The Hanuman Chalisa of Tulsidas is one of the best-loved religious works in verse in India. Its words and music are designed to lift the spirits of those who sing or hear it. Novelist and poet Vikram Seth told BBC India News that he spent a little over ten years translating the hymns into English. Despite the difference in rhyme and metre, he was, he said, intent on retaining the “mesmeric rhythm” of the Hanuman Chalisa in English.

Seth dedicated the book to the character of Bhaskar from his iconic novel A Suitable Boy, who memorised the work as a young child, and later, as an adult, protested against the “chauvinism” and “intolerance” to which many religious texts have been put. Seth said he hopes that the Hanuman Chalisa will continue to “spread joy” and “expand the imagination” of its readers.

The bilingual edition has the original verses in Devanagari and Roman script alongside the English translations. The title calligraphy has also been done by Seth. Published by Speaking Tiger, the book will be released on June 28.