Bhagavad Gita - Translated by Mani Rao. (Penguin Books India, 2011. India edition).

Bhagavad Gita - A translation of the poem. (Autumn Hill Books, 2010. USA/Canada edition)


Mani Rao’s courageous approach to the Gita not only revitalizes an ancient philosophy but also restores power and majesty to the text’s poetry. –Arshia Sattar

Mani Rao brings a felicitous mix of textually informed vigilance and playful irreverence to bear on her translation of the Bhagavad Gita. With its contemporary musicality and relaxed tone, Rao’s version opens up this central text of modern Hinduism for a new generation of readers. – Ranjit Hoskote

“Rao plays with the words of the Gita—not changing them, but changing the way we experience them. The text is fluid, playful, eminently readable, and yet true to the complex philosophical conceptions Krishna presents to Arjuna in the poetic dialogue that forms the heart of the poem. We see modernist hints of Walt Whitman, e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, and Aram Saroyan peeking through the veneer of the ancient text, which Rao renders both more and less familiar to Western audiences, allowing the text to dance around in the reader’s head…” - Eric Gurevitch. Read the full review here.

Cover of the Bhagavad Gita translation by Mani Rao

“The great virtue of The Bhagavad Gita is courage, and in her luminous new translation, Rao is courageous indeed. Her lines venture to keep pace with the original, stride for stride, revelation for revelation. As Wittgenstein wrote, ‘courage is always original.” I can avow that Rao’s is the first truly original version of this sacred text to appear in decades.” – Donald Revell

“Mani Rao has transformed the most famous spiritual poem in India to a multi-layered poem, giving shapes to multiple meanings and sounds to multiple forms. Just as Arjuna saw the universe in Krishna’s mouth and like the endless tree, the tree of life, which reveals its roots above and leaves below, Mani Rao has shown us this universe, this endless life with its supporting philosophy, as a poem to be perceived directly, intuitively, cutting through reason and linearity to arrive at the underlying undying poetry and grace of this epic work.”– Frederick Smith



  • “Sing to Me” and “Monkey Puzzle” from a manuscript selected as Anomalous Chapbook Contest Notable, read here.
  • “Poem, Sisyphus” in the latest issue of Omniverse, read here.
  • “Ode to Kali” and “Ravana’s Garden” in Muse India‘s issue on ‘Poetizing Indian Heritage,’ read here.
  • Poems “Midas, A Casino In Vegas,” “Ouranos Returns,” and “Cupid & Psyche” in the latest issue of Mascara (Issue 12, 2012), read here.
  • Five poems just out in Harper Collins Anthology of Poetry by Indians, 2012. Read “Shiva’s Digs” here.
  • Review of Arvind K. Mehrotra’s Songs of KabirTranslation Review (Vol 83, Issue 1, 2012).
  • Review of Mohammad A Quayum’s Rabindranath Tagore: Selected Short Stories. Cha (Mar 2012, Issue 16.)
  • Essay “A Brief History of the Bhagavad Gita’s Canonization” in Religion Compass. (Email Mani for a pdf if your library does not have access to Wiley).
  • Listing in The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry. 2nd Ed. Edited by Jeremy Noel-Todd ad Ian Hamilton. Oxford University Press, 2013: Born in India, Mani Rao moved to Hong Kong in 1993, where she published six of her eight books of poetry. More recently she has pursued doctoral studies in Religion while continuing her studies in Sanskrit and dividing her time between the USA and India.  However, neither personal biography nor geopolitical location are prominent in her poems, which are almost all short, no more than a page.  She often works in frequently end-stopped, staccato lines of variable length, with a line not necessarily connecting to its predecessor, and with unstable pronouns and gender ambiguity confounding any notion of a discrete, confessional self—although there are traces of narrative. Among the early collections, The Last Beach (Asia 2000, 1999), is perhaps the strongest. Echolocation (Chameleon Press, 2003), which appears to recollect a love affair echoed against the sound of the sea and the radio, switches visually to prose, with each isolated sentence also becoming the measure of the line.  100 Poems, 1985-2005 (Chameleon, 2006) excerpts from six previous books.  Ghostmasters (Chameleon, 2010) ramps up her linguistic playfulness.  Rao’s version of the Bhagavad Gita (Autumn Hill / Penguin, 2010 / 2011) unpacks the original Sanskrit with a range of avant garde techniques—in prosody, diction, mise-en-page and lineation—rendering a new translation of the well-known philosophical text unlike any before it.  Her most recent poetry continues her erotic themes but makes more explicit reference to stories and characters drawn from Indian and Western classical sources.





  • “Writing to Stop.” Read in 91st Meridien.
  • “Automatic Writing – Real, Surreal, Hyper-real” in Fulcrum 7. Download pdf here.
  • “Repetitiveness in Gita translations.” Read in eXchanges.
  • Translator’s Note on the Gita translation. Read in eXchanges.
  • “Stretch.”  XCP. Download pdf here.
  • “Halloween” in Dimsum. Download pdf here.
  • “Decoding Augustine via Saussure.” In-Between Journal of Literary Criticism. Download pdf here.
  • “Caterpillar to Butterfly: Thoreau’s dietary journey.” Thoreau Society Bulletin. Read here.
  • “Lorine Niedecker Condens.” Interim. Read here.



Mani Rao is the author of eight poetry books and a translation of the Bhagavad Gita.