The idea of completing Sir George Grierson’s translation of the Padmavati, occurred to Mr. A.G. Shirreff, in 1938. He obtained Sir George Grierson’s permission to carry on the work and finished the bulk of the translation in 1940, i.e., exactly in the year of the tetra centenary of the composition of the poem by Malik Muhammad Jaisi under the patronage of Sher Shah. Mr. Shirreff has carefully consulted all the important texts of the poem published so far and has also fully utilized the opinions and criticisms of scholars, European as well as Indian, who have made Padmavati their favourite study. But the remarkable feature in his English rendering of this magnificent poem is that he had study of the poem which was composed in and about the village.
The contribution of the Asiatic Society of Bengal to the study of Sanskrit and Pali, Arabic and Persian, in fact of the major classical languages of India, is well known. But it is generally not remembered or , sufficiently appreciated that the members of the Society from its very inception have been making pioneer studies in some branches of the living languages of India. Bengali, Hindi, Maithili etc., attracted the attention of eminent scholars like Rev. Carey, Rev. Long, Dr. Hoernle and others, as we find from that admirable work, A Comparative Grammar of the Gaudian Language (I88o). Mr. Etherington's Hindi Grammar was already in the field and it provoked Mr. (Later Sir) George Grierson B.C.S., to write his Introduction to the Maithili Language published as an Extra Number of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (I88I-82). In 1896, Mr. Grierson began publishing the Padmavati of Malik Muhammad Jaisi, in collaboration MM. Pandit Sudhakar Dvivedi. We quote below a few significant sentences from Mr. Grierson's Introduction;
In 1911 the fasciculus VI was published carrying the Text, Commentary and critical Notes up-to Cantos I- X.XV (vv ii 1-286), but Pandit Dvivedj was no more. Mr. Grierson wrote feelingly : "With much sorrow I have to record the lamented death of my old friend and colleague MM. Pandit Dvivedi, the Joint Editor of this poem Until arrangements can be made by the Asiatic Society of Bengal for another scholar to carry on his task, the publication of this edition of the Padmavati is necessarily - suspended."
The idea of completing Sir George Grierson's translation of the Padmavati, occurred to Mr. A. G. Shirreff, I.C.S., in 1938. He obtained Sir George Grierson's permission to carry on the work and finished the bulk of the translation in 1940, i.e., exactly in the year of the tetracentenary of the composition of the poem by Malik Muhammad Jaisi under the patronage of Sher Shah. Mr. Shirreff has carefully consulted all the important texts of the poem published so far and has also fully utilised the opinions and criticisms of scholars, European as well as Indian, who have made, Padmavati their favourite study. But the remarkable feature in his English rendering of this magnificent poem is that he had some special advantages for the study of the poem which was composed in and about the village of Jais in the Sultanpur district, Faizabad division. Knowing as he does so thoroughly the dialect of that area Mr. Shirreff could explain many obscure passages of the poem which appears to us to-day as a metrical encyclopaedia of Hindu-Islamic lore of medieval India. The myths and legends, as well. as the peculiar idioms and metrical devices of the Hindu and Islamic poets, have been woven into a homo-geneous and harmoneous composition of inestimable value. What Alberuni achieved in prose in the middle of the eleventh century while surveying Hindu philosophy and sciences, was achieved with rare originality and thoroughness by Malik Muhammad Jaisi in his metrical epic on the life of the Rajput heroine, Padmavati. As a worthy discipleof Kavir, he shines, to us to-day as a real pioneer in the path of Hindu-Islamic cultural rap-proachement which found its culmination in the reign of Emperor Akbar, the four hundredth anniversary of whose birth has recently been celebrated. Nanak, Kavir Tulsidas and Jaisi thus inaugurated a new era of cultural collaboration which may serve as an example to later generations. Jaisi received a lasting tribute, which he fully deserved from a brother poet of Bengal, Alawal, who prepared his Bengali verson of Parinsavaa while working at the Court of Arakan in 1659.
Mr. Shirreff has placed all lovers of medieval Indian literature under special obligation by offering his Padmavati to the public through our Bibliotheca Indica series. His English rendering has definitely caught the inspiration of the master poet and in offering our thanks to him, we congratulate him at the same time on his signal success.
The Present Work It was in the hot weather of 1938 that I decided to attempt the task of completing Sir George Grierson's translation of the Padmavati of Malik Mohammad Jaisi. As Commissioner of Fyzabad I had at that time special advantages for the study of the poem 'Ramnagar, in the Amethi Estate, where the poet spent the latter part of his life, is in the Sultanpur district of the Fyzabad Division, and Jais itself is within three miles of its border. Jaisi's language is the dialect still spoken on the spot and his imagery is taken from the scenery and life of the countryside. In spite of the lapse of four hundred years there has been no great change in the language or in the way of life of the people, or in their surroundings, and the poet's name and fame still live in local tradition.
I obtained Sir George Grierson's permission to carry on his work. He wrote "It was nice to get your letter and to learn that you have been taken captive by Malik Muhammad's Padmavati. Like you, I think that it is a great pity that the poem is not more widely known in England. You ask about my translation in the Bibliotheca Indica. Alas, I am ashamed to say that I never finished it. When my fellow-worker and old friend Pandit Sudhakar Dvivedi died, I had no heart to go on with the work, and, to my shame, I let it drop, and have never bad courage to take it up again. Of course, I should be much pleased if you completed it, subject to the approval of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal."
It was not possible to begin the work of translation until I went on leave in 1940, though several readings of the poem preceded this in particular, in the cold weather of 1939, I had great assistance in studying the Padmavati with Pandit Ram Naresh Tripathi. He is himself a resident of Sultanpur and his unrivalled knowledge of country life was of great value for the understanding of the poem. My translation was drafted during leave in England and on the long voyage out round the Cape. In revising it and my notes after my return to India I have received great help from several scholars, of whom I must specially mention Pt. Kanta Nath Pande of the Harish Chandra Intermediate College, Benares. He has kindly gone through the whole translation and the notes, and has contributed extremely useful suggestions and criticisms.
Grierson’s Work I was not able during my leave in England to consult Sir George Grierson about the work ; his state of health prevented this. It was on my return to India that I learnt of his death in his ninetieth year. I was surprised and rather disappointed to find no mention of his work on Jaisi in the only obituary notice which I have seen. It seems to me that this work is the most characteristic of all his great achievements. In it lie has shown his finest powers of scholarship and literary expression to forward what was the main purpose of his life-work, the interpretation of the East to the West. For this he probably did more than any other British scholar since Sir William Jones. I think that by this piece of work, perhaps more than any other, Grierson would wish his own name to be remembered, and I think it is fitting that the completion of the work should be in the nature of a memorial to him. I personally owe him a deep debt of gratitude for the help and advice which he gave meThroughout my service from the time of my first starting for India, when he spoke to me with enthusiasm of the delight of losing oneself in the fairy land of Hindi poetry. The phrase has often returned to my mind when reading 'the Padmavati.
Shukla’s Edition In giving its approval the Society asked that the Benares edition of the work should be used, as the most complete edition, available. This is the edition published by the.Nagari-Pracharini Sabha and edited by Pt. Ram Chandra Shukla. I have used the second ( 1935 ) edition. So far as the present translation is a reprint of Grierson's, down to Io (Io)_ 6, the text of course is Grierson's. and Sudhakar's, but I have shown all important variants of Shukla's text in my notes. For the rest I have used Shukla as the basis, drawing attention in my notes to variants in Grierson and Sudhakar, —whose critical work extended to 25(23),—and other sources. Pt. Ram Chandra Shukla also died at the beginning of 1941, and it has been a matter of personal regret to me that I was not able to consult him about my difficulties. I have abbreviated my own notes by references to his introduction, which is a valuable piece of work and essential for the study of Jaisi ; even where I have been inclined to differ from his opinions, I have always considered them deserving of respect.
It must be admitted that Shukla failed to appreciate the value of the pioneer work done by Grierson and Sudhakar. There may be some justification for his criticism of their orthography ; their text was primarily based on manuscripts in the Persian character, and its Hindi spelling is theoretical rather than in accordance with that of the earliest known Hindi and Kaithi specimens. And there is considerable force in his fling at Sudhakar's etymologies in the Introduction to his first edition, page 3-5, where he quotes the saying that no one went to Sudhakar for an explanation and came away disappointed. But he has not sufficiently realised the high literary quality of the translation, or the value of the collaboration between Grierson and Sudhakar for the understanding of the general style and feeling of the poem. Still less does he seem to realise the unique excellence of their critical study of the manuscripts. This study was an essential ground work for the proper understanding of Jaisi's aims and outlook. I have frequently had occasion to draw attention in my notes to instances in which the adoption of one reading or another may make all the difference in our appreciation of Jaisi’s standpoint.
Besides Grierson and Sudhakar's edition Shukla mentions three other printed editions, Pt. Ram Jasan Misra's, that of the Newal Kishore Press, Lucknow, and an 'Urdu edition published in Cawnpore, all of which he found worthless. He also mentions that he has relied in places on a Kaithi manuscript, and also on a form of conjecture. The latter consists in transliterating a doubtful word from Nagari into Persian- script, and then seeing in what other ways it can be read. It is a pity that Shukla has not shown in his notes the authorities for his readings. Where these differ from Grierson and Sudhakar in the first 25 cantos I have generally found the latter preferable. For the remainder of the work I have had to depend mainly on Shukla's text. Many years ago the late Lala Sita Ram told me that in his opinion the best edition of the Padmavati was that of Lala Bhagwan Din, published by the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Allahabad, in 1924. It was only after my translation was ready for the press that I succeeded in obtaining a copy of this by the kindness of Mr. Prithvi Nath Kulshreshtha. This also is incomplete, extending only to 29(10) and also does not mention the authority for its readings, which on the whole are closer to Grierson and Sudhakar than to Shukla, though it has a number of spurious stanzas. In some instances I have preferred Bhagwan Din's reading to either of these authorities and have mentioned the fact in my notes. The Punjab University edition ends with the 25th canto, for the obvious reason that it is merely a copy of Grierson and Sudhakar's text. The Hindi Sabdsagar (the Nagari Pracharini Sabha's great Hindi Dictionary) contains frequent quotations from the Padmavati, from which I have adopted a number of variant readings. I have also compared a late eighteenth century Kaithi manuscript, lent me by Sir Richard Burn, which supplied one very interesting variant'. There is A great deal still to be done the critical study of the manuscripts. A heading conjectural emendations in the Index call attention to some suggestions offered for the Consideration of scholars.
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