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Steeped in Indian literature

Julius Reubke, a retired German scientist, has multi-faceted interests. A well-read `Indologist' he has translated the `Bhagavad Gita' though he has not published the manuscript. He is associated with the Waldorf Schools and is now deeply interested in the tribals of India.



SELF TAUGHT SCHOLAR: Julius Reubke

GERMAN INDOLOGISTS from the time of Max Mueller evinced an interest in India. The philological similarities between German and Sanskrit (in fact between the languages spoken by the Indo-European speaking people who migrated to various lands - there are similarities between the Rig Veda and Zend Avestha, the holy book of the Parsis) enthused Indologists to take up studies in the area initially. Although Max Mueller never came to India, he worked on Sanskrit texts in Germany. Later the spiritual tradition of the East attracted the Westerners. Julius Reubke, a German scientist, was attracted to the Bhagavad Gita. He has translated it into German though the manuscript is yet to be published. His association with the Waldorf Schools brings him to India frequently.

Educated in the Waldorf tradition, Reubke grew up on Rudolph Steiner's anthroposophy. This broad instruction gave him an insight into India and he became interested in Indian culture. He started to read about India since the age of 12 but first visited India as a tourist in 1975 and also to see his sister who has married an Indian and has been living in Chennai since 1959. On this trip he visited a number of places of natural and heritage interest. Ever since then he has been visiting India frequently.

An organic chemist by profession who was employed with Bayer, Reubke's first tryst with the Gita began when his father procured a copy in 1966. His interest also stemmed from anthroposophy which is a spiritual science. "I have read most of Steiner's books and lectures," he says. His fascination with the Gita gained ground and he started studying the translations. Not being satisfied with the translations, he began to look at the original text. "It is difficult to understand if one does not know the old language. The ways of expression are unique," he says. So with the aid of dictionaries and other books, he embarked on the study. In fact Aurobindo's work on the Gita also inspired him to take up this study. By spending a few hours every evening for a little more than seven years Reubke finished translating the sacred book. During the course of this work he sought help of Professor Berger, an Indologist.

Was it difficult to reconcile spirituality and science (as he is a scientist)? No. "I found it difficult to understand the translations. Also the interpretations provided by the ISCKON publications had little relevance to the text. So I found it difficult to understand this."

Being a scientist helped him adopt a systematic and methodical approach to study the Gita. Although he has translated it into German, he is yet to publish it. He has circulated it amongst his friends and interested people in Germany. "I have not got it published because I feel I need to work more on it." Any difficulties he encountered while translating? "It is difficult to retain the old essence."

Today the Gita has assumed relevance and more people are looking it as a helpful text and tool. "The sacred revelations have eternal value. It is the source of inspiration and knowledge. There are many ideas which are relevant in today's globalised world," he answers.

There are some divided opinions on the chronology of the scripture. Some feel that different portions of the text are to be dated to different periods. But Reubke endorses the view that the text is one and suggests a date of c. 8th Century B.C. (which may not be acceptable to many).

Reubke is a self-taught scholar in his own right. He has built up a fairly large library of books in various subjects in English, German, French, Sanskrit, Greek and Latin (which he can read fairly well though he admits that Indians may comment at the way he reads) back home. He is also a polyglot. After the Gita he is trying to read the Rig Veda which he finds difficult. He has read Patanjali's Yogasutra and is starting to read the English translations of the Puranas.

Reubke came with some children from Waldorf Schools in Switzerland and Germany to a bio-dynamic cotton farm near Indore seven years ago. Ever since then he comes periodically to this farm and educates farmers and students.

Once he happened to meet Rajagopal who is now organising a people's movement called the Ekta Parishad. "It is not a political party, syndicate, trust or a legal forum but a people's movement supported by NGOs." They were conducting a yatra in Chattisgarh and I went there to participate. "I wanted to learn more about the tribals and I went to the camp along with other people (some foreigners as well). I got an opportunity to interact with different kinds of villagers and hear their problems. I went to the youth camps organised by Rajagopal who motivates people to unite."

"When one reads about tribal cultures we find some are affected by waves of Indo-Aryans. So I want to know more about the tribals." Reubke has met Todas, Kurumbas and Baigas.

Since Reubke is associated with Waldorf School he spent time at Shloka (the Waldorf school in Hyderabad) discussing eurythemy with parents and children.

Reubke's next plan is to perhaps translate the Tirukkural. "I have read the translation. I am trying to learn Tamil." At the moment he is excited as he has found Alberuni's account of India which he hopes to read once he gets back home via Chennai. One hopes to see this man raring to read and translate other books.

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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