Jump to content

Mani Rao

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mani Rao (born 28 February 1965) is an Indian poet and independent scholar, writing in English.



Mani Rao has authored twelve poetry collections and three books in translation from Sanskrit including the works of Kalidasa, a translation of the Bhagavad Gita as a poem,[1] and a translation of the tantric hymn Saundarya Lahari, besides an anthropological study of mantra-practice called "Living Mantra: Mantra, Deity and Visionary Experience Today."[2]

Translations of Rao's poems have been published in Kannada, Latin, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, French, German and Kannada. Rao has had poems published in literary journals including Poetry Magazine, Fulcrum, Wasafiri, Meanjin, Washington Square, West Coast Line, Tinfish, and in anthologies including The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008), and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets. (Bloodaxe Books, 2008) [3] She was a visiting fellow at the Iowa International Writing Program in 2005 and 2009,[4] held the 2006 University of Iowa International Programs writer-in-residence K-12 fellowship, and writing residencies at Omi Ledig House in 2018[5] and International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) Canberra in 2019.[6] She was a co-founder of OutLoud, a regular poetry-reading gathering in Hong Kong,[7] and contributed a poetry segment to RTHK Radio 4.[3]

She performed at literary festivals in India including the Jaipur Literature Festival , Bangalore Literature Festival, Hindu Lit for Life and Apeejay Kolkata Literature Festival, and at International literature festivals in Hong Kong, Singapore, Melbourne, Vancouver, Chicago, Canberra and New York PEN World Voices.[8][3]

Rao worked in advertising and television from 1985 to 2004 in Chennai, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Auckland.[3] In Hong Kong, Rao worked for Star (TV) Group Ltd for 9 years, and was the Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Corporate Communications.[9] She spearheaded the 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' marketing campaign (Who Wants to be a Millionaire).[10] She has an MFA from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a PhD in Religious Studies from Duke University.

Select reviews


(On Saundarya Lahari) ‘Mani Rao’s translations have a hard-won simplicity and ripeness. This joyful rendition of an iconic text will offer its share of literary delight, as well as a key to a deeper alchemy. These translations with their ease and lightness of touch will resonate with lovers of poetry as well as travellers on the path of the Divine Feminine."- Arundhathi Subramaniam.[11]

From Listing in The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry, (Eds. Ian Hamilton & Jeremy Noel-Tod. Oxford University Press, 2013. 2nd Edition): "Rao's version of the Bhagavad Gita (Autumn Hill / Penguin, 2010 / 2011) unpacks the original Sanskrit with a range of avant garde techniques—with regards to prosody, diction, mise-en-page and lineation—rendering a new translation of the well-known philosophical text unlike any before it."

“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

"Here is a poet who works by daring – daring herself and the reader – to let go. She works in the dark with wit and knife and punch and paper scissors. She cuts and pastes, leaves gaping holes. Her work is a black masque in which parts of speech change parts, and all have the rightness of electronic rain. In the best poems you hear and feel and watch a current – which straight prose insulates as meaning–go crackling from naked line to line, making the unrepeatable pattern that is momentary sense. It's like watching lightning fork. Mani Rao has a strong bleak voice. It's the voice of the voyager: it discommodes, rattles you, shakes you down. Her poetry is sleepless and unwinking. You go to it for debriefing, for the jolt you expect from good writing. And you go back — or she pursues you. She is the hawker you thought you shook off in the square, she is your mechanic come home to spend the night. Let her in: you’ll live to regret it, but at least you’ll live." – Allan Sealy



Books and Chapbooks

  • Bhagavad Gita: God's Song (HarperCollins, 2023)
  • Saundarya Lahari (HarperCollins, 2022).
  • Love Me in a Hurry/"Bega Preethsu Nanna" bilingual with Kannada translation by Prathibha Nandakumar (Atta Galatta, Bangalore, 2022).
  • Sing to Me (Recent Work Press, 2019).
  • Living Mantra – Mantra, Deity and Visionary Experience Today (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
  • New & Selected Poems (Poetrywala, India, 2014).
  • Echolocation (Math Paper Press, Singapore, 2014). (First publication : Hong Kong: Chameleon Press, 2003)
  • Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader (Aleph Book Co. 2014)
  • Ghostmasters, (Hong Kong: Chameleon Press, 2010)[3]
  • Mani Rao:100 Poems, 1985–2005, (Hong Kong: Chameleon Press, 2006)[3]
  • Salt (Hong Kong: Asia 2000)
  • The Last Beach (Bilingual with Chinese translation. Trans. Huang Chan Lan. Hong Kong: Asia 2000, 1999)
  • Living Shadows (Bilingual with Chinese translation. Trans. Huang Chan Lan. Drawings Mani Rao. Hong Kong: HKADC, 1997)
  • Catapult Season (Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1993)
  • Wing Span (Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1987)



  1. ^ Autumn Hill Books Website Archived 26 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Rao, Mani (2019). Living Mantra: Mantra, Deity, and Visionary Experience Today. Contemporary Anthropology of Religion. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-319-96390-7.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Mani Rao's Official Website". Archived from the original on 19 August 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
  4. ^ "Mani RAO | The International Writing Program". iwp.uiowa.edu. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Past Residents". artomi.org. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Katarina"] ["Slavich" (16 October 2019). "Reaching for the moon: UC's Poetry on the Move Festival draws big names". www.canberra.edu.au. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  7. ^ "Stanza and deliver". South China Morning Post. 8 March 2004. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  8. ^ "PEN World Voices > 2006 Festival Mani Rao". Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
  9. ^ indiantelevision.com (12 April 2004). "Three senior executives exit Star Group".
  10. ^ V. Shankar Nayar Anupama Chopra (30 November 1999). "Kaun Banega Crorepati mesmerises people as STAR TV bets Rs 75 crore on Amitabh Bachchan". India Today. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  11. ^ harperbroadcast (2 September 2022). "HarperCollins is proud to announce Saundarya Laharī, Wave of Beauty,Translated from the Sanskrit by Mani Rao". HarperCollins Publishers India. Retrieved 7 October 2022.