24 June, 2021

Karma, Akarma And Us

An exacting, serious exegesis, lucidly written, is lit up by references from modern life

Karma, Akarma And Us

Bibek Debroy has translated the Bhagavad Gita and is well aware that most people have not read it thoroughly. Through the book he explains the text, dispelling myths along the way and taking the tone of a mentor—a tone which translates between the pages with the requisite personalisation.

He points out that the Gita is part of the Mahabharata and belongs to the smriti tradition of Sanskrit texts; a smriti text, he explains, is one that is handed down in writing and as a result may vary from generation to generation. Thus, nothing in the Bhagavad Gita is cast in stone.

Chapter by chapter, Debroy takes the reader on a voyage of exploration that includes Sanskrit grammar and the nua­nces of words and metre, covering the anustubh chhanda that became the seminal form of the shloka, though other variations also followed as poets found themselves requiring some creative liberty. He explains the shlokas that most people know, punctiliously setting them in their context and putting out that meanings can depend on whether the text is divorced from the main body of...

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