First Bengali Bible after 200 years

"It was a profoundly satisfying and rewarding experience, based on mutual respect”, the authors said
( [email protected] ) Nov 19, 2003 10:52 AM EST

Calcutta, India., Nov. 19 - The first complete translation of Bible in colloquial Bengali - "Mangalvarta Bible" - has seen the light of day, setting free Roman Catholic Church's Bengali liturgy from its high-flown literary language since William Carey first translated the holy book into Bengali 200 years back.

Published last friday, Mangalvarta Bible is a 40-year endeavour by two writers, Belgian Father Christian Mignon and Bengali poet Sajol Banerjea.

The Bible, published by Xavier Publications at Chitrabani Society, is made up of 3,500 pages and will also be available in Bangladesh.

Mignon, a Jesuit priest, Biblical scholar and translator, and Banerjea, a poet and teacher, set about translating the holy book in 1967. As the number of pages kept on increasing, the Bible had to be published in three volumes to make it handy.

“Of the two types of translations, literal and literary, we chose the second,” Banerjea explained. “Literal translation has marred Bengali versions earlier and so, we decided to avoid it. Our goal was to make the text as natural, limpid and pleasant as possible,” he added. Father Mignon, a Belgian who came to India in 1949 and gradually became a specialist in Biblical matters, said the translation was the “nearest equivalent to the original text”. Their work together had become a profoundly “satisfying and rewarding experience, based on mutual respect”, the authors said.

Extensively sourced from Books of Greek and Hebrew renditions of Bible translated by Christian Missionary Carey and his successors, "Mangalvarta" contains translations of all Books accepted as an integral part of Bible by the Catholic Church from ancient times, namely Book Of Wisdom and Ben-Sira.

"Besides, Books like Tobit, Judith and Maccabees that offer stirring examples of devotion to God and duty have also been included in the translation," Fr Mignon said here yesterday.

Mignon said "Mangalvarta Bible" would now be used in all Roman Catholic churches in the country and in Bangladesh where prayers are held in Bengali.

According to the publishers, Mangalvarta Bible is the first complete Bengali translation of The Bible published in India. It contains, besides all the books of the Hebrew Bible, published by William Carey and his successors, all the books that have been accepted as integral parts of The Bible by the Catholic Church.