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On Translating Vaishnava Songs


Question

Srila Prabhupada wrote once: “You have asked about singing the prayers of Narottama Thakura and yes, they are very much approved in any language” (SPL to Hamsaduta, 12th December, 1968).
I noticed that many or most of devotees don’t really know the meanings of the songs they are singing. Everywhere from China to Zulu tribes, devotees are thanking for food in Bengali (sarira avidya jal…). Do you believe the prayer would lose its effect if translated into a local language? Should we always chant these songs only in their original Sanskrit and Bengali, or should we translate and regularly chant them in our local language in the morning and evening temple programs?

Answer

H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

It seems clear that we need songs in local languages so that people understand what they are singing and hearing, and we also need songs in Bengali and Sanskrit so that devotees all over the world can share the same songs and participate in familiar worship in any part of the world. We must be both local and universal.