Posted on: 28 August 2016

Digital Rare Book:
The Bhagvat-geeta, or, Dialogues of Kreeshna and Arjoon
By Sir Charles Wilkins
Published by C.Nourse, London - 1785

The worlds first English translation of the Bhagavad Gita.

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Sir Charles Wilkins, KH, FRS (1749 – 13 May 1836), was an English typographer and Orientalist, and founding member of the The Asiatic Society. He is the inventor of the shape of modern Bengali and French typefaces.

He is notable as the first translator of Bhagavad Gita into English, and as the creator, alongside Panchanan Karmakar,of the first Bengali typeface.

In 1784, Wilkins helped William Jones establish the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

Wilkins moved to Varanasi, where he studied Sanskrit under Kalinatha, a Brahmin pandit. At this period he began work on his translation of the Mahabarata, securing strong support for his activities from the governor of British India, Warren Hastings. Though he never completed the translation, portions were later published. The most important was his version of the Gita, published in 1785 as Bhagvat-geeta, or Dialogues of Kreeshna and Arjoon (London: Nourse, 1785). In his preface Wilkins argued that the Gita was written to encourage a form of monotheist "unitarianism" and to draw Hinduism away from the polytheism he ascribed to the Vedas.

His translation of the Gita was itself soon translated into French (1787) and German (1802). It proved to be a major influence on Romantic literature and on European perception of Hindu philosophy. William Blake later celebrated the publication in his picture The Bramins, exhibited in 1809, which depicted Wilkins and Brahmin scholars working on the translation.

With Hastings’ departure from India, Wilkins lost his main patron. He returned to England in 1786, where he married Elizabeth Keeble. In 1787 Wilkins followed the Gita with his translation of The Heetopades of Veeshnoo-Sarma, in a Series of Connected Fables, Interspersed with Moral, Prudential and Political Maxims (Bath: 1787).

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The Bhagavad Gita Casts Its Spell On The West By Swami Tathagatananda THE IMPACT OF THE ASIATIC SOCIETY AND CHARLES WILKINS' BHAGAVAT-GEETA ON EUROPE The Asiatic Society of Bengal was founded in Calcutta by Sir William Jones (1746-1794) on January 15, 1784 and pioneered Indian research and scholarship in particular and Asian studies generally. It was an epoch-making event in the meeting of East and West, on both the intellectual and spiritual levels. The Society inspired Sanskrit studies in Europe, whose literature was permeated and enriched by Jones' numerous translations and the Society's journal, Asiatic Researches. Western Sanskrit studies and the disciplines of comparative grammar and philology that were subsequently established, are indebted to Sir Jones and the work of the Asiatic Society. The greatest impact on Europe came through the Bhagavad Gita. Sir Charles Wilkins (1750-1836) loved the Bhagavad Gita wholeheartedly—he compared it to the Gospel of St. John of the New Testament. Under the auspices of the Society, his Bhagavat-Geetâ, or Dialogues of Kreeshna and Arjoon, the very first translation of the Gita into a European language, was printed in London at the direction of the East India Company upon the special recommendation of Warren Hastings. Hastings had a fascination for the Gita and he pursued the Court of Directors of the East India Company until the directors agreed to publish the work at the company's expense. In a learned preface Hastings wrote to Wilkins' work, he praised its literary merits and asserted that the study and true practice of the Gita's teachings would lead humanity to peace and bliss. In Indology and Its Eminent Western Savants, Sengupta confirms Hastings' great esteem for the Bhagavad Gita: Warren Hastings, while forwarding a copy of the Bhagavad Gita [by Wilkins] to the chairman of the East India Company, in course of an introduction stated that the work was "a performance of great originality, of a sublimity of conception, reasoning and diction almost unequalled, and single exception among all the known religions of mankind of a theology accurately corresponding with that of the Christian dispensation and most powerfully illustrating its fundamental doctrines." Well aware of the Gita's universal bearing, Hastings included a prophetic expression in his preface: The writers of the Indian philosophies will survive when the British Dominion in India shall long have ceased to exist, and when the sources which it yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance. As one scholar has written, "no text could, by its profound metaphysics and by the prestige of its poetic casting, more irresistibly shake the hold of the tradition of a superior race." Read more: http://bit.ly/2brFQfk

Essay: Sir Charles Wilkins' Basic Contribution to Indology in the West By Swami Tathagatananda Vedanta Society of New York It was only when the English became firmly established as administrators in the land of Bharat that India’s philosophy could be disseminated in England and other European nations. An essay on India’s history and culture written by Alexander Dow in 1768, indicated that abundant but as yet unrevealed Sanskrit works were worthy of England’s notice and study. The publication of Dow’s essay was followed by two significant events. Firstly, the founding of the Asiatic Society in 1784 was an epoch-making event in the meeting of East and West on both the intellectual and spiritual levels. Sir William Jones (1746-1794) the first great Indologist and “father of Asian Studies” worked hard to disseminate India’s spiritual treasures to the West through his books and the publication of the Society’s journal, Asiatic Researches. We are concerned here with the second significant event, namely, the contributions of Sir Charles Wilkins (1750-1836) and his English translations of the Bhagavad Gita and Hitopadesha in London as well as his authoritative Sanskrit grammar, which appeared soon after in 1785 and 1787 and became the basis for all later Indological work. In 1783 Sir William Jones arrived in Calcutta and immediately devoted himself to Sanskrit and the translation of ancient Sanskrit texts. Initially, he had to overcome resistance from the Brahmins he approached to teach him. In his book, American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions, Arthur Versluis confirmed that Sir Jones had difficultygaining access to Hindu sacred books and Sanskrit, but could find no Brahmin willing to teach this unbelieving foreigner, and only with great effort was he able to find a Hindu physician who taught him enough Sanskrit to translate the Laws of Manu and the Hitopadesha, both of which were later influential on the transcendentalists. The Hindu physician was Ram Lochan Kavibhushana, who was a Vaidya by caste. Sir Jones gave profound attention to his studies of India with a nobler purpose than that of his wealth-seeking contemporaries. He mastered Sanskrit during the last ten years of his life thanks to Wilkins, whose knowledge of Sanskrit had made a deep impression on his mind. Encouraged by Hastings and helped by Wilkins, Jones founded the Asiatic Society in Calcutta on January 15, 1784. Though he did not enjoy a good reputation in official circles within Great Britain, Hastings rendered signal service in the spread of India’s valuable cultural insights as recorded in her Sanskrit scriptures. He was an educated man and was the first to be approached for the position of president of the Asiatic Society. When he refused, Jones became president. Read more: goo.gl/LH4SBj

How can one become the member of this society ? I am eager to know its contents.

what was his source? What or which manuscript did he translate? where is that manuscript kept today?

With an introduction by Warren Hastings !

It is a slight version of Buddhism. All concepts linked to the Buddha's teachings.

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Great achievement!!

I have a 1850 Mechanism of Heavens...

Great !

Jai Shri Krishna

Tremendous work......

Awesome

Narayan Srinivasan Sripriya Srinivasan Hari Ravikumar, for info, please.

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Kanan Inder Lal

I have that book