The director of the Cervantes Institute, García Montero, and the director of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations plan to expand cooperation between the two institutions

The Cervantes Institute presents the first translation of "Don Quixote" into Sanskrit in New Delhi

PHOTO/INSTITUTO CERVANTES - From left to right, the director of the Cervantes Institute in New Delhi, Óscar Pujol; the Spanish ambassador to India, José María Ridao; the editor of the University of Pune, Mashesh Deokar; S. N. Pandita, grandson of the translator Pandita Nityanand Shastri, and the director of the Cervantes Institute, Luis García Montero

The Director of the Cervantes Institute, Luis García Montero, on a trip to New Delhi, has presented the first translation into Sanskrit of "Don Quixote", a volume which recovers and publishes this work in the classical Indian language for the first time. García Montero also met with the director of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Kumar Tuhin, an entity with which Cervantes will collaborate to intensify cultural relations with India, and will conclude his agenda tomorrow, Thursday, with a meeting with Indian writers.

García Montero described the translation of "Don Quixote" as "an adventure that began in the 1930s with two Kashmiri scholars" of great significance because "it is a recognition of the cultural tradition and one of the oldest languages in the world".

For his part, the Spanish Ambassador to India, José María Ridao, who also took part in the event, said that "every time Don Quixote is translated it returns to its origin" in what is "a permanent lesson in tolerance, in any language and through any language".

This translation project was initiated by the American book collector Carl Tilden Keller (1872 - 1955) and carried out by Brahmins Jaghdar Zadoo and Nityanand Shastri from an 18th century English translation of Don Quixote by Charles Jarvis. After years of indifference, the manuscript, written in Kashmir in 1936 and now kept at Harvard University's Houghton Library, was rescued by Professor Dragomir Dimitrov, who edited the book presented today.

The first modern novel, in the most ancient language

The director of Cervantes New Delhi, Óscar Pujol Riembau, stressed that it is "the world's first modern novel - one of the most widely read and published books in the world - transcribed into one of the oldest languages in the world". In addition to the importance of the manuscript itself, as it is "very fragile, especially if no one knows it exists", he said.

Published by the University of Pune, the volume contains the translation of eight chapters of the first part of Don Quixote and presents, on facing pages, the English and Sanskrit translations. The text, based on the manuscript, includes a description of the reception of Cervantes' classic in India, a study on the history of its translation and an audiobook, read by Professor Shrikant Bahulkar.

The event was also attended by Surindar Nath Pandita, grandson of one of the translators of the work - Pandita Nityanand Shastri - who pointed out that "this translation is proof of a great friendship between Kashmir and the West", and Professor of Sanskrit and Pali Mahesh Deokar, editor-in-chief of the Editorial Board. In addition, the diplomat and professor Karan Singh, son of the last maraja of Kashmir, and the editor, German professor Dragomir Dimitrov, who explained the details of the project, participated with online interventions.

Cooperation programmes and promotion of culture

At the meeting held with the director of the ICCR, the main instrument of state diplomacy, García Montero expressed the desire to "consolidate the presence of Cervantes in India", a country which he said "has a large group of Hispanists and in which there is increasing interest in Spanish, which is beginning to be introduced naturally in studies" - Spanish has recently become one of the languages offered in secondary education in India.

The directors, García Montero and Kumar Tuhim, discussed proposals for future Indo-Spanish cooperation programmes, including, in addition to the promotion of Spanish language teaching, the use of the network of Cervantes centres, a study on the impact of cinema and television on culture in India and the possible creation of an Indian Association of Hispanists.

The agenda continued later with a meeting with Hispanists in which topics such as translation grants, scholarships for Indian students in Spain and the publication of works by Indian Hispanists in our country were discussed.

The programme of activities of the Director of the Instituto Cervantes in India has finished on Thursday 7 July with a meeting with the delegation of the Calcutta Book Fair and a literary meeting with Indian writers organised by Sahitya Akademi, the Indian National Academy of Letters, an entity dedicated to the promotion of literature in the languages of the South Asian country.

India: a major market for Spanish language teaching

This visit contributes to strengthening relations with India, a country with a high demand for Spanish classes, as demonstrated by the figures for the New Delhi centre; inaugurated in 2009, it is currently the centre with the highest volume of teaching activity in the network, with almost 300,000 hours/student and more than 6,000 enrolments in the 2021/2022 academic year.

For this reason, the Instituto Cervantes will open in Bangalore, the fourth city in population and considered the Silicon Valley of the country due to its numerous technology companies and research institutions, an extension of the Cervantes that will offer Spanish courses from 2023.

Submitted by José Antonio Sierra, Hispanismo advisor.