My first Hanuman Chalisa is an illustrated translation of the Hanuman Chalisa. The book will make it easier for kids (and adults) to understand, enjoy, and fall in love with this simple prayer. It is translated by Chitwan Mittal and Sarita Saraf, and illustrated by Aparajitha Vaasudev.
We interviewed Chitwan Mittal on why she decided to publish a book on Hanuman Chalisa and what is her vision for her publishing house – AdiDev Press. Below is the transcription of the interview.
As a child, I memorized the Hanuman Chalisa. Instinctively, I would chant a few verses whenever afraid or needed strength. While teaching my own children this powerful prayer, I began to wonder about the meaning of some of the words. It is then that I decided to create a translation that children could read, understand and fall in love with!
What makes this book, My first Hanuman Chalisa, so different?
The Hanuman Chalisa is one of the most-loved prayers in Hinduism. Many children, all over the world, grow up with stories of Hanuman and are taught to recite this prayer, intuitively. Most will instinctively think of a few verses when they are afraid or want to pray for strength and courage. But many do not even understand what the verses mean.
I aspired to make the text of the Hanuman Chalisa, not just something that is memorized but also understood, cherished, and enjoyed by each and every child. Our translation is in simple English with word meanings. The text is constructed for readability, at grade 1-2 level. Each page includes the original text in Awadhi with English transliteration. With this book, we hope for children to fall in love with Hanuman and treasure Tulsidas’s simple prayer.
For our illustrations, we took up the challenge of illustrating Hanuman in a completely original manner. We added elements of magic, fantasy, and pop culture to create unforgettable imagery. It is unlike any other depiction of Hindu gods that have been seen before. The stunning illustrations in this book bring the story behind this prayer to life. And we hope, through the pictures, to take children on a fantastical and wondrous journey, in which Hanuman is not just a god to be revered but a friend to be loved and held close to the heart.
We have also included a QR code on the back cover that enables parents to access a webpage where verses are beautifully sung and word meanings are read aloud.
Is this book primarily targeted at children or anyone who wants to understand the Hanuman Chalisa?
There are many adults all over the world who love and recite this prayer daily. And many who confess to not truly understanding all the words, despite their devotion and daily ritual. This book has been created in a way that people of all ages will enjoy reading it. The exceptional print quality will make this book one that is cherished by the entire family. Parents and grandparents will enjoy reading it with the children and grandchildren and sharing their faith and culture in an exciting and fun way.
Can you please tell us a little about the kind of books that AdiDev Press is publishing?
I started AdiDev Press with a mission to create high-quality picture books for children that would represent South Asian culture and perspectives. My childhood, like most people of my generation, was filled with storybooks of western origin and representative of western culture and ethos. When I was older and studying in Boston and London, I spent all my weekends browsing the children’s section of giant bookstores, as well as at specialty book shops. I longed to connect with my home and culture, to someday stumble upon books with pictures and stories native to South Asia. But, sadly it never happened!
And much later, as a young ex-pat mom living in Singapore, I soon realized that not much had changed and South Asian storybooks were still hard to find. I decided to stop looking and start creating the very books that I always missed –stories that represent South Asian people and culture. And, AdiDev Press came into existence.
We have an exciting line-up of books coming up this year….
We are launching a series on biographies for children called, Learning TO BE. This is an engaging series that introduces young children to important values. The series is based on successful South Asian personalities and their philosophies.
The first 3 titles to be released in February are Kindness with Mahavira, Service with Guru Nanak, Peace with Buddha. These are written by me in collaboration with Sarita Saraf and illustrated by award-winning illustrator, Debasmita Dasgupta.
Currently, the team is working on multiple sets of books for the Learning TO BE series, including Women in Science and Sportswomen, to be published later this year. These books have been written by award-winning poet, Pervin Saket. Each book is being illustrated by a different South Asian illustrator, introducing a diverse range of visual styles to children.
We believe that biographies can be inspiring and uplifting tools. We are committed to developing the series by creating books on artists and change-makers.
We are releasing a Hindi alphabet book called J is for Jalebi, in February 2022. It is a quirky introduction to Hindi alphabets and South Asian food vocabulary. Following this, we have a series of bilingual books (Hindi and English) for early readers (4-8-year-olds), releasing later this year. The titles are: ‘A Pagdi for Sinh’, ‘One Elephant, Two Monkeys’ and ‘Animal Band’. The purpose of this series is to introduce children to vocabulary related to South Asian clothing, musical instruments, and Hindi numbers, in a fun and playful manner. We also have another, must awaited bilingual book, on colours called, Colours with Radha Krishna.
Given the overwhelming response to our book, My First Hanuman Chalisa, we have decided to expand our prayer book series. We will be releasing a small book, which will be an accompaniment to our original Hanuman Chalisa. It is an illustrated translation of the short prayer, Ram Chandra Kripalu Bhajaman.
In addition to these, we have a plethora of other books on South Asian mythology, festivals, and culture under development.
If you could encapsulate the wisdom of the Hanuman Chalisa, what would that be?
Hanuman is the epitome of strength and bravery. We pray to him when we feel fear and want to feel brave instead. I believe that the wisdom of the Hanuman Chalisa lies in believing in our inner strength. When Hanuman was asked to fly across the ocean to find Sita, he too doubted his own capacities. He needed to be reminded of his inner strength, much like we often need a reminder to believe in our inner selves.
So, to me, the essence and wisdom of the Hanuman Chalisa are this:
You are strong and brave. Believe it!
Chitwan Mittal holds a BSc in English Education from Boston University and an MA in Values in Education from the University of London. A published author she has been actively involved in children’s education since 2005, and was an education consultant to the Government of Gujarat. She has recently written and published 6 children’s picture books, encouraging engagement and diversity, value-oriented education and bi-lingual learning with a focus on South Asian culture. She lives between India and Singapore with her husband and two sons, who are her constant source of inspiration. She is the Founder of AdiDev Press, an independent publishing company based in India.