrast to the vibrant roadside, and the busy central streets, is polished and calm. There are potted plants and polished paneling and I want to hide, or else run back to Panauti. The marble here, the shining surface, reflects inconcrete concern to my mind. Finally I realise why I feel uncomfortable: the establishment is distinctly British in character, and reminds me that perhaps a hundred years ago, my ancestors might have been here, ordering people around and certainly not deigning to thank anyone for services rendered.
So, with my comfortable self-image sank right down, it was time to call Satya and arrange a meeting, if I could muster the courage to do so.
14 November 2011.
My large suitcase is re-stuffed for departure to India, and somehow I’ve cleaned myself up, gripping furniture pitifully along the way. Pills and tea are not the ideal breakfast, but I don’t trust anything else. The feeling is sadly familiar – the breakfast of champions! I used to jest, drinking from a bottle of Pepto-Bismol – and I wait to leave, breathing deeply as the minutes pass.
Kathmandu flashes past the car windows, a stranger; at last I stumble from the car, and pull both my battered grey case and battered grey self to flight check-in. The fluorescent wash of lights is simultaneously too bright and too dim; it hollows out flesh and drips uneasy shadows onto tile floors. I am obviously still not well, and shiver as I look around. Other soon-to-be passengers are wearing the ivory scarves of Nepali farewell, and others are wearing marigold garlands and rice tilaks. Thoughts of the somayajña begin to surface; I shake them loose. There would be a terrible irony in binding myself, by memories of ritual.
The rest of the reviews are under the cut. All of these authors have written books which evaluate Ṛgveda and include some translated hymns as examples.
As promised, this begins my best shot at using my dubious (lack of) credentials and general linguistic snottiness to review English translation(s) of Ṛgveda. All pseudo-information provided beneath the cut!
While working on my second post about Ṛgveda translation, I rediscovered some interesting Veda-related tidbits, and thought I’d share some stories and links while I get my research together.
Warning: Slightly fluffy post. This is more “fun with Ṛgveda” than anything.
Can you recommend a good translation of the (Ṛg)veda to me?
It honours me that I have been asked this question several times, by friends who know me as Indra’s devotee and an avid reader, and I would like to answer it here in case others are wondering the same.
(I’ll preface this by writing, again, that I don’t know Vedic Sanskrit, aside from a few words; I can’t read Veda in the original language. My only qualification is a bachelor’s degree in linguistic anthropology, aided by a keen sense of observation.)
So, the short answer about a good English translation: There isn’t one, and I believe there never will be.
The long answer is beneath the cut, and I’ve given several examples to make my pessimism more understandable.
12 and 13 November 2011. Some of this writing is from that time; some of it, I’m writing now.
I had debated going up the hill one last time, to touch the empty śālā frame and gaze a while, but it was cold, and my stomach protested the idea. I am a nervous traveler; even the knowledge that a journey lies ahead is enough to churn my gut. So I stayed in my room and readied my things for departure instead. My suitcase was just long enough to fit the saffron flag, which I wrapped very carefully.
The car arrived on time and took me uneventfully back to Kathmandu, the smooth (and depressing) journey ending right around lunchtime. Fortunately, there was a restaurant a two-minute walk away, an organic/fair-trade establishment with excellent food. Tiredness was catching up to me, though, and I ate quickly, trying to ignore the strange wooziness in my head and stomach. I wandered the streets of Kathmandu, so confused and overwhelmed by the noisy crowds and beeping cars and narrow streets, a jarring contrast to the wide mountain silence of Panauti. That night was dinner again in the same place, and then, that’s the last I saw of Kathmandu proper.
11 November 2011. Day 6/final day of Panauti somayajña.
“The view that gods are dependent on man’s sacrificial rituals is a misapprehension. It is truer to say that in the Vedic view the gods need man’s participation in the Vast Cosmic Order of which the sacrifice is the dramatic, symbolic re-enactment…This mutual participation is summarized in the sacrificial ritual. The birth of the universe is a sacrificial offering of Deity to Itself (RV 10.90; 10.81.5) and the gods’ participation in it is mirrored on earth by the human ritual which is itself an epitome of the law of life, of taking and giving, the eternal exchange.”
–Jeanine Miller, from chapter 1, “Bhakti and the Rig Veda,” in Love divine: studies in bhakti and devotional mysticism
I normally have words for situations, even if they’re empty syllables to fill the silent spaces, but I say little this morning. My eyes hold every sight with care as I walk, trying to remember everything.
“My sweetheart seized it from him and quaffed the wine; flames from that wine went running over his face.
He was beholding his own beauty, and saying to the evil eye, ‘Never has there been, nor shall there come in this age, another like me.'”
“When the veils are burned away, the heart will understand completely…Ancient Love will unfold ever-fresh forms in the heart of the Spirit, in the core of the heart.”
“All your talk is worthless when compared with one whisper of the Beloved.”