Persistent mistranslations of samskrtam and Hindu scriptures
Sarma N Gullapalli
Unnoticed by scholars to this day, the beauty, clarity and accuracy of Samskrtam (संस्कृतम्) and Hindu Scriptures have been greatly diminished by mistranslations that persist in all Samskrtam to English (also to French, German, etc) dictionaries to this day, such as dasa (दास) as also “slave” (in addition to correct translation “servant”) and arya (आर्य) as also “Aryan race” (in addition to correct translation “honorable”), originated by early European scholars who were the first to translate Hindu scriptures from Samskrtam into European languages during late 18th century and 19th century, with the good intention of making the treasures of Hindu scriptures available to the western world, but unfortunately tainted by their own newly invented erroneous theory of a superior fair skinned “Aryan race” that invaded or migrated to ancient India bringing with them the Vedic knowledge and enslaved dark skinned inferior natives. These mistranslations also create a false perception that Hindu scriptures are confusing and contradictory. While Indologists and anthropologists have debated at length (mainly in English and other European languages), often contentiously, whether the “Vedic Aryans” were indigenous to India or came from outside in ancient times, they all, guided by the dictionary translations, seem to have assumed that आर्य also means race, and that दास also means slave, without questioning the translation itself. Some anthropologists today have rejected the “Aryan race” theory, but it is persisting in Samskrtam dictionaries and hence in translations.
This paper reviews आर्य and दास in scriptures without assuming the validity of Samskritam-English dictionaries which are all traceable to European origins in early 19th century, and thereby establishes that there is no evidence of “Aryan race” or slavery in ancient Hindu society. This conclusion is arrived at by systematically analyzing the origins of the mistranslations, and by examining and showing how rectification of such errors removes contradictions and confusion, thereby enhancing the accuracy, clarity and beauty of Samskritam language and the Hindu scriptures in question, with relevant examples from Arthasastra (अर्थशास्त्र) and Manu Smrti (मनु स्मृति) dating back to BC era long before Europeans arrived.
In order to restore the translations of Hindu scriptures to their original clarity, accuracy and beauty, there is thus an urgent need to correct the dictionaries and also the large volume of books and papers that have been published and are continuing to be published. In this regard, this paper may urge the scholars at Deccan College, Pune, India, who have undertaken a massive effort to collect and compile all Samskrtam words and their meanings from ancient times, setting a reference data base for all to use (after many decades they are yet to reach आर्य let alone दास), to correct this and any other mistranslations that they may discover.