Dragomir Dimitrov
Department of Indology and Tibetology
Philipps-Universität Marburg
Recibido: 1 agosto 2022
Aceptado: 20 septiembre 2022

The world-famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616) became known in South Asia mainly through the medium of English, and this started happening fairly late, namely, towards the end of the nineteenth century. In his contribution to a volume fittingly called Quixotic Encounters, one of the very few works dedicated to “the almost uncharted area of the reception of Cervantes in India,”(2) Ganguly has noted that “curiously enough, the first copy of Don Quijote finds a home in Calcutta as far back as the 1780s, thanks to Williams Jones [...] who is known to have enjoyed and entertained himself reading it in the Spanish version in the company of his wife in Calcutta. (Vide his biography Life and Mind of Oriental Jones, the Father of Modern Linguistics by Galard [sic] Cannon.) Unfortunately for us, Jones did not think it necessary to talk about Cervantes or his book to local pundits whom he was meeting so frequently to formulate his path-breaking hypothesis on the Indo-European languages, for otherwise our contact with El Quijote would have preceded by a few decades, almost a century”.(3) This passage is quoted here in extenso not only because it contains a piece of inaccurate information which needs to be corrected, but also because Ganguly has claimed the same elsewhere,(4) and this has already misled other scholars.(5)

The fact of the matter is that the reading of Cervantes’s Don Quijote by Sir William Jones (1746–1794) in Calcutta in the last quarter of the eighteenth century is not at all documented, and, moreover, it may have not taken place there. What Garland Cannon has communicated in this connection in his biography of Jones is the following: “He read aloud to Anna daily. After a week’s introduction to Spanish, she was able to read Cervantes’s minor novels with facility, and he read her another”.(6) The expression “minor novels” obviously indicates that Jones’s wife has been reading some of Cervantes’s shorter novels such as the Novelas ejemplares (1613), if not his last work Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (posthumously published in 1617) or his earliest novel La Galatea (1585). Jones’s letter to George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758–1834), on which Cannon’s digest is ultimately based, actually makes it clear that Jones has referred to the Novelas ejemplares, since he explicitly mentions “la hermosa gitanilla” from La gitanilla, and in addition he may have also had in mind Cervantes’s comedies.(7) As for Don Quijote, Jones certainly knew it well enough, as any educated European of the eighteenth century did, and yet, at least as far as can be judged from the letters edited by Cannon, he had read Cervantes’s magnum opus much earlier in England when he was still a student in Oxford.(8) His later correspondence with the Spanish scholar Francisco Pérez Bayer supplies clear evidence that Jones was undoubtedly able to read Cervantes in the original, and as Cannon observes, he “possessed Cervantes’s various works, including Comedias, of which he owned a two-vol. ed. (Madrid, 1749)”.(9 This is also evident from the sale catalogue of Jones’s library in which, apart from Cervantes’s Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses (1615) referred to briefly by Cannon, we also find five other volumes containing Viaje del Parnaso (1614), Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, and La Galatea.(10) In addition to these works, the same catalogue also contains an entry with the two volumes of the Vida y hechos del ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha published in Amberes (i. e., Antwerp) in 1719.(11) There is, however, no evidence that this copy accompanied Jones in Calcutta, and hence all thoughts in connection with its possible role in India are destined to remain highly speculative. Even if Jones’s copy of Don Quijote had always been with him, it would hardly have been the first copy of Cervantes’s work to reach India, for in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries quite a few educated Europeans were active in India, such as officials of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, Christian missionaries, and so on, who would most likely have been acquainted with Don Quijote and in times of leisure could have enjoyed reading it either in its original Spanish, or perhaps in English, French, Italian, or Dutch. It is in any case hard to believe that the British judge would easily have found among his Indian friends anyone with a sufficiently good grasp of Spanish. Neither Jones’s Sanskrit teacher Pandit Ramlochan nor Pandit Kashinath Sharman who prepared a Sanskrit dictionary for Jones are known to have read Spanish, and even if this were the case, they would probably have found some reason to decline the task of rendering Don Quijote into Sanskrit or some other modern Indian language. In this sense it seems far-fetched to hold Jones in any way responsible for the comparatively late arrival of Cervantes in South Asia.

In his survey of the reception of Don Quijote in India—the other works by Cervantes appear to have left hardly any noticeable impression in South Asia—Ganguly has attempted to collect all accessible information about the available translations of this classic done into any of the numerous Indian languages.(12) Starting with the sombre observation that “[t]here has hardly been any intellectual engagement with the text in India and even for translations there is a total dearth of organized data,”(13) this Indian Hispanist has collected some useful details and compiled a list of around twenty partial translations and adaptations which have been made in several Indian languages, namely, Bengali: An adaptation entitled Adbhut Digbijoy by Bipin Bihary Chackrabarti (Calcutta, 1887; re-issued by Ganguly with his own introduction in 2009), Dan Kriksat by an unknown translator (Calcutta, 1912), Don Kusti by Jaminikant Som (Calcutta, 1931), an abridgement by Nanigopal Chakrabarti (Calcutta, 1954), and at least another ten more recent Bengali versions by Sudhindranath Raha, Lila Majumdar (1981), Kulada Ranjan Ray, Manas Mukhopadhyay, Jatindranath Ray, Bimal Dutta (1972), Satyabrata Bhanja Choudhury (1982, 1986), Milan Datta (1995), Ashok Kumar Mitra (1995), Milan Biswas (1996);(14) Assamese: Ba Keko Danariyar Adbhut Viratva by Pratibha Devi (Jorhat, 1906, 1926); Oriya: A translation by Govind Tripathi (New Delhi 1978);(14) Marathi: Phākaḍe Talvār Bahāddar by Krishnaji Narayan Athalye (Poona 1925);(16) Urdu: Khudāī Faujdār by Ratan Nath Sarshar (Lucknow, 1894); Hindi: Ḍān Kvigjoṭ by Chavinath Pandey (New Delhi, 1964, 1971) and Vicitra Vīr by an anonymous author (Lucknow 1926);(17) Gujarati: Ḍā̆n Kihoṭe by Chandravadan Chimanlal Mehta (New Delhi, 1964);(18) Kannada: An anonymous translation (1952); Malayalam: A translation by M. Narayanan (Cannanore, 1952, 2nd ed.), a more recent complete translation by Fr. Thomas Nadakkal (2005), and an abridgement by M. P. Chandrasekharan Pillai (2006, 104 pages); Telugu: A translation by Visvatmula Narasimhamurti (Hyderabad, 1952). There are also translations in Punjabi(19) and Tamil.(20)

Imagen 1. Ḍon Kvījhoṭ in the Gujarati language with illustrations. Title page of issues 1–12 of the Gujarati translation of Don Quijote (Mumbai, 1885–88)

Quite surprisingly, in his brief overview Ganguly has not mentioned the first Gujarati translation entitled Ḍon Kvījhoṭ which was published in Mumbai in the 1880s. Even though bibliographic data concerning this important publication has been actually easily available since 1908 at the latest, when the copy of the then British Museum (now the British Library) was catalogued for the first time,(21) it has been largely neglected by Hispanists, including even specialists in India.(22) The main reason for not noticing this Gujarati translation is its extremely poor accessibility. The few details which can be read in the old catalogues are based on a single copy containing only one part of the text—presently kept in the British Library—and on the learned guesses of the scholar who first briefly described it. The available book is undated and contains no information about the translator and the English version which was used by him for rendering the text into Gujarati. It lacks any introduction, and its prelims consist only of a detailed table of contents and a list of the illustrations included in this publication. Since, however, the book originally belonged to the rich Cervantes collection—including nearly 400 Don Quijote editions and translations—of Henry Spencer Ashbee (1834–1900), a flamboyant Victorian book collector and bibliographer, and was bequeathed to the then British Museum after his death in July 1900, it was possible to conclude that the Gujarati translation must have been published before 1900.(23) Moreover, since in the first introductory volume of his own English translation of Don Quijote published in 1888 Watts referred twice to a recent “Guzerati” version which was most probably identical with the work under discussion here,(24) it could be assumed that the Gujarati book, or at least one part of it, cannot have appeared any later than 1888. Since on its title page it is indicated that the book was to be printed in parts in the course of 62 months (62 māse bhāgamāṃ chapāi bāhāra paḍeche), and the present exemplar was the “First book” (pustaka peheḷuṃ) containing the material published in the issues from 1 to 12 (aṃka 1 thī 12 sudhī), the cataloguer—probably Henry Thomas—could surmise that the undated copy was published in “1880 ?”.(25) Since the Gujarati book of 290 pages containing the translation of chapters I.1–41 includes the reproduction of 64 illustrations originally designed by the French engraver and illustrator Tony Johannot (1803–1852),(26) and it is well known that since 1837 Johannot’s designs had been used in various editions of Charles Jarvis’s English translation for several decades, (27) it was reasonable to suggest that the Gujarati translator must have used such an English edition,(28) as a textual comparison would indeed confirm. Fitzmaurice-Kelly has been one of the very few experts to take notice of this rarity, which he documented in the Revue hispanique by presenting an English translation of its Gujarati title page:

Don Quixote in the Gujarati language, with illustrations. Printed and issued in monthly parts. Volume I. Numbers 1 to 12. Bombay. Printed and published by Jahāngīr Benjanjī [sic] Karānī, publisher and bookseller, at his “Standard Printing Press,” Numbers 17 and 18 Haidar Ali Buildings, Parsi Bazaar Street, Kot. Price for twelve numbers for one year Rupees 32 free of postage.(29)

Image 2. “Don Quijote in his own study”. Illustration after Tony Johannot from the Gujarati Ḍon Kvījhoṭ (Mumbai, 1885–88)

As Fitzmaurice-Kelly mentions in his brief communication, he hoped “before long to publish specimen pages and further particulars” of this book in the Revue hispanique, but apparently he did not manage to do so. It is likely that he consulted the Gujarati translation after Ashbee’s death in 1900 when his Don Quijote collection had to be transferred to the British Museum, because in his will Ashbee had appointed the British Hispanist to be his literary executor.(30) An ownership stamp of the British Museum on the last page of the book reveals that it reached the museum on 10 November 1900.

At the time when Fitzmaurice-Kelly and Blumhardt held Ashbee’s Gujarati book in their hands, neither of them knew much about Jehangir Bejanji Karani (1850–1897) and his involvement with Don Quijote. This knowledge, however, proves crucial in the attempt to find out more details about the curious book preserved in the British Library. Although less known than his predecessor Fardunji Marzaban (1787–1847) who set up the first Gujarati printing press in Mumbai in 1812, in the second half of the nineteenth century Karani was in fact one of the most illustrious Parsi booksellers, publishers, printers and Gujarati typographers in Mumbai; in addition, he was also active as an editor and a translator from English. Most of the factual data concerning him can be found in the Parsee Prakash, which is an immensely rich and reliable Parsi chronicle,(31) as well as in a biographical outline written in Gujarati by Karani’s son Manekshah Jehangir Bejanji Karani who added it in the preliminaries of a posthumously published new edition of his father’s Gujarati translation of the Arabian Nights.(32) From this short biography we learn that Karani began his career as a bookseller at the age of eighteen. Starting from a small bookshop in the late 1860s, he managed within about a decade to become a professional publisher, and in 1886 he strengthened his position as a notable bookseller and publisher by establishing his own “Standard Printing Press,” to which a type foundry was added in 1889. Karani died of plague on 4 February 1897 at the age of forty-seven,(33) but despite his untimely death he had managed to publish a remarkably large number of books of all sorts,(34) including his own Gujarati version of the afore-mentioned Arabian Nights.(35) As a printer and publisher Karani also handled some periodicals, namely, the Gujarati monthly magazine Jñānavardhaka in the period 1880–1894 (36) and the English daily newspaper Indian spectator in the period 1892–1894.(37)

Image 3. Jehangir Bejanji Karani (1850–1897). Photograph from Jehāṃgīr Karāṇīvāḷī navī Arebyan Nāīṭs (Mumbai, Jehangir B. Karani’s Sons, 1928)

One of the most notable works for which Jehangir Bejanji Karani’s name is remembered is the first complete Gujarati translation of Don Quijote. The title page of Ashbee’s copy preserved in the British Library makes it clear that this translation was initially printed on a monthly basis, and its subscribers received twelve issues per year. Yet, since no other copies were known to exist, it might easily be assumed that the translation was not continued and only the text of the first forty-one chapters was rendered into Gujarati. This was indeed what the cataloguer who described Ashbee’s volume in the British Museum’s Catalogue of Printed Books: Cervantes (London, 1908, col. 39, Cerv. 309) believed, for he has added to his bibliographic entry the note “No more published.”. However, anyone consulting Trübner’s American, European & Oriental Literary Record for September 1889 (issue no. 246, p. 135 in vol. I, no. 4) would realize that this assumption is fortunately wrong, for there the following details have been provided:

Cervantes’ Don Quichot. Translated into Gujaráti by Pársi. Edited and Revised by Bejanji Karáni. New edition. Royal 8vo. pp. 746. With 128 Pictures. Bombay, 1888. 12s. 6d.

Since there is no reason to doubt the veracity of this bibliographic information,(38) it can be safely concluded that by the end of 1888 the complete Gujarati translation of Don Quijote must have already been available in a single volume comprising 746 pages with altogether 128 illustrations. Even though this book does not seem to be available in any library in the West, and in India it is notoriously difficult to get access to such old editions even at places where they have survived by chance, it is to a large extent possible to reconstruct the history of this publication. This can be done with the help of the British Library copy, another copy kept in the J. N. Petit Library in Mumbai which contains a different part of the same Gujarati translation, namely, chapters II.1–62 on pages 357–672 with illustrations 87–122,(39) and, most importantly, a third copy from the private library of Jayant Meghani (Bhavnagar, Gujarat), which preserves the translation of all chapters I.1–52 and II.1–74 with altogether 128 illustrations printed on 731 pages and preceded by some fifteen pages of preliminaries.(40) Inasmuch as the title page of Meghani’s copy differs from the one in the British Library and the Petit Library copies, it is clear that it was specifically prepared together with the full preliminaries for the sake of the newly bound complete volume. The new title page indicates the total number of illustrations (128), lacks the unnecessary details about the earlier serial issue of the work, and has a new price (namely, 3 rupees and 4 annas) for the hardcover copy. It does not bear a date, yet thanks to the entry in Trübner’s record it can be established that this book was produced in 1888. It is moreover possible to find out even further specific details concerning the printing of the Gujarati Don Quijote, since fortunately the Parsee Prakash preserves the exact information about when Karani started issuing the Gujarati translation on a monthly basis, which happened on 1 November 1885.(41) Since from the British Library copy containing 290 pages it is evident that in the course of the first twelve months Karani printed twelve issues, each one comprising twenty-four pages, it is now easy to calculate that the material bound in this volume must have been ready at the beginning of October 1886. It follows that the nicely produced volume, which has its own hardcover and which Karani probably therefore sold for half an anna more than the twelve unbound issues, was most likely published still within 1886.(42) Continuing at the same rate of printing twenty-four pages per monthly issue, Karani must have printed the last pages of the Gujarati Don Quijote in May 1888 at the latest, which matches the year of publication indicated in Trübner’s record quoted above. Additional circumstantial evidence in support of this conclusion can be found in a note (khabar) at the end of the First Part of the Gujarati Don Quijote. In this note, which Karani has added in his capacity as proprietor, he communicates to his subscribers that in the last issue—he probably meant no. 15—containing the end of the First Part, only two forms have been given, and for this reason in the next issue four forms will be provided. Clearly, Karani’s usual rate was three forms with eight pages per form, or a total of twenty-four pages per issue.(43) The note attached at the end of the First Part is also particularly valuable because in it Karani has revealed that the First Part was rendered from English by one unnamed translator, and the remaining work on the Second Part would be done by another seasoned translator. Unfortunately, the Parsi publisher has not disclosed any names, but at least we now know for sure that the Gujarati Don Quijote was prepared by two anonymous translators. Karani’s decision not to reveal the names of his translators helps us to understand better the enigmatic bibliographic note “Translated into Gujaráti by Pársi” in Trübner’s record, which probably goes back to a communication submitted by the publisher himself. As for the information that the Gujarati translation was “Edited and Revised by Bejanji Karáni,” it must be stressed that, apart from the newly typeset preliminaries (44), the book published in 1888 contains exactly the same text as the one printed earlier in the monthly issues, and it has certainly not been typeset anew. It appears now most likely that Karani printed a higher number of monthly issues than he needed for his subscribers, so that at the end of the first twelve months in the last quarter of 1886 he was able to bind one part of the material printed until that moment in the first volume of 290 pages, one copy of which somehow reached Ashbee in London.(45) There is no evidence of sequel volumes, but it must be noted that at the end of the volume containing the first 290 pages with chapters I.1–41 the following line appears: Ḍona Kvījhoṭanā Gujarātī tarajumānuṃ peheluṃ pustaka samāpta or “The first book of the Gujarati translation of Don Quijote is completed”. Even though this note certainly gives the impression that the publisher intended to produce sequel volumes, or at least one more volume starting with p. 291 up to the end, no such volumes appear to have survived, and perhaps they were never produced. Most probably, once the last monthly issue had been sent, Karani bound whatever complete sets of the issues printed since November 1885 had remained at his printing press in a single volume containing the entire Gujarati translation of Don Quijote. Few such copies would have been produced, and this has probably contributed to its becoming such a rarity. Apart from the copy in Jayant Meghani’s private collection, I am not aware of any library in the world where another copy of the complete Gujarati translation has survived.

Image 4. Ḍon Kvījhoṭ in the Gujarati language with 128 illustrations. Title page of the complete Gujarati translation of Don Quijote (Mumbai, 1885–88)

Having established that the Gujarati Don Quijote was first printed in monthly issues beginning in November 1885, and in the last quarter of 1886 one part of this translation was published in the form of a book, followed in 1888 by the publication of the entire work, it can be concluded that the Gujarati translation precedes Bipin Bihary Chackrabarti’s Bengali adaptation Adbhut Digbijoy (1887) and may now be considered to be the earliest translation of Don Quijote in India.(46) With a fair number of explanatory notes and many fine illustrations, this Gujarati version represents not only the earliest and the first complete Indian translation of Cervantes’s novel known to us, but it is also a book typeset with much care and taste which many of the later Indian and Western editions have hardly managed to match.

The earliest Gujarati translation has escaped Ganguly’s vigilance, but he was fortunate enough to learn—only shortly before his article in the Quixotic Encounters went to press—that his list of Indian versions of Don Quijote can be extended by the addition of two more languages, namely, Sanskrit and Kashmiri, for, as Surindar Nath Pandita informed him, two manuscripts with partial translations of Don Quijote in Sanskrit and Kashmiri have been preserved in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Ganguly describes the circumstances of his indirect meeting with Pandita in the preface to the Quixotic Encounters by reporting that “[o]nly recently, a curious visitor to an exhibition on Quijote organized by the Embassy of Spain, stunned us by giving a lead on the translations of the work in Sanskrit and Kashmiri. He happens to be the grandson of one of the translators. A partial impression of a page of the manuscript in Kashmiri supplied by him adorns the cover of the present volume”.(47) Ganguly has not noticed that already in 2002 Pandita published an important article entitled “Kashmiri and Sanskrit Translations of Don Quixote” which not only contains some very interesting details concerning the history of these two translations, but also includes an admirable biographic sketch of Cervantes and an appraisal of his masterpiece.(48) In fact, one year earlier, in 2001, Pandita had already briefly informed the scholarly community about the availability of the unedited Sanskrit and Kashmiri partial translations of Cervantes’s classic, but since this was written in the pages of a lesser known journal in an article briefly describing the fruitful collaboration of Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862–1943) with Kashmiri scholars, the majority of Hispanists and Indologists both in India and abroad have failed to observe Pandita’s valuable communication.(49) Another still earlier information submitted in the inaugural issue of Unmesh, the monthly newsletter of the now dormant Nityanand Shastri Kashmir Research Institute published in New Delhi, also seems to have attracted no attention.(50)

A common characteristic of all Indian reincarnations of Don Quijote which appeared until the end of the twentieth century is that none of them is based on a Spanish edition of the text. Most of these works either go back to some unspecified English translation which is usually difficult or impossible to identify precisely, or they represent a re-translation of one of the earlier Indian versions. This is, for example, the case with the Gujarati translation which was prepared in 1964 on the basis of Chavinath Pandey’s Hindi translation of the First Part. The Hindi work itself appears to be based on the slightly abridged English translation by Walter Starkie (1894–1976) published in 1957 with a short six-page introduction which Pandey also rendered into Hindi.(51) The Indian interpreters of Don Quijote do not appear to have had any concerns about the quality of their textual basis, and until the beginning of the twenty-first century no indications of an attempt to consult any particular edition of the Spanish original can be found. The preference for one English translation over the other was probably conditioned by the mere availability of the particular book in India and had little to do with text-critical considerations.

The fact that the Spanish Don Quijote initially reached Indian readers in its English garb and remained for many years up to the present day most easily accessible to literate Indians in the disguise of one or of the other English translations is hardly surprising. This has, of course, much to do with the high status which the English language gained and the strong influence it exerted during the British rule in India. As is well known, with the spread of Western college education in the nineteenth century, a British-educated elite formed which took great interest in literature written in English. Since, on the other hand, Spanish has never had a foothold in India, and for the majority of educated Indians it has been unintelligible, Cervantes’s magnum opus was destined to be read in South Asia first and foremost in English. Thus, it was initially without exception only the English text which a few translators used in order to make Don Quijote somehow accessible in the native languages of India.

It has taken almost exactly four-hundred years for the first Indian translation of Don Quijote from the original Spanish to come into the hands of readers in India. The Hispanist Vibha Maurya announced her Hindi translation of the entire work in an article included in the above-mentioned Quixotic Encounters.(52) The First Part of Don Kikhote (la Māncā ke śūravīr kī gāthā) was published in 2006, and the Second Part followed in 2015.(53) Unlike Pandey’s earlier partial Hindi translation which is written in a kind of Hindi described by Ganguly as “more faithful to its classical Sanskrit roots” and “the medium of literary expression from the beginning of the 19th century till years preceding independence,”(54) Maurya has presented her new translation in a less Sanskritized, contemporary Hindi. An obvious major advantage of this new work is that in contrast to all previous Indian versions, Maurya has rendered the entire text directly from Spanish without skipping, abbreviating, or adapting any parts of Cervantes’s lengthy novel. It should be mentioned here, however, that D. N. Shikhare’s Marathi translation (Ḍān Kvikjhoṭa, 1974–75), which strangely enough until now has been ignored by all experts and does not appear in any Don Quijote bibliography, is in fact also complete and represents the second earliest Indian version—after the Gujarati translation from the 1880s—containing the entire novel prepared on the basis of an unspecified English version.(55) More than forty years after its publication the Marathi translation proves to be much more difficult to procure and can be found only in very few libraries in Maharashtra. The new Hindi translation, on the other hand, is now easily available, and even though in her brief introduction Maurya has not considered it worthwhile to mention which Spanish edition(s) of Don Quijote she has resorted to, the Hindi text has the potential to make Cervantes better known to more Indian readers who are unable to read the book in its original Spanish or in English. It should be added that around the same time when Maurya’s Hindi translation had been in preparation, Tarun Kumar Ghatak worked on the first complete Bengali translation from Spanish under the title La Manchar Don Quixote (Calcutta 2007 and 2009).(56) Four centuries after Don Quijote was written in Spanish, and its first translations were published in English and French, with the number of Hispanists in India gradually increasing, there has been a growing trend to translate Cervantes directly from Spanish into Indian languages. Even in the twenty-first century, however, Indian translations based on one or other of the English versions still continue to appear, as, for example, the complete Malayalam Don Quijote by Fr. Thomas Nadakkal (2005) and another complete translation in Tamil by Siva Murugesan (2012–13). It is naturally preferable to have Indian translations made directly from Spanish, for, as Cervantes’s knight himself has observed in his famous visit to the printing house in Barcelona, “translating out of one language into another, unless it be from those queens of the languages, Greek and Latin, is like setting to view the wrong side of a piece of tapestry, where, though the figures are seen, they are full of ends and threads, which obscure them, and are not seen with the smoothness and evenness of the right side”.(57) Since it is certainly true that by resorting to the services of an intermediary language such as English, the Indian translations of Don Quijote rather enable the readers on the subcontinent to see Cervantes’s “los tapices flamencos por el revés” (Jarvis’s “the wrong side of a piece of tapestry”!) only through more or less blurred spectacles, it would be worthwhile to make further efforts for the preparation of direct translations into other Indian languages besides Hindi and Bengali. While trying to achieve this goal, Indian translators may take to heart Don Quijote’s words spoken by him during the same visit to Barcelona, noting that “a man may be employed in things of worse consequence, and less advantage”.

A comprehensive study of the Indian reception of Don Quijote is beyond the scope of this summary, but even the present limited overview of some of the Indian translations and metamorphoses of the Spanish classic provides a vivid confirmation of Cervantes’s own prophesy that “no ha de haber nación ni lengua donde no se traduzga” (“no nation or language will be without a translation of it”). Indeed, the availability of Don Quijote in a host of Indian languages corroborates Bell’s estimate that this masterpiece “has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Bible”.(58) The voluminous El Quijote universal. Siglo XXI (La obra maestra de Cervantes en 150 traducciones) edited by José Manuel Lucía Magías (Madrid 2016) provides an additional vivid support to statements like these, even though in this recent publication it has not been possible to include excerpts from the Sanskrit and Kashmiri translations of Don Quijote, nor is there any trace of the earliest Gujarati translation and D. N. Shikhare’s Marathi version.(59) At the same time the Indian reception of this novel makes it clearer that estimates about the number of translations can be only approximate, since only few Indian versions can be considered complete translations, and until now only two of them have been made directly from Spanish. The abundance of abridged versions, adaptations, and retellings of Don Quijote in South Asia has certainly contributed to the paradoxical situation that this “Bible de l’humanité” or “Bible of humanity,” as admirers of the Spanish masterpiece sometimes refer to it,(60) can be regarded as one of the best known foreign books in India, but it is also the one least read in its complete form. This is actually hardly surprising, for already in the mid-1940s Aubrey F. G. Bell raised the legitimate question “whether Don Quixote as a universal classic has not now joined Dante and Milton, Shakespeare and the Bible in being universally praised but comparatively seldom read” and asserted in the same context that “[e]ven in Spain today it cannot be said that Don Quixote is really popular”.(61)

The dire fact is that most of the Indian versions of Don Quijote are not being read nowadays and remain, moreover, partly forgotten, mainly because they have been long out of print and can be found only in very few libraries. At present only Chavinath Pandey’s Hindi translation of the First Part, as well as the new complete Hindi translation by Vibha Maurya and the complete Tamil translation by Siva Murugesan are easily available on the book market.(62) Since the Bengali adaptation by Bipin Bihary Chackrabarti (1887) was re-issued in 2009, it may now have become easier for interested Bengali readers to procure it,(63) and the same would have been expected to be the case with the recent modern Bengali translation by Tarun Kumar Ghatak, which, however, does not seem to be widely distributed. It is even more difficult to get access to the Malayalam translation by Fr. Thomas Nadakkal which appeared in 2005 and is presently sold out. Digital copies of some of the older Indian versions—for example, Ratan Nath Sarshar’s Khudāī Faujdār (1894) and D. N. Shikhare’s Marathi translation (1974–75)—can be found here and there, but it takes much ingenuity and perseverence to locate such rarities in the world wide web.(64) All in all, Indian readers still find it rather difficult to get access to a version of Don Quijote in almost any of the Indian languages into which Cervantes’s work has already been translated.

Image 5. Jarvis’s translation in The World’s Classics series. Title page of the version edited by James Fitzmaurice-Kelly (London, 1907)

Perhaps luckiest of all are users of Sanskrit, since nowadays a recently released edition of the partial Sanskrit translation of Don Quijote with an accompanying audiobook is very easy to obtain. This translation, which as mentioned earlier remained for a long time largely forgotten,(65) contains only eight chapters from Cervantes’s monumental book, yet it is a remarkable piece of scholarship and a highly entertaining work in its own right. Since I have described the fascinating history and nature of this curious Indian incarnation of Don Quijote in some detail elsewhere,(66) only a few very brief notes about it will suffice here. The Sanskrit translation was prepared by two Kashmiri scholars, Pt. Jagaddhar Zadoo (1890–1981) and Pt. Nityanand Shastri (1874–1942), in Shrinagar from November 1935 until August 1936, after this “exotic” work had been commissioned by Carl Tilden Keller (1872–1955), an affluent American book collector. Taking advantage of his trusted contacts in Kashmir, the renowned Hungarian-born British scholar and explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862–1943) did everything necessary to fulfil the quixotic whim of his American friend by harnessing for this endeavour the services of his Kashmiri friend Nityanand Shastri. Zadoo’s and Shastri’s rendering of Don Quixote is based on Charles Jarvis’s English translation, most likely precisely on the version published in 1907 by the Oxford University Press with Fitzmaurice-Kelly’s introduction in The World’s Classics series (nos. CXXX–CXXXI). The Sanskrit manuscript of this translation was kept for more than seventy years in a dark library storage place in Boston until its edition—containing on facing pages both the Sanskrit rendering and the corresponding English text—saw the light of day when it was finally published in Pune in 2019. If we are fortunate, before long an edition of Zadoo’s and Shastri’s partial Kashmiri translation of Don Quijote may also follow.

Image 6. The Sanskrit translation of Don Quijote with Jarvis’s English version. Pages 5–6 from the editio princeps by Dragomir Dimitrov (Pune, 2019)


(1) The following paper represents a slightly modified excerpt from the lengthy introduction to my recent edition of a partial Sanskrit translation of Don Quijote published in the Pune Indological Series (see Dimitrov, 2019: xi–cix).

(2) Ganguly, 2006: 57. This collection of articles was prepared in the course of Don Quijote’s 400th anniversary celebrations and reflects well enough the impact of Cervantes in India at the beginning of twenty-first century. This volume has been reviewed briefly by Christopher Rollason in a journal called Re-Markings, 6, 2 (September 2007).

(3) Ganguly, 2006: 58.

(4) Ganguly has reiterated the passage quoted above in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Delhi Conference on Miguel de Cervantes (see Ganguly, 2008: 363). The two almost identical articles represent to a large extent an English translation of Ganguly’s contribution to the Gran Enciclopedia Cervantina (see Ganguly, 2009a: 6184b–6190a; this volume was printed in 2009, i. e., after the English articles).

(5) Thus, on the basis of Ganguly’s dubious assertion, Partzsch has also claimed that “one of the first attested readers of Quijote in India did apparently nothing to share with the natives the book he has been reading” (see Partzsch, 2009: 134; cf. Dimitrov, 2019: xviii–xix).

(6) Cannon, 1990: 294.

(7) The relevant excerpt from the letter sent by Jones on 19 September 1788 from Krishnanagar reads: “She [i. e. Lady Anna Jones, D. D.] is now as much pleased with Spanish, as you can be with German; and, while you are amused with Gesner (whose Tod Abels I read many years ago) we are laughing with Cervantes: she has not begun above a week, and can read the novels of that elegant writer with facility: she is now sitting by me engaged with la hermosa Gitanilla.” (Cannon, 1970: 812).

(8) See Cannon, 1970: 33, 65. The two letters in which Don Quijote is mentioned were written in 1769 and 1770, when Jones was in his twenties. Another favourite of Jones in this early period was Robert Paltock’s novel The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, a Cornish Man (1751).

(9) Cannon, 1970: 161 n. 4; for a reference to the same letter sent by Jones to Bayer in October 1774, see Teignmouth, 1806: 128–30.

(10) See Evans, 1831: 3 n. 61, 7 n. 167. Two of the volumes probably contained the Novelas ejemplares.

(11) Ibid.: 3 n. 62.

(12) Ganguly has focused on the languages used in India, and thus Sri Lanka and Nepal have remained beyond the scope of his investigation. There is a Sinhalese adaptation of Don Quijote entitled Vilambīta hāmu (1962, 247 pages) by Mahinda Karunaratna, as well as another more recent adaptation by Tenisan Perera (Vīra puta, 2011, 128 pages). According to Kumar Pradhan’s History of Nepali literature (New Delhi, 1984: 222), Cervantes has been translated into Nepali too, but I have not been able to locate any Nepali version of Don Quijote, and all attempts to find such a book in Nepal and West Bengal proved futile.

(13) Ganguly, 2006: 58. Even in a work such as Sisir Kumar Das’s History of Indian Literature with its subtitle “1800–1910, Western Impact: Indian Response” (New Delhi, 1991) hardly any relevant information about Don Quijote in India can be found.

(14) For the Bengali reception of Don Quijote, see Ganguly, 2006: 59, 69; and Majumdar, 2006; for a recent Bengali translation from Spanish, see the publication referred to in note 55.

(15) Another earlier Oriya translation published in 1922 is untraceable.

(16) For an abridgement in Marathi prepared by Madhav Pandharinath Shikhare and “published by Keshav Bhikaji Dhavale as the fifth volume of their series “Paschatya Wangmay Parichay” [Introduction to Western Literature] in 1944,” see Dengle, 2006: 82. Ganguly and Dengle have not mentioned D. N. Shikhare’s complete Marathi translation (Ḍān Kvikjhoṭa, Muṃbaī, 1974–75).

(17) For a new Hindi translation from Spanish, see the books referred to in notes 51 and 52.

(18) Another much earlier Gujarati translation entitled Ḍon Kvījhoṭ (Muṃbaī, 1885–88) has been overlooked by Ganguly (on this work, see the following paragraphs). In his Navalakathā saṃdarbhakośa (1999: 276) Prakash Vegad has mentioned Ḍon Kvijhoṭanāṃ parākramo by Shanti N. Shah ‘Satyam’ (1953) and Gopaldas Jivabhai Patel’s partial Gujarati translation printed on 282 pages in 1966, but the earliest Gujarati translation from 1885–88 is missing there, too.

(19) A partial translation was prepared by I. C. Nanda, and it was edited later by Sant Singh Sekhon after the translator’s death in 1965 (see Gill, 2006).

(20) The first Tamil translation was apparently published in 1964; a new, complete translation by Siva Murugesan (2012–13) is based on Ormsby.

(21) See the British Museum’s Catalogue of Printed Books: Cervantes, London, 1908, col. 39 (Cerv. 309); the same information has been provided later in Blumhardt, 1915, col. 38, Ford and Lansing, 1931: 77, and Grimer, 1946: 87b.

(22) To the best of my knowledge, only Deepak Mehta, an expert on Gujarati literature, noticed several years ago the availability of this book, which he briefly discussed in Gujarati (see Mehta, 2015: 148–53).

(23) It is not known where, when and how Ashbee procured this rare copy, but it was certainly not during his visit to India in the winter of 1880 (on Ashbee’s world tour in 1880–81 and his diaries, see Gibson, 2001: 73-84, especially). Ashbee does not mentioned the availability of a Gujarati translation in a paper read on 21 November 1898 (see Ashbee, 1899: 26), possibly because he may have received the Gujarati book only after his lecture, sometime during the last two years of his life. For a brief description of Ashbee’s Cervantes collection, see Thomas, 1908 and, more recently, Taylor and West, 2009.

(24) See Watts, 1888, vol. I: 3, 287; a similar reference is also made in Watts, 1895: 277. It is unclear whether Watts had direct access to this “Guzerati” version or perhaps relied only on second-hand information.

(25) On Sir Henry Thomas, see Scholderer, 1954, and Taylor and West, 2009: 340. For the purpose of cataloguing the Gujarati book Thomas may have been assisted either by Fitzmaurice-Kelly or by J. F. Blumhardt, if not by both of them. Blumhardt was able to read Gujarati and included the same bibliographic details in a catalogue which he compiled himself in 1915 (see Blumhardt, 1915, col. 38). The Gujarati translation is not mentioned in Blumhardt’s earlier Catalogue of Marathi and Gujarati Printed Books in the Library of the British Museum (London, 1892), since at that time the book was not yet in the museum’s library.

(26) The illustration reproduced on the title page is signed by the engraver C. D. Laing and has been taken from chapter I.37 (n. 59 on p. 262). On the cover of the Gujarati book an illustration from chapter I.28 (n. 40 on p. 197) appears, to which a beautiful ornamental frame has been added.

(27) Johannot’s numerous illustrations, which Watts considered to be “very spirited, but very un-Spanish” (Watts, 1888, vol. I: 286), appeared for the first time in the French translation by Louis Viardot (Paris 1836–37), and since then they have often been used in many editions in different languages (see Ashbee, 1895: 82–84; for editions of Jarvis with Johannot’s illustrations, see Anderson’s bibliography in Watts, 1891: viii–ix, and Grismer, 1946: 86–87; cf. also the images at

(28) Two good candidates are the Jarvis versions published by Frederick Warne & Co. in the Beeton’s Boy’s Own Library (London, 1866) and by Ward, Lock & Co. (London, 1879 and later). Another version published by Willoughby & Co. (London, 1852) is unlikely to have been used, since there some minor differences in the illustrations can be observed there which are not shared by the Indian edition.

(29) See Fitzmaurice-Kelly, 1900: 511; for the translation of the title page the author was “indebted to Dr Blumhardt of the British Museum.” The price given on the cover of the book is actually 3 rupees and 2½ annas, whereas on the title page it is indicated to be 3 rupees and 2 annas with gratis postage. Blumhardt must have interpreted the price of “3 2” on the title page incorrectly as “32”.

(30) See Gibson, 2001: 136–37, 237–38.

(31) See Patell, 1910: 449, 676, 692, and Paymaster, 1920: 37, 42, 45, 64, 70, 108, 116, 128, 145, 166, 225, 255, 357, 471, 506, 623, 835.

(32) See Karani, 1928: 7–10. Karani started printing his translation of the Arabian Nights—one of several such works produced in the second half of the nineteenth century—in 1887 in the pages of the monthly journal Jñānavardhaka and also published the first volume of the Arabian Nights in the form of a book of 360 pages, most likely towards the end of 1888 (see Karani, [1888]). In March 1891 the second volume comprising 430 pages was also completed, as can be surmised from its introduction quoted by Karani’s son (see Karani, 1928: 5; cf. also Luzac & co.’s Oriental List, London, 1891, vol. II: 113 n. 8). In June 1897, only four months after Karani’s premature death on 4 February 1897, his Arabian Nights was published again, and a slightly revised edition appeared one more time in 1928.

(33) He became ill in the end of January 1897 and passed away only a few days later in the Parsi Fever Hospital in Mumbai (see Karani, 1928: 9–10); a short necrology in Gujarati was included in the Parsee Prakash (see Paymaster, 1920: 623).

(34) In Karani’s biographical account his son Manekshah has included a list of one-hundred titles (see Karani, 1928: 8–9; cf. also Dimitrov, 2019: xxix–xxx).

(35) From his introductory words it is clear that for his translation from English into Gujarati Karani used an edition published by Ward, Lock & Co. in London (see Karani, [1888]: 5). This information increases the probability that for the English translation of Don Quijote a book printed by the same British publisher was used (see above, note 27).

(36) The Jñānavardhaka was founded in 1873 by Shapurji Bhimjibhai Taraporvala. Karani started printing this literary periodical in 1880, and in 1882 he became its editor (for a few more details concerning this journal, see Patell, 1910: 449).

(37) See Karani, 1928: 9 and Patell, 1910: 449. The Indian spectator was edited by the prominent social reformer Behramji Merwanji Malabari (1853–1912). As Eckerhard Kulke mentions in his The Parsees in India (1974: 119), it “was the most well-known English-speaking newspaper of an Indian on the sub-continent for decades thanks to Malabari’s campaign for Hindu social reform”.

(38) Trübner & Co. and Karani co-published the Pahlavi, Gujarati and English Dictionary, and since they were in contact, Karani could have communicated personally to his partners in London the information about the interesting Gujarati book published in 1888.

(39) Although this book contains later fascicles of the same translation, it has the same title page as the British Library copy. The Petit Library copy (call no. R GF/CER/DON–2; accession no. 056814), which is in a poor state of preservation, appears to have been bound not by Karani himself, but rather subsequently by someone else who had a number of later issues without an appropriate title page.

(40) The preliminaries include a title page on the recto and a copyright notice on the verso, a frontispiece with a blank verso side, eight pages of contents, and five pages containing a list of all illustrations. Depending on how exactly one counts the printed pages of the preliminaries, it is possible to arrive at the total number of pages indicated in Trübner’s record, namely, 746. ).

(41) See Paymaster, 1920: 166.

(42) In the case of his Gujarati translation of the Arabian nights mentioned above (see note 31) Karani proceeded in a similar manner by publishing in a separate book the first volume, as soon as he had finished printing in the Jñānavardhaka journal the monthly instalments containing this part of the text.

(43) In the case of his Arabian nights Karani seems to have printed the text at the rate of two forms or sixteen pages per month. Proceeding in this way, he was able to complete the printing of the translation within some fifty months or slightly longer than four years, which was still faster than the initially announced period of sixty-two months (cf. Karani, [1888]: 5: “ane 62 māse chapātā akeka fāramathī te puro thatāṃ ghaṇāṃ varaso thaśe”). Interestingly, both in the case of the Gujarati Don Quijote and the Arabian nights Karani has claimed that the translations will be printed in the course of sixty-two months, even though, when he made these announcements, he already knew that at the adopted rate the printing would be completed sooner. The indicated longer period may have been motivated by his business interests, or it was perhaps just a very conservative estimate.

(44) In the volume containing the first 290 pages of the translation the illustration of “Don Quijote in his own study” appears after the list of illustrations immediately preceding the first page of the main text. This must also have been the case in the volume containing the complete translation, even though in Meghani’s copy the frontispiece—preserved on a detached, partly torn page—has been (mis)placed after the new title page and before the contents pages.

(45) The recent “Guzerati” version mentioned by Watts in 1888 must refer to exactly this first volume which Karani published towards the end of 1886 (see above, Image 4).

(46) Still earlier is a Gujarati adaptation entitled Mehermastanī musāpharī or “The Adventures of Mehermasta” in two parts by Nasharvanji Meharvanji Khansaheb (Mumbai 1876, 1878) which is recorded in Blumhardt, 1908: 233. Recently this work has been briefly mentioned in Mehta, 2015: 148–49.

(47) Ganguly, 2006: x–xi, 67–68. The “curious visitor,” whom Ganguly has failed to name explicitly, was Pandita, as he himself confirmed to me in a personal communication (e-mail dated 12.03.2018) .

(48) See Pandita, 2002.

(49) See Pandita, 2001; the same translations have also been mentioned briefly in Pandita, 2008: 19. These contributions are based on materials kept in Pandita’s private archive (see Pandita, 2007) .

(50) See the anonymous article “Nityanand Shastri as Scholar and Man” in Unmesh, I, 1 (September 1997), The details presented in this issue were provided by Janki Nath Pandita (one of Nityanand Shastri’s three sons) and Surindar Nath Pandita (Nityanand Shastri’s grandson). A similar anonymous communication based on information by S. N. Pandita can be read in an article entitled “Prof. Jagaddhar Zadoo – One of the Last Titans” which appeared in Unmesh, II, 13–15 (Jan–Mar 1999), UnmeshII\_13-15.html.

(51) At the end of this introduction Pandey explicitly mentions Starkie’s name. The first edition of Starkie’s abridged translation was published in 1954 with a considerably longer “prelude” of 116 pages, whereas his unabridged version appeared in 1964 at a time when Pandey’s translation had already been completed.

(52) See Maurya, 2006a.

(53) See Maurya, 2006b and 2015. The volume published in 2015 also includes the First Part initially released in 2006.

(54) Ganguly, 2006: 64. In Maurya’s opinion this kind of Hindi has made Pandey’s translation “difficult and inaccessible for popular reading” (Maurya, 2006a: 75). Her speculation that the choice of “a difficult ‘pure’ Hindi” may have been conditioned by “[t]he old English and difficult syntactic structure of Motteux translation” appears, however, to be incorrect, for, as already mentioned above, Pandey most probably used Starkie’s abridged translation of 1957.

(55) In his brief introduction Shikhare only mentions that he has made a “close” (sakta), and not a free (mokaḷā) translation. The comparison of the Marathi text with the English translations available in India some forty-fifty years ago permits us to exclude some of them as the possible textual basis. For example, the fact that in the Second Part of the Marathi text the name of Tomé Cecial is given as Thāmas Sesiyal (Thomas Ceciyal) indicates that D. N. Shikhare may have relied on Motteux, Smollett or Cohen, and certainly not on Jarvis, Ormsby, Putnam or Starkie, since in the latter works the Spanish form of the name has been retained. Judging by the way the chapters are organized in the Marathi volumes, an edition of Motteux’s translation was probably used.

(56) This recent publication by Ebang Mushayera is not easy to obtain. The only Western library in which a set of Ghatak’s translation is available seems to be the Bibliotheca Nacional de España in Madrid. The new Bengali version has been referred to in Ganguly, 2009b: 178, 182.

(57) Jarvis, 1907, vol. II: 504.

(58) Bell, 1947: 261 (almost the same words have also been used later in Putnam, 1949: vii). Earlier, Fitzmaurice-Kelly has noted similarly that “[t]he Bible and the Imitatio Christi—perhaps also The Pilgrim’s Progress—have been more often translated; but the adventurous history of the Manchegan Knight appeals to a circle scarce less wide than they” (Shelton, 1896: ix).

(59) As far as Indian translations are concerned, in this volume only Tamil (pp. 331–45 with an excerpt by Siva Murugesan), Bengali (pp. 589–94 with an excerpt by Tarun Ghatak), Hindi (pp. 905–10 with an excerpt by Vibha Maurya), and Malayalam (pp. 937–42 with an excerpt by Fr. Thomas Nadakkal) are represented.

(60) These words are often attributed to the nineteenth-century French literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804–1869), yet it seems impossible to find them in his writings. In Watts’s introduction the following statement can be read: “In the words of the great French critic—Ce livre d’àpropos est devenu un livre d’ humanité” (Watts, 1888: 2). Nabokov has dismissed such clichés as the “spell of enchanters” (Nabokov, 1983: 7).

(61) Bell, 1947: 260.

(62) Pandey’s work was published in 1964, and since then it has been reprinted several times by Sahitya Akademi in New Delhi. As for Maurya’s translation, the First Part was released in 2006 by Confluence International in New Delhi, and then in 2015 the entire work was published by Parable International. Both volumes of Murugesan’s translation were published by Sandhya Publications in 2012–13 and can still be found in some Indian bookstores.

(63) For this re-issue, see Ganguly, 2009b.

(64) For D. N. Shikhare’s work, see lui/bitstream/handle/123456789/5746/558Don-Quixote.pdf and https://a As far as the extremely rare Gujarati translation published by Jehangir Bejanji Karani in 1886 and 1888 is concerned, there are now plans to prepare in the foreseeable future a modern “digitally remastered” copy of the work to be.

(65) See the article referred to in note 46.

(66) See Dimitrov, 2019: xlv–cix.


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— “Some Books about Cervantes,” in: Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, Volume V Part I (November, 1898 to June, 1900), London, 1899, pp. 13–38.

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— “Translation of Don Quixote into Indian Languages,” in: Vibha Maurya and Ignacio Arellano (eds.), Cervantes and Don Quixote: Proceedings of the Delhi Conference on Miguel de Cervantes, Hyderabad, Emesco, 2008, pp. 361–74.

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© Grupo de Investigación T-1611, Departamento de Filología Española y Departamento de Traducción e Interpretación y de Estudios de Asia Oriental (UAB)
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© Grup de Recerca, T-1611, Departament de Filologia Espanyola i Departament de Traducció i d'Interpretació i d'Estudis de l'Àsia Oriental, UAB