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Errata - Corrections to popular mistranslations

Jagat - Thu, 05 Aug 2004 20:19:10 +0530
I have started this thread as a place to park any mistranslations I come across, especially in the books of ACBSP. I am running into these constantly, but I haven't been filing them. So this is meant to serve as a future aid to those who are in a position to edit or revise these publications. Those who don't want to hear, see, or do any evil should avoid this thread.

QUOTE (NOD 47. Page 376-377.)
There is a statement in the Vidagdha-madhava wherein Srimati Radharani, in an angry mood, addressed her mother, Paurnamasi, after she had accused Radharani of going to Krishna. "My dear mother," Radha declared, "what can I say to you? Krishna is so cruel that he often attacks me on the street, and if I want to cry out very loudly, this boy with a peacock feather on his head immediately covers my face so that I cannot cry. And if I want to go away from the scene because I am afraid of him, he will immediately spread his arms to block my path. If I piteously fall down at his feet, then this enemy of the Madhu demon, in an angry mood, bites my face! Mother, just try to understand my situation, and don't be unnecessarily angry with me. Instead, please tell me how I can save myself from these terrible attacks of Krishna!"

Introductory comment. This passage is revealing for a couple of reasons. One, it shows clearly the limits of Srila Prabhupada's concern for and knowledge of the Goswami's lila-oriented literature. Calling Paurnamasi Radha's mother is just shockingly incorrect. Especially since in the very next verse, it clearly says that Radha is Mukhara's granddaughter. Prabhupada also says there that Radha is Kirtida's daughter (though for some reason he says Kirtida is Mukhara's granddaughter!).

Second, it shows something that I have noticed about translations in general: people don't look at the sources to find out the context of quotes, or even the meaning of a text in its current context. In this case, a look at the tika or the source text (Vidagdha-madhava) should have been considered essential legwork. Though Prabhupada himself may have been forgiven, I can't understand why Dhanurdhara Maharaj did not correct these relatively minor things in his Waves of Devotion.

This is verse 2.22 of Vidagdha Madhava. The BRS number is 4.5.29.

krozantyAM kara-pallavena balavAn sadyaH pidhatte mukhaM
dhAvantyAM bhaya-bhAji vistRta-bhujo rundhe puraH paddhatim |
pAdAnte viluThaty asau mayi muhur daSTAdharAyAM ruSA
mAtaz caNDi mayA zikhaNDa-mukuTAd AtmAbhirakSyaH katham ||

When I try to scream, he quickly covers my mouth.
He is so strong, how can I stop him?
When I try to run from fear, he blocks my path.
His arms are so long, how can I escape?
And when I bite my lips in anger,
then he falls down again and again at my feet.
Now you, Mother Chandi, get angry with me.
So tell me: how am I supposed to protect myself
from this rascal with the peacock crown?

(1) The context of the Vidagdha Madhava is important. Radha's love for Krishna is being tested. A lot of great verses come from this act of ViM, like Radha's lament that she has fallen in love with three men: the one who is named Krishna, the guy who plays the flute, and the beautiful blackish young man who caught her eye one day (2.9). A couple of verses I just posted a couple of days ago (2.17 and 2.18) just precede it. Anyway, Paurnamasi is enjoying watching Radha reveal herself and keeps prodding her to get her reactions. This is why Radha is angry with her.

(2) These events, according to the commentaries, have not really happened, but are hallucinations or dreams resulting from Radha's total absorption in purva-raga.

(3) The point that really got me going on this was "If I piteously fall down at his feet, then this enemy of the Madhu demon, in an angry mood, bites my face!"

The Sanskrit, daSTAdharAyAm, does not support biting of faces by anyone. The adhara is one's lower lip. Occasionally, according to Sanskrit conventions, an aggressive lover may bite his partner's lips. Here, the passive voice does not make it absolutely clear whether Radha has bitten herself on the lips, or whether it is Krishna. No commentator has thought fit to share his insights, meaning that they found the statement clear. It is unfortunate then that at least one translator says that it is Krishna who angrily bites Radha's lips.

But this makes little sense if one looks at the structure of the verse: I do this and he does that, I do this and he does that. So, the grammar and structure both support in the third line: "I bite my lips in anger, and he falls down at my feet." There is no doubt at all about who is falling down at whose feet, thus there can be no doubt about who is biting whose lips.

Haridas Das (and Ramakanta Jha) support this translation, but for some reason Satyendranath Basu has given the same version as Prabhupada. So it is conceivable that Prabhupada was following a bad Bengali translation.

The point being made here is that even in her hallucinations and purva-raga, Radha's relationship with Krishna is tempestuous, but she has the power to exert her control over him and turn him into a beggar. So Radha expresses her anger both to Krishna as well as to Paurnamasi, even though the example is specifically meant to illustrate anger to a superior.

Another note on "mother." Here Radha addresses Paurnamasi as "Mother Chandi", the angry feature of the mother goddess. Paurnamasi is identified with Yogamaya, the mother goddess, and all elder women somehow fit into the "mother" category. But here the word mother specifically conjures up thoughts of this terrible feature of the divine feminine. Radha is actually saying, "If you, O Mother Chandi, do not protect me, then to whom can I turn?"
dirty hari - Thu, 05 Aug 2004 21:39:30 +0530
Could you post the word for word ?

Also you say that:

No commentator has thought fit to share his insights, meaning that they found the statement clear.

I am not sure what you mean by this. Are you saying that no commentator but Prabhupada has translated which person is biting which lip ?

If that is so, then we can conclude that it wasn't "obvious" to them, if they left it unsaid, then why would you insist that your version should be any different in that sense ?

Also you say it is obvious what it is supposed to mean because it goes tit for tat. But all of the previous tits and tats have Krishna as the aggressor, while Radha is attempting to stop him. Why should the last one then be different ? Why should it be all of a sudden where Krishna is begging instead of continuing his aggressiveness ?

(side note- In the kama-sutra, biting of the lower lip of the female is supposed to excite her genitalia.)
Jagat - Thu, 05 Aug 2004 22:00:20 +0530
Commentaries usually address the things they see as problematic. If they see no problem, they say nothing.

The lip-biting convention you mention is probably partly the source of confusion. The grammatical construction is locative absolute + finite verb sentence. The locative absolute is used when two actions take place with different subjects. The preceding action is place in the locative case, the verb in the appropriate participial form. The main action, with another subject, is in the main clause.

So here:

(1) krozantyAM (mayi rAdhAyAm) "when I scream"

SUBJECT balavAn (kRSNaH) INSTRUMENTAL kara-pallavena OBJECT (mama rAdhAyAH) mukhaM sadyaH VERB pidhatte

(2) dhAvantyAM bhaya-bhAji (mayi rAdhAyAm) "when I run away in fear"

SUBJECT vistRta-bhujo puraH OBJECT paddhatim VERB rundhe |

(3) The other confusion might arise from the word order, but anyone with a modicum of Sanskrit knowledge would not be fooled by unusual word sequence.

muhur ruSA daSTAdharAyAM mayi (rAdhAyAm) "when I with the lower lip angrily bitten" Admittedly, there is still a possibility that Krishna bit the lips angrily (ruSA), but it is unlikely because of the construction. Why would Krishna bite them in anger. Lust, OK, but anger?

SUBJECT asau (Krishna) pAdAnte VERB viluThati

VOCATIVE mAtaz caNDi! katham ("how") mayA ("can I" PASSIVE CONSTRUCTION) AtmA ("myself, my body") abhirakSyaH ("be protected") zikhaNDa-mukuTAt ("from Krishna").
Jagat - Thu, 05 Aug 2004 22:28:52 +0530
Since I have already mentioned BRS 4.5.30, I may as well give my version of that one too.

QUOTE (HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada @ NOD 377)
Sometimes among contemporary personalities there are signs of ecstasy in anger because of love for Krishna. An example of such anger was exhibited in a quarrel between Jatila and Mukhara. Jatila was the mother-in-law of Radharani, and Mukhara was Her great-grandmother. Both of them were talking about Krishna's unnecessary harassment of Radharani when She was walking on the street. Jatila said, "You cruel-faced Mukhara! By hearing your words my heart feels like it is burning in a fire!" And Mukhara replied, "You sinful Jatila, by hearing your words, there is aching in my head! You cannot give any evidence that Krishna has attacked Radharani, the daughter of my granddaughter Kirtida."

jvalati durmukhi marmaNi murmuras
tava girA jaTile niTile ca me |
giridharaH spRzati sma kadA madAd
duhitaraM duhitur mama pAmari ||

"Foul-mouthed Jatila, your words have set a slow-burning fire a-roasting in my innards and my head. O low-born woman! Since when has Giridhari ever been intoxicated enought to touch my daughter's daughter?" (BRS 4.5.30)

There is nothing to support that this is an exchange between two different people rather than Mukhara speaking. This is the way Vishwanath Chakravarti reads it. However, Prabhupada does seem to be following Haridas Das, but I cannot understand why he did that. Perhaps because Vishwanath says that this is an argument between Jatila and Mukhara. Speaking very conventionally, it is usually Jatila who is complaining that Krishna is harassing Radha, and it is Mukhara who is defending her granddaughter. So this verse fits that convention closely.