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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Discussion on Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Gaṇoddeśā Dīpikā by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, part 2.

(Continued from the blog of June 3rd)

It is advisable to have copies of both Kuśakrath Dās’ and Bhūmipati Dās’ translations of the book to appreciate this review, as it would hugely increase the bulk of the blog if I would quote their entire texts here. Apologies for the inconvenience; it is worth the trouble, though, since this book is very important for those who wish to become acquainted with Rādhā Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associates. If I have erred or overlooked something in this part of the book I will either add it to the blog or comment on it later. I don’t think I would have the courage to translate this book myself – it is full of mysteries that mere cribbing in dictionaries won’t solve. Some issues may be solved only if Rūpa Goswāmī himself would come down to explain them or when we attain the spiritual sky.

Verse 1.118 The tilak is not natural but the yellow colour is. It is not mentioned in the Sanskrit text that Vidur has a loud voice. Bhūmipati fails to mention the tilak is yellow.

1.120 Bhūmipati forgets to mention that Durmada is proud.

1.128 The Bengali translator says of svīkṛtākhila bhāveyamsandhi-vigrahinī matā “Whether there’s a fight or meeting, she is always dedicated.” I don’t find this in either Kuśakrath’s or Bhūmipati’s translation. The word Daivata is not translated by Kuśakrath, Bhūmipati uses the word ‘accidentally’, the word actually is daivataḥ, providentially.

1.129 sakhi-dyutibhir āvṛtā  neither means “She is always covered by the emotions of other gopīs” [Bhūmipati] nor “The beauty of all the other gopīs appears to be conserved in the form of Lalitā-devī.” [Kuśakrath], it means ‘covered by the luster of the sakhīs’ – the Bengali translator has this right. Of vigrahe prauḍhivāde ca prativākyopapattisu - Bhūmipati says ‘she expertly takes care of the situation’, but Kuśakrath has a better translation, saying ‘she expertly speaks the most outrageous and arrogant replies’.

1.130 The Bengali translator says that Lalitā gives the proper insight to the sakhīs, eager as she is to establish vigraha (strife or division). When the time for sandhi (meeting) has come, she remains as if indifferent. Almost this entire text is missing in Bhūmipati’s cluster of verses (127-134). Kuśakrath has an entirely different translation: “When the arrogant gopīs pick a quarrel with Kṛṣṇa, she is in the forefront of the conflict. When Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa meet, she audaciously remains standing a little away from them.” I don’t see the word ‘audacious’ in the śloka.

1.131 The Bengali translator says that, intoxicated by eros (madana mohini), she (Lalitā?) makes the Kinnāra-teenage-girls play in the garden with flower-vines, betel-vines and Pūga-trees. (‘making them play’ is not mentioned in the śloka though) In the footnote he says that Kinnāra krīḍā is also a type of erotic play mentioned in the Kāma-śāstras. Kinnāras are normally celestial beings with human forms but horse-heads. Kuśakrath, however, claims that the garden itself is named Madana-mohinī. He does not mention the Kinnāra-kiśorīs.

1.135 Kuśakrath says they are favorable to Lalitā, but the Bengali translator and Bhūmipati say they are against her. No dictionary gives a translation of the word pratyantara, which is the clue to the whole question.

1.136 Bhūmipati says that Ratnaprabhā and Ratikalā are expert in the science of amorous pastimes. That is not in the śloka and, rightly so, not in the translation of Kuśakratha either. The Gaudiya Grantha Mandir edition of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Gaṇoddeśa Dīpikā says ratikale, while my Bengali edition says rati-kāle, ‘at the time of love-making’ – so it could be just one girl, Ratnaprabhā, who is expert in rati, or two girls, Ratnaprabhā and Rati-kalā, who are just beautiful and qualified.

1.137-138 Bhūmipati fails to translate the items but just mentions the Sanskrit names. Kuśakrath does translate them in English. Bhūmipati and the Bengali translator say that “The shape and design of the flower decorations are in no way inferior to the shape and design of golden and jeweled ornaments.” I cannot find the word ‘inferior’ in the śloka. Kuśakrath’s translation seems better: “Just as these ornaments may be fashioned from precious jewels, gold or other materials, in the same way they may be made of flowers.”

1.139-140 Bhūmipati and the Bengali translator translate the word dhṛti with “It is bedecked with mystic perfection”. No such meaning can be found of the word dhṛti in the dictionary, however. Kuśakrath tries to solve the problem by saying dhṛti is a jewel, but such a meaning is also not found anywhere.

1.142 Puṣpapara are classified as separate ornaments by Kuśakrath, but Bhūmipati says it is a further explanation of the ornament described in the preceding verses.

1.144 The word āvali is not clear. Kuśakrath mentions nothing, and Bhūmipati says ‘down to the back’, the Bengali translator says ‘down to the belly’. It could be ā = down to + vali = three lines on the belly. Bhūmipati’s ‘various colours’ is not really there.

1.146 Kuśakrath is wrong, it not a ‘hollow gold post’, Bhūmipati is right, tāla-patra is ‘palm-leaf’.

1.149 According to the dictionary Rājīva could mean ‘blue lotus flower’, as mentioned by Kuśakrath. This is not in the text of Bhūmipati. Kuśakrath’s Bhṛṅgikā may refer to bees or to a flower of that name, Aconitum Ferox.

1.150 Kuśakratha says the karṇa-veṣṭana covers the ears, Bhūmipati says it surrounds it. It could mean either but I believe here it means surrounding.

1.151 Kuśakrath’s translation is correct, Bhūmipati’s is not.

1.152 Kuśakrath’s translation is definitely incorrect and incomplete, but the verse is so difficult that I don’t know how it actually should be. I think pretty much the way Bhūmipati translated it, though he seems to have forgotten that the flowers of the middle portion are coloured like the four raised parts (tad varṇa-puṣpakair).

1.154 Bhūmipati forgot to mention that the sashes have 5 different kinds of flowers.

1.155 Kaṭaka is ‘different vine-strings containing stalks and buds of flowers’. More or less the way Bhūmipati says it.

1.157 Bhūmipati adds the names Catuḥ Śṛṅgī and Puṣpa Śṛṅgāra to the flower-shoes called Haṁsaka.

1.158 Bhūmipati forgets the word ‘kaṇṭha-lambi’, ‘begins from the neck’; Kuśakrath included it. Bhūmipati says ‘kinds of flowers’, this should be ‘colours’ instead. Bhūmipati forgets sauṣṭhavena, ‘artistically’, Kuśakratha includes it. The word ‘vinyāsa’ means that these items are placed on the blouse, not that the kañculī is itself made of flowers. It seems both Bhūmipati and Kuśakrath are wrong here (can a lady’s blouse be made just of flowers??)

1.160 Kuśakrath calls the Aśoka flowers ‘small bells’ for unclear reasons.

1.161 Bhūmipati mentions ‘mango’, but I can’t find that in the śloka. The word śuci is not mentioned by either Bhūmipati or Kuśakrath, śuci vāpa means woven (vāpa) with a needle (sūci). Bhūmipati at least says ‘woven’, Kuśakrath says nothing at all. Bhūmipati fails to mention that the mallis (jasmines) are suspended, but Kuśakrath mentions it. Bhūmipati says it is used for many different purposes, but this is not in the text.

1.162 Both Kuśakrath and Bhūmipati forgot the word nava, the lotus flowers are fresh. Kuśakrath called both ulloca and candrātapa ‘awning’. I think that should be OK, because the difference seems to be between the flower decorations only.

1.163 The pillars are made of reeds, the whole house is covered with various or wonderful flowers. The four khaṇḍis (this almost certainly means ‘latticed walls’) are made of various flowers. This is called a veśma. Nowadays this is called a Phul Bāṅglā, or ‘flower bungalow’. Many prominent temples in Braja build flower bungalows for their dieties in the summer, with Camelī, Yūthī and other types of summer (jasmine-type) flowers. (See image on top of the blog)

1.165 Kuśakrath says ‘Viśākhā is talkative (Loquacious)’, but this cannot be found in the śloka. Bhūmipati and Kuśakrath have differing opinions – Kuśakrath translates navato bhadrā as ‘although she is more exalted than these younger gopīs’ but I think that is grammatically impossible, it should have been navebhyo. Bhūmipati’s translation is more likely here – ‘she is youthful and auspicious’. Bhūmipati’s ‘management’ is strange. Perhaps Kuśakrath translated this as “she is the perfect counsellor of the divine couple “ Kuśakrath’s translation of the last lines of 165 is better and more elaborate: “She is expert at all aspects of amorous diplomacy and she knows all the arts of how to conciliate an angered lover, how to bribe him and how to quarrel with him.” Bhūmipati’s “consoling Śrī-Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa when They feel separation from one another” is incomplete and incorrect.

1.166 +176 ‘she knows many languages’ – it beats me which languages these are. ‘Knowing many languages’ may be a mahāpuruṣa lakṣaṇa, indication of a great person. Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu says that Kṛṣṇa also knows many languages; this may be a standard glorification.

1.166 It is unclear if the skills described here are Viśākhā’s or her assistant Raṅgāvalī’s, it seems to me the latter is the case.

1.168-9 Bhūmipati fails to translate prasūna vṛkṣeṣu, the flowering trees, but instead just says ‘different places where Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are going to meet.” He also fails to mention they are appointed by the vana-devīs to do so (vanadevyadhikṛtāḥ).

1.172 Neither Kuśakrath nor Bhūmipati mention the word ‘parīkṣā’, she is expert in testing six flavours. Kuśakrath lumps in cooking with śuddhi śāstra, but the word ‘ca’ (‘and’) indicates two topics in this line. No translator explains the meaning of śuddhi śāstra, also not the Bengali translator. śuddhi means ritualistic or purity, like smṛti. It COULD mean cookbooks.

1.175 Bhūmipati’s translation here is more elaborate and complete than Kuśakrath’s.

1.176 Kuśakrath’s “Citrā-devī can read between the lines of books and letters written in many different languages” is more accurate than Bhūmipati’s “She is expert in the art of writing.” Bhūmipati also forgets to translate ‘dṛṣṭi mātrāt – “simply by seeing she knows the substance of milk and honey”.

1.177 Both Kuśakrath and Bhūmipati forgot tan madhyormi vinirmitau, “she makes waves in these glass vessels”. Kuśakrath’s ‘protecting’ animals is not in the śloka, just animals (paśu-vrāta).

1.178 Both Bhūmipati and the Bengali translator say Citrā is expert in making arrows, but I can not find that in the śloka. Kuśakrath’s ‘gardening’ is too vague – vṛkṣopacāra śāstre pāṭava really means she is expert in the scriptures on attending to trees’.

1.180 Kuśakrath’s word ‘collect’ is not there in the śloka. Bhūmipati forgets to translate hīnānāṁ kusumādibhiḥ - They are expert in, or in charge of, different herbs that have no flowers. Kuśakratha, though, says: “There are other gopīs who mostly collect transcendental herbs and medicinal creepers from the forest and do not collect flowers or anything else.” Flowerless, however, seems to be an adjective of the herbs here.

1.182 Bhūmipati is probably right – Kṛṣṇa has faith in Tuṅgavidyā, not vice versa as Kuśakrath says, though both meanings could apply.

1.183 mārga gīta is a ‘high style’ of singing, as opposed to ‘vulgar’, according to the Cologne Lexicon. Kuśakrath translates mārga gīta as a style of singing, but Bhūmipati does not mention any adjective to the singing.

1.184 Bhūmipati says that Mañjumedhā’s group makes alliances between opposing groups, Kuśakrath says just between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. It is not clear from the Sanskrit either way.

(To be continued...........)


  1. Beautiful flowers in the picture. Is this a "guess the Deities" contest? I don't know a temple with that kind of monkey screen. Radhe Radhe!

  2. Satya, the picture is referred to in the review of verse 1.163, it is the Phul Bangla at Banki Bihari. It is a festival held in mid-summer, around now, in various temples in Vraj.

  3. I don't understand how so many mistakes can be made. So many words left untranslated and so many others mis-translated. Is this something common to a lot of the translations we may be reading? Are the majority of them so full of errors? I find this quite disturbing.

  4. Anon, I think the translations were done in a hurry, perhaps for prestige or for profit, I do not know. It is important to work on such grave mystical works patiently and, ideally, to have a team of editors, not just of the English, like Kushakrath, but also of the Sanskrit-English translation. No, it is not that everyone delivers such sloppy work - Iskcon's Bhanu Swami is doing good work, f.i.

  5. I believe you are right. Prestige and profit. It's a shame someone would approach these sacred texts with such motivation in mind. I also am generally very happy with Bhanu Swami's translations, though it sometimes seems that he translates very quickly too. I have heard that perhaps he isn't always the translator, and that others are doing the work and he is placing his name on it. Have you heard anything like this?

  6. In the past Subhag Swami and Bhanu Swami did the work but Mahanidhi Swami got the credit. Not anymore now. Yes, I heard Bhanu Swami works fast too, but still his error-rate is very low. That is what matters.

  7. Could somebody put together all the corrections into a new book - Radha Krishna Ganoddesha Deepika and print it? Maybe you Advaitaji?

  8. I'm afraid this is only the beginning. I have 10 more word-pages of text, which I plan to post in 2-3 blogs. I have been playing with the idea of posting my book-reviews in nice pdf-format on the Literature-departure of my website. However, I am myself a bit hesitant to make my own complete English translation of Radha-Krishna Ganoddesh Deepika, since a number of words and verses are not very clear to me either.

  9. tad vAg-visargo janatAgha-samplavo
    yasmin prati-zlokam abaddhavaty api

  10. Yes this verse speaks about some mistakes, but abaddhavati means 'some grammatical mistakes' not that in a small 463 verse booklet there are hundreds of translation-mistakes by not one but even two translators, in an important topic like our eternal associates in Krishna-leela.