Two copies of this rare work by the eminent philologist and orientalist have been gifted to the renowned research centre by anonymous donors at a time when UoP is celebrating 100 years of teaching of German in India
There’s a lot of history between these covers. The assortment of uncommon books at Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute has been augmented by two identical gems — copies of the German translation of Rig Veda by Friedrich Max Muller, published in 1856. The rare printed copies have significant value, as till that time generations had learnt the vedas through recital.
“The book is very rare and it is wonderful that we have acquired it in the 100th year of teaching of German in India,” historian Shrikrishna Bhave pointed out.
Extolling the rarity of this German translation of Rig Veda and its importance in history, academic Mandar Lawate said, “It is interesting that the book was published in 1856, which incidentally was the birth year of Lokmanaya Tilak, whose painstaking efforts and the well-known book ‘The Arctic Home in the Vedas’, published in 1898, is an important book for researchers of vedas.” He added, “The vedas are an important part of Indian history and culture. However, it is fascinating that they were first published in other countries. This book will be of great help to understand history.”
Waman Kolhatakar, an expert on vedas, said “Max Muller was instructed by the British to conduct a study on the Vedas, as they wanted to rule us. So, Muller began his research and then translated the vedas in English. Max Muller has written more than 64 books on the vedas in his lifetime.”
Explaining why printed copies of vedas were unavailable till recently, he informed, “Vedas were memorized through strict recitation format. For this, the student referred to ten pages of a handwritten book and memorised them. These handwritten documents or books were preserved by wrapping them in cloth.”
Shreenand Bapat, an assistant curator at the institute, added. “The book is very important to us as it is one of the rare copies that are left from among the original printed version.”
According to a librarian at the institute, the introduction to this rare book contains text and translation of the oldest phonetics. It is dedicated to Dr Hermann Brockhans by Max Muller, stating that the author got his first lessons in Sanskrit from him. The book has a preface, supplements, translation of Rig Veda, list of meters explained in the veda, word index, complications of sutras, list of contents, corrections, table of poets, deities and meters assigned to the hymns, index of gods, etc. “This is a 900-page book. Till now the library had a collection of Rig Veda publications from 1897 and 1907. Two anonymous people have given us this gift,” said Satish Sangale, a librarian.