South Asian Literature in Translation: Timeless Tales from Marwar

Timeless Tales from Marwar by Vijaydan Detha; translated from Rajasthani into English by Vishes Kothari

Publication date: January 25, 2020
Publisher: Penguin Random House India (Puffin Classics)
ISBN-13: 978-0143448280

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

VK: Timeless Tales from Marwar is comprised of a selection of stories originally written in Rajasthani by Vijaydan Detha. Detha collected folk stories from his region—oral traditions that have been passed down generations—and crafted them into a written form. The end result was the fourteen-volume Bataan ri Phulwari published over nearly 50 years. I have translated a small selection of stories from this series.

[More from the publisher’s website: For centuries, Rajasthan has been a gold mine of oral traditions and histories with Padma Shri Vijaydan Detha being one of the foremost storytellers of all time. Timeless Tales from Marwar gives a new lease of life to his folk tales. It is a hand-picked compilation from the much-celebrated Batan ri Phulwari–‘Garden of Tales’–a fourteen-volume collection written over a span of nearly fifty years. Retold in Detha’s magical narrative style complete with imagery, this selection offers some of the oldest and most popular fables from the Thar Desert region. Discover tales of handsome rajkanwars, evil witches, exploitative thakars, miserly seths, clever insects, benevolent snakes, and more. Vishes Kothari’s vivid English translation introduces one of the most venerated figures in Rajasthani folk culture to a wider audience.]

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

VK: These are the oral traditions of common people—women, farmers, wandering bards and minstrels, monks. Detha uses the forms and storylines of these traditional stories; his work is definitely the most important work in twentieth-century Rajasthani prose.

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

VK: The main challenge was to achieve a style of writing in English that carries the cadence and texture of the original Rajasthani oral form. This challenge also resulted in some pleasant surprises of being able to occasionally achieve this to one’s satisfaction.

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

VK: It’s a bit too soon to say right now. 

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

VK: I am working on further translations of Vijaydan Detha. This book will be with HarperCollins India and is tentatively titled, Garden of Tales: The Best of Vijaydan Detha.

Author Bio: Vijaydan Detha is one of the most prolific and celebrated voices in India. In a career spanning decades, his writings include more than 800 short stories, primarily in Rajasthani, many of which have been translated into multiple languages. Detha’s timeless classics have been adapted into major plays and movies, some notable ones being Paheli, Charandas Chor, and Duvidha. [Image Source:]

Translator Bio: A financial consultant by profession, Vishes Kothari has a keen interest in the oral and musical traditions of Rajasthan. He completed his master’s in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, prior to which he studied at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and King’s College, London. He has been associated with UNESCO-Sahapedia on projects focused on the musical traditions of women in Rajasthan and as a language expert with the Jaipur Virasat Foundation. [Image Source: Vishes Kothari]

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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