June 9, 2016

BRC Receives Rare Urdu Bhagavad-Gita

On a recent visit to Mayapur, Hari Sauri Prabhu received a special gift for to the Research Library’s rare books catalogue, a century old Bhagavad Gita with translation and commentary in the Urdu language. It was kindly donated by Ravanari Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada’s first disciple from the Middle East. (Read more about him by clicking HERE).

Urdu is a Persian influenced language spoken primarily by Muslims in North India and Pakistan. It was originally published by a Pandit named Rai Bahadur Madan Dehlavi from Kashmir. 

The edition is replete with several beautiful illustrations, including many esoteric looking diagrams depicting various aspects of Vedic Cosmology annotated in both Sanskrit and Urdu. 

Our Head Librarian, Acyuta Prabhu, contacted a professor of Urdu language at the Univer-sity of Michigan who was provided with the scans. He informed us this edition was published in 1906. 

The first page of the book reads “Janaki Nath composes Persian couplets and quatrains (rubā’iyat) in order to recast the original content of the Gītā. Each verse is followed by Urdu commentary.” The translator added that the illustrations seemed to assign mystical significance to the number of verses found in each chapter. 

To our surprise, he pointed out there were actually two books within the binding, a practice common at that time. The second book, “The Devotion of Viṣṇu”, also composed in Urdu, was published in 1885 and authored by one Munshī Munna Lāl Ṣāheb. 

The Library staff commented how striking it is to hold in your hands old devotional Vaishnava texts written in the exotic cursive Arabic script.