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There was a huge debate recently on allowing pure translation questions as on-topic.

What is the description of Radha's birth from Garga Samhita?

English translation of Madhva Bhashya on Mandukya Upanishad

The first question was originally a translation question which asked for translation some 20 shlokas into English. This is a translation question. No interpretation asked, no analysis asked. It is just conversion to English because there is no translation is available no where on the internet.

So, users (including me) closed the question as off-topic because we have a policy of closing Sanskrit language and grammar questions as off-topic.

One may ask that this is only about Sanskrit questions and the work which is asked is a Hindu scripture about Krishna. Let us see what the answer which we follow as policy.

Reason why I prefer keeping Sloka / Mantra related questions as ON topic is because most of our scriptures are written in Sanskrit and am sure, many of the users do not know Sanskrit. If the post is asking to translate a verse, it's OFF-topic, but if a person is trying to understand the reason, meaning behind that verse, should be considered ON-topic.

The bold portion here says if the OP is asking question to translate a verse, it is considered as off-topic. So, the closure was fine. But later reopen votes were cast on the question saying translation questions are on-topic for the site. A user commented

If no one has translated a particular verse from Vishnu Sahasranama yet then this site is the right place to look for it.

But the faq says otherwise. Before the quoted passage in the answer, the answer was considering Hindu scriptures and mantras too. So, it is clear from the answer that verse translation questions are off-topic for the site. To clear the confusion, there is a foot note in the same answer.

Note: Please do not get confused between "meaning" and "translation". "Meaning" - is what that verse trying to explain. While "translation" - is converting a sentence to English.

It is clear that these two questions are translation questions which are asking for conversion of Sanskrit to English. According to , they are off-topic.

I think It would be interesting to note that the second question was closed by moderator as off-topic and reopened by moderator as on-topic but no policy changes were made. Why was same question closed and reopened by moderator without any change? Only change he made was adding a sentence in the end saying "Is there a translation available". The OP asked for translation only and not location but moderator added "Is there an English translation available" and added back which was removed.

The same user also changed the excerpt of the adding translation of hymns, shlokas into scope of the tag.

For questions where the asker seeks translations of a particular Hindu scripture or other related works (e.g., commentaries), hymns and shlokas (verses). Please also tag your question with the scripture/work whose translations you are looking for.

I removed it because I couldn't find any support from meta or help center.

What is the basis for reopening the questions allowing translation of verses into English? If there is a change, is it discussed on meta?

As far as I can remember, we followed the same policy of closing translation questions into English as off-topic till date. We have offered help in questions which ask for meaning (i.e., interpretation and analysis of what the verse is trying to say). When did the change in policy occur?

(If you say it is not stated in the help center that Sanskrit questions and grammar are off-topic, I am not the one should answer that. Only moderators can edit on-topic page. I asked for update of off-topic pages a few months ago. It is still pending. Update the help center page with all off-topic reasons and other changes)

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This is what I feel regarding the issue of the scope of questions asking for translations.

  • For the questions which are looking for a resource to get the translation of a Hindu text in particular language. e.g Is the complete English translation of the Padma Purana available online?, Where can I find Manu Smriti with Sanskrit & Hindi translation? etc. This type of questions are on-topic.

  • Question asking for translation of specific verse(s).

    1. If it's just a random (non scriptural) Sanskrit verse then it's off-topic since we're neither a site about Sanskrit language nor would provide translation service.
    2. Questions asking for translation of scriptural verse(s): There can be two purposes for asking the translations: 2.1 To know the meaning (f)or understanding subject-matter 2.2 To translate verse solely for the purpose of translating.

2.1 : When someone is seeking for the explanation to the Sanskrit verse for understanding subject-matter, we should allow such question but the question should be proper, specific and clear as explained below.

Expected mode of question: Question should explain what particular issue OP is dealing with e.g. user has been studying the attributes of Brahman and he found one scriptural verse which talks about qualities of Brahman but s/he is facing difficulty in understanding the meaning of verse. Then the question should mention details about what point or scripture OP is studying and what particular point s/he want explanation about from the scriptural verse. Otherwise the question just asking for the translation of verse without mentioning any specific issue should be avoided.

How it can be useful or worthy question: It can be possible that the scriptural verse is not translated into English (and OP tried to translate by self or managed to get translation from other but in any case s/he want further explanation or meaning to understand the subject-mater) but it's translated in other Indian language, then one can look at that another translation and can explain the specific issue (i.e qualities of Brahman) in the answer. For example as discussed in this question, Swaminarayana commentary on Brahma Sutra are not translated in English but it's available in Sanskrit and Gujarati. Now, if (OP) Keshav Srinivasan got/found one bhashya text in Sanskrit which is mentioned to be discussing about qualities of Brahman and if he ask question wanting the explanation to that text, I can answer the question since I've Gujarati meaning of it. So, this can help users in knowing meaning or understanding the subject-matter.

But if one posts a question just about asking for English translation of scriptural verse or translating a scriptural verse into English without describing the issue, the question should be discouraged by downvoting or can be closed as off-topic considering our site is not a place to make verses translated. This is very similar to the purpose mentioned as 2.2 i.e if some one ask can you translate this scriptural verse for me. Since we are not a site providing translation service, such a question can be closed as off-topic.

Justification to why questions mentioned here are re-opened:

  • If you read the very first version of question, it was purely asking for Sanskrit translation of verse without any subject-matter or without describing the issue/problem. As I've addressed in case 2.2, questions asking for translation of verses solely for the transnational purpose without any subject-matter or without describing the issue/problem at all are off-topic since we are not a site providing translation service. Here OP should either describe the issue or should ask whether English translation of particular scripture is available or not. So, We have corrected/fixed it accordingly and since questions looking for source to find translation of scripture is on-topic, it has re-opened.
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    I asked other questions too. Is there a change in policy regarding closure of translation questions? If yes, it is discussed before? Why did you close the questions and reopen again? Why did you change the question while reopening the question without OP's intent? About your answer, translation in any form should be off-topic. If a translation is present in Hindi and OP asks about translation in English, we are again doing a job of translator by translating and copy pasting Hindi to English. Nothing done on our side. – Sarvabhouma Jun 28 '19 at 8:17
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    2.1 is already on-topic as said by faq. But the question should not ask for translation. It should mention what should be explain. If they give random 20 shlokas like I gave example in the question and say they are trying to understand some topic, even it is off-topic because it is also a translation. If we are answering something by copy pasting another translator, we are just producing other site content. We need to have own content and explanation in own words. In any case, these questions do not look beneficial to the community. Translation in any form should be off-topic like before. – Sarvabhouma Jun 28 '19 at 8:33
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    Another thing is translation-request and resource. Former tag is only used for asking a location of work where it is found. But it gives an impression that translation of works or verses is on-topic for the site. I think they should be merged. You yourselves added that tag for a question I linked in the question whereas it is not actually for translation questions. Can you reply about that changing intent question (translation of Madhva Bhashya)? . – Sarvabhouma Jun 28 '19 at 8:38
  • In the example you gave (Keshav's), are you ready to explain full book in English by reading it in Gujarati or Sanskrit? – Krishna Shweta Jun 28 '19 at 9:39
  • I posted question. This is called asking for explanation or meaning. And not just writing a verse and asking for meaning without including how much OP has understood. – Krishna Shweta Jun 28 '19 at 9:44
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    The OP didn't ask anything except translation. You have added that he wants identification question. Both are different questions. There is no need to hange question against OP's intent to make off-topic to on-topic. For OP's intent, check his comments under answer. He agreed with me to keep the question as translation only and hadn't changed my version of edit. You edited your own question. Moreover, what prompted to add a new question after months? That's another matter. Your 2.2 is no different from existing policy of translation. What's new in this answer? – Sarvabhouma Jul 15 '19 at 7:26
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    According to your same justification, adding a source in front of Sanskrit translation irrespective of OP's intent is okay? How can we close a question as off-topic if a phrase "where is the translation of these verses present?". And the answers? We will just copy paste from other translation present? How will this help the site if we are copy pasting only? – Sarvabhouma Jul 15 '19 at 7:38
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    You still miss some questions. You haven't shown a meta or help center which say we translate verses. You didn't answer about tag excerpt edit and its support from scope. You have given a reason for reopening. But you are the same mod who closed the question as well. What was the justification for closing if translation is off-topic at that time? There is no 2..1, 2.2 etc., What we followed is the policy which I quoted above and it's faq. – Sarvabhouma Jul 16 '19 at 5:18
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AFAIK, there's no change in policy. Your confusion probably arises from a lack of proper understanding of the current policy.

Asking for a translation of a Sanskrit verse from Hindu scripture especially one directly related to religion is perfectly valid for the site. There are two ways to answer such a question:

  1. Find an English (or local language) translation, quote the meaning, explain the context, etc.

  2. If there's no translation available and you are an expert in Sanskrit-to-English translation you can supply an original meaning.

The first should be the preferred way of answering because you are directly quoting an expert, so, it's less subject to personal opinion/interpretation.

And there's no harm in allowing the second type of answers. Because, even when English translations are available for certain scriptures, we have some users that provide alternate translations/interpretations using a Sanskrit-to-English dictionary. We have always allowed answers of this type and should continue doing so.


The title of the meta post you linked reads:

Should we close questions related to Sanskrit language and grammar as off-topic?

The two questions which form the basis of that post are:

  1. Representation of number 0-9 in Sanskrit shloka
  2. Correct gender version of Sanskrit name तेजस्वी or tejasvī

Neither of these two questions are directly related to the Hindu religion so it made sense to disallow such questions going forward. Also, only those portions of a highly upvoted meta answer that fit the context of the question should be used towards policy. So the following line taken from this accepted answer shouldn't be used at all towards policy. It should be ignored.

If the post is asking to translate a verse, it's OFF-topic

Also, as this Meta.SE post explains, not every highly voted answer on meta becomes policy. It's a judgement call.

The two questions (What is the description of Radha's birth from Garga Samhita? and English translation of Madhva Bhashya on Mandukya Upanishad) you cite in your post are very different from the two questions linked above. Both these questions contain Sanskrit verses directly taken from Hindu scripture/commentary and user is seeking English translation of the same. So these are not "pure Sanskrit" questions.

Let's look at one of them in its original form before it was heavily edited and some of the original context lost:

English translation of shlokas describing Radha's birth


Consider the following shlokas from Chapter 8: Description of Shri Radhika's Birth, Canto 1, of Garga Samhita. I didn't find the translation of the following twenty shlokas anywhere over the internet.

What are the English translations for the following shlokas?

Text 10

prenkhe khacid-ratna-mayukha-purne suvarna-yukte krita-candanange andolita sa vavridhe sakhi-janair dine dine candra-kaleva bhabhih

Text 11

yad-darshanam deva-varaih su-durlabham yajnair na vaptam jana-janma-koöibhih sa-vigraham tam vrishabhanu-mandire lalanti loka lalana-pralalanaih

Text 12

shri-rasa-rangasya vikasha-candrika dipavalir ya vrishabhanu-mandire goloka-cuda-mani-kanöha-bhushanam dhyatva param tam bhuvi paryaöamy-aham

...

Text 29

sambandham yojayam asa nanda-rajo maha-matih tayosh ca jati-smarayor icchator icchaya dvayoh

Text 30

vrishabhanoh kalavatya akhyanam shrinute narah sarva-papa-vinirmuktah krishna-sayujyam apnuyat

This is a good example of a user simply wanting the translation of a portion of a scripture for which English translation is missing. As I explained above, to answer this, one simply needs to find a complete translation of Garga Samhita in English or a local language and quote the meaning of the verses listed. So, this question should be reverted to revision 5 or 7 with the tag added back.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Pandya Jul 27 '19 at 1:30
  • @Pandya what action was taken against my flags and why my same comment here was deleted without any reply? – Krishna Shweta Jul 28 '19 at 8:19

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