Behold! The Word is God contains a selection of 51 abhangas (devotional poems) from celebrated Bhakti poet Tukaram’s vast oeuvre, each Marathi abhanga followed by two English interpretations—Shanta Gokhale’s and Jerry Pinto’s. Hailed as one of the greatest poets in the Marathi language, Tukaram composed poems that are packed with hidden layers of meaning. So, two independent translations of each abhanga give readers a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the original. The saint-poet’s original abhangas are included in the book alongside the translations as Roman transliterations.
Tukaram’s abhangas, copied by many hands and gathered over several years, do not follow any particular order. But the translators, keen to give their selection a narrative order that would offer readers a view of the abhangas beyond their immediate sense, have arranged them into three groups— ‘Tukaram and poetry’, ‘Tukaram and life’ and ‘Tukaram and Vitthala’.
Pinto does what Arun Kolatkar and Dilip Chitre had done in their translations of Tukaram—recast the abhangas as independent poems that run parallel to Tukaram’s creations. Gokhale, on the other hand, stays as close as possible to the sense, movement, rhythm and form of the originals.Together, their translations capture the mystic wisdom and the musicality of Tukaram’s hymns, and open a whole world of meaning for today’s readers.
Tukaram was a 17th-century saint, spiritual poet and ardent devotee of Vitthala. He composed over 4,000 devotional poems and is considered one of the greatest poets in the Marathi language.
Shanta Gohkale is a well-known bilingual writer, translator and theatre critic. She is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award for Translation, 2021 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for overall contribution to the performing arts, among other honours.
Jerry Pinto is a celebrated writer and poet based in Mumbai. He has received the Windham Campbell Prize and the Sahitya Akademi Award, among other honours.