Bhagavad Gita


“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.”–  The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry. 2nd Ed. Edited by Jeremy Noel-Todd ad Ian Hamilton. 

“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.

“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

  • A conversation with Devdutt Pattanaik about the Gita at Bangalore Literary Festival (Dec 2015), see here
  • Download introduction here.
  • Read excerpts, translator’s note, and essay in eXchanges (Winter 2009).
  • Read interview in Full Tilt (March 2011).
  • Print Pick in The Hindu, Dec 12, 2011. For more reviews see Press tab
  • Article in new indian express, ‘Gita is not a decree’ – read here

Indian subcontinent : Fingerprint, 2015. USA/Canada : Autumn Hill Books 2010 (link here). Available from Amazon, Amazon Indiaflipkart, and other online sellers. (Penguin India’s edition of 2010 is now out-of-print).


Poet, translator and scholar based in India, writing in English.