God might be an English word but its roots can be traced back to Sanskrit, said Bibek Debroy, author of the recently released The Bhagavad Gita for Millennials. He is more popularly known as an economist and the Chairman of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council but he is considered an authority when it comes to Sanskrit texts.
He was in conversation with senior journalist and author Kaveree Bamzai at The New Indian Express‘ Dakshin Literary Festival 2020.
“I am averse to using words that are imported and implanted from the West, including a word like God,” said Debroy. “
The word God, etymologically, is cognate with a Sanskrit root — Hutam, someone you offer oblations to. It’s a tragedy and travesty that millennials do not know this. If at the time of the Rajasuya Yagna, the first arghya was offered to Krishna in the Mahabharata, then, in some sense, Krishna was the Hutam. But I would not like to use the word God,” he added.
There is not one but many Gitas, said Debroy and added that there are more than 20 of them in the Mahabharata itself.
“Gita is anything that is sung or chanted. Here there is an adjective, Bhagavad, which automatically suggests that there must be other Gitas as well. There are around 60 different Gitas depending on how you define a Gita. Some of them people are familiar with, like the Ashtavakra Gita,” said Debroy. “There are texts like the Uddhava Gita which is from the Puranas. The two from the Mahabharata that people are probably most familiar with are the Dharma Vyadha Gita and the Anu Gita. There are things that are not directly referred to as Gitas but are very much on the same lines, for example, the Yaksha Prashna,” he added.
Talking about whether COVID- 19 has made people realise the importance of the Gita, Debroy said that the Bhagavad Gita has always been there but due to COVID-19, people have much more free time — they are not going to the multiplex and thus they have time to dip into the texts.
“If you are interested in it you will find the time, COVID or no COVID,” he added. Debroy said that he wrote this book to get millennials to read the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit.
“I wanted people to get sufficiently familiar to read the text of the Bhagavad Gita in Sankrit and then read translations and commentaries,” he added. “My intention was to get the millennials interested in the Bhagavad Gita,” he said.