Friday, 22 February 2013

Vande Mataram translation: refrain & 1st verse

वन्दे मातरं 
vande mātaram
सुजलां सुफलां
sujalāṃ suphalāṃ
śasya śyāmalāṃ
मातरं, वन्दे! 
mātaram vande!
śubhra jyotsnā  pulakita yāminīm
phulla kusumita drumadalaśobhinīm
sumadhura bhāṣiṇīm

मातरं, वन्दे! 
mātaram vande!

The first thing to note is that this song is almost entirely in the accusative case because the singer of vande! is the subject, and the Mother is the object. So it's good practice - specially for Hindi speakers, to whom even the nominative looks fine (Sita ne Ram ko kaha - in Sanskrit it would HAVE to be Raamam), We are used to saying 'maa ko' whereas in Sanskrit there is no 'ko' so you have to be careful to use the accusative case - not maataa but maataram.

A quick word on bahuvrihi compounds, neither member on its own is the object it describes, but together it is an adjective for that object. So neither सु nor जल is the maataa, but together they mean 'she whose waters are good or pure'. Another dead giveaway is that jala is a neuter noun, but here it is declining as a feminine जलां, so we know it is describing a feminine object, which is the mother.

वन्दे  I pay homage, I adore; first person, singular fm  √वन्द्  (1A) 

मातरं accusative singular of मातृ  - to the mother, maa ko
सुजलां सुफलां accusative bahuvrihi compounds, [I bow to her] whose waters are good, pure, and whose fruit is good, excellent.  
मलयजशीतलां - [I bow to her] who's breeze (full form malayaja-maarut) is fragrant, cool शस्यश्यामलां - [I bow to her] whose fields are dark शस्य is a neuter noun meaning corn, and is often used in Lit to mean corn field. श्यामल is an adjective meaning dark coloured. Again here, we know this is a bahuvrihi because otherwise shyaamala would have had a neuter ending agreeing with shasya.
शुभ्रज्योत्स्ना shubhra white, shining; adjective. jyotsnaa - Durga and moonlight; fem noun
पुलकितयामिनीं - accusative bahuvrihi compound: pulakita - thrilled with joy; adj. yaaminiim - accusative singular of Yaaminii, fem noun - night. Together the whole compound comes to mean [I bow to her] whose night is thrilled [perhaps made thrilling] by the splendour of shining moonlight. 
फुल्लकुसुमितद्रुमदलशोभिनीं accusative bahuvrihi compound. [I bow to her]  whose splendour is resplendent with  trees whose shoots are furnished with full blown blossoms
सुहासिनीं - [I bow to her] whose laughter is beautiful, dazzling white
सुमधुरसुभाषिनीं - [I bow to her] whose speech is sweet and good 
सुखदां - [I bow to her] who gives pleasure, delight
वरदां - [I bow to her] who grants wishes, confers boons

Now, you can see that this analysis is not very poetic. And you'll find that translators who render the Sanskrit into other languages tend to use a lot of poetic licence - as in Shri Aurobindo's translation below. Two points emerge: a) if you don't understand Sanskrit, you'd have to use at least 2-3 translations to get a sense of what the original probably meant; and b) If you do learn Sanskrit, you can see where the poet has taken liberties. You might love the translation (as I do Aurobindo's) but knowing what the words mean will help you to judge how well the poet has balanced aesthetics with intent of the original.

Translation by Shree Aurobindo

Mother, I bow to thee!

Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving Mother of might,
Mother free.

Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow. 


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Unknown said...

Thank you for your grammatical explanation. Thanks to you, now, I do understand the lyrics.

Devin Chopra said...

Knew this by heart, but learnt the meaning today - so beautiful - so expressive and concise.

Thank you so much.