As an offering to Srila Prabhupada during ISKCON’s 50th anniversary year, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust is set to publish some of his books in two languages – Catalan and Quechua – for the first time ever.
Catalan is spoken by around 9 million people in Catalonia, a region of Northeastern Spain and adjoining parts of France; as well as in Valencia, the Balearic Isles, and Andorra.
Hanuman Das, trustee for the Spanish and Latin American BBT, grew up speaking Catalan.
He explains that because Castilian – the language most of us know as Spanish – was declared Spain’s only official language while the country was under a dictatorship until 1975, speakers of other languages such as Catalan have a strong patriotism about their region and language.
“Because of that strong feeling, when we do book distribution in the streets, many people won’t even look at the books, because they’re in Spanish,” he says.
The BBT has been trying for years to get Prabhupada’s books published particularly in Catalan, because Catalonia’s capital is Barcelona, Spain’s second biggest city.
When the temple president of ISKCON Barcelona, Gundica Das, recently pushed to make it happen for ISKCON’s 50th anniversary, the dream finally became a reality.
Gundica enlisted Carmen Roca, a dedicated and experienced translator, who has been hard at work. She has already translated Sri Isopanisad, considered the distilled essence of all Vedic knowledge, and Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada’s translation of Rupa Goswami’s Upadeshamrita.
“We’re planning to print both of those books around summer of 2016,” Hanuman says. “And Carmen is currently working on the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which will be published at a later date.”
He expects the books to be well-received by Catalonians because they’ll be in their own language; as well as because Catalonian people are known for being intellectual and interested in yoga.
Quechua, meanwhile, is a language of the Inca empire spoken by over ten million people from parts of Ecuador, throughout much of Peru and Bolivia, and down to Northern Chile and Argentina.
Distributing books in South America
Publishing Prabhupada’s books in Quechua has also been a long time coming, with BBT staff waiting to first make sure that the native language was not just spoken but also read.
“Now, with governments making sure native languages are promoted and taught in schools, children and young people are starting to read and write Quechua again,” says Hanuman.
The Latin American BBT will be testing the waters in 2016 with a very small book of no more than 30 pages entitled “The Hunter and the Sage,” aimed at youth.
Based on a book distributed by the BBT in Spain in the early 1980s, it tells the story of Mrgari the hunter, and how his life changed when he met the sage Narada Muni. The story contains powerful messages of non-violence, depending on God, and how surrender to the guru and the Lord can transform one’s character.
The book will be bilingual, with the text in both Spanish and Quechua. The original 1980s publication has been summarized in Spanish by senior leader Mathuresh Das in Bolivia, and translated into Quechua by a professional translator. Mathuresh’s wife Nayana Manjari Dasi, who also speaks Quechua, is checking the translation’s fidelity to Srila Prabhupada’s writings.
The Hunter and the Sage will also feature beautiful paintings in a traditional South American native style by Nayana Manjari, who, although originally from South Africa, has steeped herself in the local culture and studied the native art with local Bolivian artists.
“Depending on how that book goes, we may then try something a little bigger,” says Hanuman.
Catalan and Quechua aren’t the only unique new languages in which Prabhupada’s books will be published in 2016. The first Esperanto BBT book is reportedly set to appear next year too.
“Srila Prabhupada wanted the BBT to print in as many languages as possible – that was something very dear to him,” Hanuman says. “So we wanted to offer him this on the 50th anniversary of his movement.”
“What’s more,” he concludes, “The message goes that much deeper into people’s hearts when it comes in their own language.”[ books ] [ Catalan ] [ BBT ] [ Native American ] [ Quechua ]