Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

A Translation of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is into the isiZulu Language is Being Prepared for Publication
By Atma Tattva Das, ISKCON News Staff Writer   |  May 06, 2023

New cover design next to devotee translator Govinda Charan Das

Govinda Charan Das, a South African-African Hare Krishna devotee, has recently completed the translation of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is into the isiZulu language for BBT Africa. Zulu, or isiZulu as an endonym, is a Southern Bantu language of the Nguni branch spoken in Southern Africa. Before this vital service, Govinda Charan Das’s journey as a devotee in the South African Yatra had been challenging. He was involved in the early African preaching initiatives in South Africa and helped to distribute Krishna consciousness in the African communities during the apartheid era. However, despite encountering many difficulties, he has endured as a devotee and has taken up this latest service of translating the Bhagavad Gita.

In a recent interview, Govinda Charan shared that he was initially frustrated with his local temple management. “I couldn’t work within their system, you know? So I had to distance myself a little bit, but still served people trying to preach to Africans,” he explained. This frustration led him to start helping the late Akanda Kirtan Prabhu, who was working on a translation project at the time.

There was an earlier small book of Srila Prabhupada translated into Zulu that Govinda Charan did not want to distribute because it was, in his opinion, not a good translation. He recalls meeting the person who had translated the book and telling him it needed to be more suitable for the people. So he shared the book with some people he was preaching to and asked for their feedback. The response was not positive, and others felt the book needed to better represent Krishna consciousness.

The initial efforts to translate smaller books into Zulu inspired Govinda Charan to translate the Bhagavad Gita As It Is himself. It was challenging, but Govinda Charan was determined to do it well. “It took me close to a year,” he said, “It was not easy, but I persevered…the use of the Zulu language mustn’t be clinical or classroom-based; a word-for-word translation approach to the work could lead to a loss of meaning altogether. Whereas, a precise expression of the philosophy and realizations as given is better.”

Govinda Charan’s work in translating the Bhagavad Gita As It Is into Zulu is significant, as it allows more indigenous people to understand and appreciate the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. In addition, the translation is expected to reach a wider audience and provide a deeper understanding of the Bhagavad Gita for Zulu-speaking people.

Nama-Srestha Das, the head of BBT Africa, said, “The Bhagavad Gita As It Is in Zulu is on our production schedule. Given that the Gita is one of our big books, our production turnaround for those sizes is slower-paced – to get it through the overall publication process. So, it’s currently with our head of production, Rupa Sanatana, in Belgium. We are working on our production schedule for the year, and there are quite a few books on the schedule, with the Zulu Bhagavad Gita being one of them…We already have the cover, which is exciting for us.” While there is no firm date for publication, the hope is it will be released in the near future.

Govinda Charan has come a long way from his early days as a Hare Krishna devotee in South Africa. However, despite facing many challenges and opposition, he has remained steadfast in his devotion and commitment to spreading the message of Krishna consciousness. His latest accomplishment in translating the Bhagavad Gita As It Is into Zulu is a testament to his determination and perseverance. He hopes his work will inspire others to spread the message of Krishna consciousness to all corners of the world.

For more information on the work of BBT Africa, visit

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