(Last Updated on : 06/06/2009)
Translation essentially entails a word or a sentence being interpreted from one language into another language, which is further governed by the parameters of popularity and understanding. In high-flying and enriched terms of literary works and literature and artistic personas, translation does not only state that they follow a strict sense of interpreting one word or sentence into another language. Translation for authors and writers denote the exceedingly efficient penmanship of a literary body of work, which can be communicated in a written version, from its original language into a secondary or primary one. For instance, in the Indian context, with Hindi being regarded as the official language, several of the English or regional literary works have been translated into Hindi by various esteemed writers. Indeed, translation works in Indian literature belongs to an entirely separate genre, magnifying the forms of literature since the ancient Indian context. Although it may be a common comprehension that translation works of Indian literature is comparatively a recent historical happening, i.e. since the times of British Raj, yet, it is thoroughly an acknowledged factor that Indian works of translation have been an integral part of Indian literature prior to the times of Christ.
Translation works in Indian literature is also a domain that has been mostly associated with the interpretation of English works into other regional and vernacular languages. The arrival of British Empire and the historic reign of the Raj were the primary beginners, who had introduced the concept of teaching and imparting English and its literary body of works, into the Indian indigenous languages. Hence, it is an apprehensible matter that teaching in itself is an act of translation. Teaching of Western literature in non-Western cultures necessitates translation of not just the words on page but also the whole culture, literary tradition and its aesthetics. The Indian society represents a multilingual and hierarchical paradigm, with colonial history and facing severe problems like poverty, illiteracy and population explosion to name a few. Translation is not just 'mechanical transfer' of propositional content from a text in one language to another, but is rather a complex compounding of 'interpretive expertise' and ingenious accomplishments. Translation is not only the art of decrypting a text which is a critical natural process, but also an art of encrypting a text in another language which requires creative capacity.
Thus, the translator is not just a 'labourer' as is most commonly comprehended, but is actually an individual with bilingual literary and linguistic proficiency. Translation is also a way of establishing connections; it indeed connects and bridges not only two languages and cultures, but also spanning space and time. This capacity of translation to bridge connections possesses quite substantial entailments for literary studies in multilingual multiethnic societies like India. As such, translation works in Indian literature and its commendable authors have taken up the task of ameliorating the countrywide societal framework since its inception and the years to arrive.
The elapsing moments of significant change in the Indian history and civilisation of any individual can be witnessed in the portrayal and characterisation by heightened activity in the field of translation and its works in Indian literature. The European Renaissance, for instance, was made possible through the massive translation by the extremely gifted Indian 'natives, who had been quite enlightened in the English language during British Indian times. In the case of India, though there exists no consensus about the originary moment of Indian Renaissance - but indeed, there did exist this scenario, though much different from its European counterpart. The Indian renaissance had taken place simultaneously in different languages and literatures of India and in different times; there exists no discrepancy about the fact that there was a kind of mass general awakening throughout India in the 19th century and that was made achievable through widespread and all-encompassing translation of European and mainly English works in different languages, not only of literature but also of social sciences, philosophy, ethics and morality etc. Hence, translation works in Indian literature does bear its special meaning, with exhilarating regards to the advent and involvement of Britishers and natives in the literary domain.
Translation works in Indian literature however do carry a special meaning for the people of north-east India, because in specific literatures of the north east, the originary moment of literature is the redefining moment of translation too. For instance, in the case of Mizo (referring to Mizoram and its language and consequent literary measures) it did not own a script before the European missionaries had formulated a script to translate evangelical literature into Mizo language. Raymond Schwab (1984) in his book, The Oriental Renaissance, has explored and demonstrated how a new kind of awareness and enlightenment had taken place and inquisitiveness about the Orient was set ablaze in the West through the translation of Persian texts from Sadi, Rumi, Omar Khayyam and others on the one hand and Vedic and Sanskrit texts from India on the other. Indeed, this does call for an applause and apprehension of the history of translation works in India and its intimate connection with the circumstances of Indian literature.