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Showing posts from February, 2012

First Full English Translation of One of India's Great Texts

Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar Hindu Widow Marriage A Complete Translation with an Introduction and Critical Notes by Brian A. Hatcher     Vidyasagar, being one of the great Sanskrit scholars of his time and anxious to deploy  ancient Sanskrit scriptures to buttress his radical argument, wrote his two tracts advocating widow marriage in a highly sanskritized Bengali which, in the original, poses difficulties even to some of the major Bengali scholars of history today. Tanika Sarkar, Partha Chatterjee, and Sumit Sarkar are among the very many who have welcomed the appearance of this book. It makes available to every modern student, for the first time, one of the profoundest classics of India's social reform and gender discourse. Before the passage of the Hindu Widow’s Remarriage Act of 1856, Hindu tradition required a woman to live as a virtual outcast after her husband’s death. Widows had to shave their heads, discard their jewellery, live in seclusion, and undergo


The two short pieces below offer a publisher's perspective on the A.K. Ramanujan controversy in late 2011/early 2012, involving Delhi University and OUP India's decisions on Ramanujan's work. A WISE BIRD AND ITS KEEPER (published in The Book Review , February 2012)   After variations in colour, form and melody On a million birds, he was cast On the earth, an afterthought, to extol Those splendid compositions by contrast. —Patrick Fernando, ‘A Wise Bird’ A.K. Ramanujan’s work shows that the traditional folk repertoire of stories and village lore can provide more penetrating insights into the workings of cultures, texts, and social systems than modern criticism. He may have liked this folktale, given below, which I heard from a village bard. The tale is being retold all over India and has taken many shapes, depending on where it is told and who is telling it. Perhaps it is among the many folktales that Ramanujan himself collected in the Indian hinte