South Asian Literature in Translation: Shivaji: The Great Maratha (Shriman Yogi)

Shivaji: The Great Maratha (Shriman Yogi) by Ranjit Desai; translated from Marathi to English by Vikrant Pande

Shivaji: The Great Maratha (original title: Shriman Yogi) by Ranjit Desai

Translated from Marathi to English by Vikrant Pande

Publication date: December 30, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ASIN: 9352774396
ISBN-10: 9789352774395
ISBN-13: 978-9352774395

1) Tell us about this book and its original author.

VP: Shriman Yogi has been considered a classic in Marathi literature for many decades. Ranjit Desai’s magnum opus is rated as one of the top three all-time greats in the Marathi language. I selected the book as it tells the story of Shivaji without being biased or overtly emotional. And yet, it is a touching tale. The storytelling combines facts with a fictional narrative, thus making it a very engaging read. Ranjit Desai has also done extensive research for the book.

2) Why were you drawn to choose the book for translation?

VP: The sheer aura of it. It is a book that has inspired me since childhood. There was an English translation, which was a transliteration, and it was horrible. I got the chance to translate it and Harper Perennial (an imprint of HarperCollins India) was keen to publish it.

3) What were the key challenges and surprises for you during the translation process/journey?

VP: The story is based in Maharashtra. The challenge was to get the context into English without diluting the original flavor and yet ensuring it makes sense to the reader. There are terms that I retained in Marathi like “maasaheb” to retain the essence of the original.

4) What’s one thing you wish readers knew or appreciated more about this book?

VP: People don’t know that much about Shivaji. [Guest Editor’s Note: Shivaji Bhonsale was a 17th century warrior-king in India. Fighting against the Mughals, who ruled most of India at the time, Shivaji carved out an entire empire, which was known as the Maratha empire. Over his lifetime as a ruler, he engaged in many conflicts with both the Mughals and the European colonial powers while building impressive military and navy forces of his own. As a ruler, he instilled many best practices across his empire. And he was also responsible for the revival of Hindu traditions, languages, and rituals that had fallen by the wayside due to Muslim rule. This last part is not without controversy today because of how Shivaji’s legacy has been manipulated by various interest groups.)

The book also covers management principles in team selection and teambuilding which are relevant in today’s context. Shivaji talked of a purpose that is higher than a mission or a vision statement. 

5) What’s your next translation project that we can look forward to?

VP: Vishwas Patil’s Sambhaji, which I am translating for Eka (an imprint of Amazon Westland India), is a fascinating story of Shivaji’s son. I recently launched Duryodhan by Kaka Vidhate. The latter is an interesting story told from the point of view of the Kauravas in the ancient Hindu epic, The Mahabharata.

Author Bio: Ranjit Desai was considered a large-hearted litterateur whose writing engaged readers at the highest emotional levels. He wrote many short stories, novels, and plays. He won many national awards for a wide range of works. His forte was biographical fiction, combined with deep research, which bought out bestsellers like Swami, based on the life of the Madhavrao Peshwa. The novel was made into a popular Marathi TV serial by the same name. He was given the title of ‘Swamikar’ after the resounding success of his novel. His novels on historical characters have set a benchmark in the genre which is difficult to achieve. (Photo Credit: Facebook Author Page)

Translator Bio: Vikrant Pande has published nine translations from Marathi into English namely Ranjit Desai’s Raja Ravi Varma, Shriman Yogi (Shivaji the Great Maratha) and Radheya (Karna the Great Warrior); NS Inamdar’s Rau, The Love Story of Bajirao-Mastani and Shahenshah, The Story of Aurangzeb; Milind Bokil’s Shala; V.P. Kale’s Karmachari, a short story collection; and Ratnakar Matkari’s collection of horror short stories, Darkness. His translation of Girish Kuber’s Tatayan as The Tatas- How a Family Built a Business and a Nation received the 2019 Gaja Capital best business book award. Vikrant’s two translations, Vishwas Patil’s Sambhaji (Amazon Westland) and Anita Padhye’s biography of Goldie Anand (Manjul Prakashan) are being released soon. After graduating from IIM Bangalore, Vikrant worked in the corporate sector for nearly 20 years before becoming a full-time writer and translator. He is a regular speaker at various literature festivals in India. He has written for the Swarajya magazine. (Image Source: Vikrant Pande)

Jenny Bhatt is a writer, literary translator, and book critic. She is the host of the Desi Books podcast. Her story collection, Each of Us Killers, and her literary translation, Ratno Dholi: The Best Stories of Dhumketu, were out in 2020. Her writing has appeared in various venues in the US, UK, and India, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, NPR, BBC Culture, Literary Hub, Longreads, Poets & Writers, and others. Having worked her way around India, England, Germany, Scotland, and various parts of the US, she now lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

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