"Originally Asbab-e Baghwat-i Hind was translated in 1873 by Sir Sayyid's two English friends, Major-General G. F. I. Graham and Sir Auckland Colvin. In comparing the Urdu draft of the Asbab with the English translation we noticed several inaccuracies, but we have made no attempt to correct or even modify them. Since the translation was published under Sir Sayyid's name and supervision, it should be accepted as an independent and self-contained document" (Preface, pp. ix-x).

These comments from Hafeez Malik and Morris Dembo, editors of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan's History of the Bijnor Rebellion (Delhi: Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli, 1982), first alerted me to some of the potential problems of the 1873 translation. A few years ago I scanned the 1873 English text of the Asbab that Malik and Dembo included as "Appendix A" (pp. 145-195), and carefully went over it myself, for classroom use; it was clear there were some problems even in the text as they reproduced it. As a cross-check, I've now also compared Malik and Dembo's version with an actual facsimile reprint in Causes of the Indian Revolt; Three Essays by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, ed. Salim al-Din Quraishi (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1997), pp. 41-104.

Even after looking at the facsimile, however, I've still had to do a bit of editing work on the 1873 English version that I'm now putting online. The original 1873 printed version is quite variable in its spellings, and quite awkward (and often even erroneous) in much of its punctuation. The editing has been kept to a minimum (only a few of the varying spellings and capitalizations have been smoothed out), but I don't see any point in reproducing obvious errors. Not a single word has been removed, however, and any editorial additions by me are in double brackets. Some sections go on for over a page with no paragraph breaks, so I've broken up a few of the longer paragraphs at obvious transition points. I've also numbered the sections, following the original exactly.

And I'm now going on to make a kind of study site for the text. In addition to the official 1873 translation (the one Sir Sayyid approved), as slightly edited by me, the site will also include my own '2005 translation', which is extremely and almost dysfunctionally literal, since I want it to be useful to Urdu students and others with an interest in a close study of text, syntax, and lines of thought. And I'm adding my own commentary, which will probably expand over time, and a sort of 'concordance' that will help pull it all together.

The site will also include the original Urdu text of 1859, slightly condensed (by the editor) but most elegantly calligraphed, taken from asbaab-e ba;Gaavat-e hind az sir sayyid a;hmad ;xaan , edited by Dr. abuu' al-lai;s .siddiiqii (Karachi: Urdu Academy of Sindh, 1957), pp. 93-192. The pages of this text are hyperlinked from relevant passages of translation and discussion, so as to be of use to students and scholars. Later on I'll have the software arranged for them to be read consecutively in a convenient way.

This project will obviously take a while to complete. But it will be fun, too. Sir Sayyid's Urdu is more complex in its syntax, and often more sweeping in its assertions, than the 1873 translation reflects. The degree of what might be called friendly paraphrase in the 1873 translation is in fact remarkable, and does seem to make it an independent English document in its own right.

Fran Pritchett
March 2005



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