BUY from

ISBN: 9780984303618
paperback / $11.95 US
​cover design and layout by Justin Angeles
Read an excerpt of Rao's translation in Exchanges.

The Bhagavad Gita ("Song of God") is a sacred Hindu scripture,considered among the most important texts in the history of literature and philosophy. The Gita comprises roughly seven hundred verses, and is a part of the Mahabharata. The teacher of the Bhagavad Gita is Krishna, who is revered by Hindus as a manifestation of God himself,and is referred to in the poem as Bhagavan, Divine One. 

The content of the Gita is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna that takes place on the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra War. In response to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins, Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince and elaborates on different Yogic and Vedantic philosophies, with examples and analogies.This has led to the Gita often being described as a concise guide to Hindu theology and also as a practical, self-contained guide to life. During the discourse, Krishna reveals His identity as the Supreme Being Himself, blessing Arjuna with an awe-inspiring vision of His divine universal form.

Why a new version? Mani Rao answers this best in her introduction, but here very briefly: because others have focused on the philosophy and the religion, often to the detriment of the poetry, and the poetry is an essential, perhaps the essential, part; to make it a poetic text for today.

"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

This translation has received generous support from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry.


Translated with an introduction by Mani Rao