Literal Translation: “How would a monkey know the taste of ginger?”
Similar English Proverb: “Casting pearls before swine.”
Contextual Use: No matter how useful a gift is, if the recipient does not understand its value, they will not appreciate it. The moral is generally used in daily banter, mostly to mock someone. It may be used, for example, if you prepare a fancy meal for someone, and they feel that it is nothing special.
2. ‘नाच न जाने आँगन टेढ़ा' (Naach na jaane aangan tedha)
Literal Translation: “Not knowing how to dance but calling the courtyard crooked.”
Similar English Proverb: “A bad workman blames his tools.”
Contextual Use: Consider the situation in which a friend does not know how to cook, but rather than admitting his error, he seems to come up with excuses upon excuses for his lack of culinary skills. This proverb would fit this scenario perfectly. The phrase is mostly used when someone criticizes the world for their failings while doing nothing to address them.
3. ‘जितनी चादर हो उतना ही पैर फैलाओ’ (Jitni chadar ho utna hi pair failao)
Literal Translation: “Spread your legs only as far as your sheets will allow."
Similar English Proverb: “Cut your dress according to your cloth.”
Contextual Use: According to this famous and wise proverb, one must limit expenses according to their income. Sometimes, because of peer pressure, we may end up spending a lot more than we should. For example, an individual may be tempted to purchase a luxury vehicle just to demonstrate to friends and neighbors that they are financially successful. However, their income doesn’t justify that expense. A mindset like this will lead to more harm than good in the long run.
4. ‘अब पछताए होत क्या जब चिड़िया चुग गई खेत’ (Ab pachtaye hot kya jab chidiya chug gayi khet)
Literal Translation: “There’s no use repenting when the birds have already damaged the crops in the field.”
Similar English Proverb: “Don't cry over spilled milk.”
Contextual Use: In essence, this means that, because you did not act to prevent a calamity as a result of your laziness, inability, or procrastination, it is no use lamenting now that it has occurred. It's too late to take any action now.
It’s fairly common in India to use this proverb when someone fails to complete their work and later regrets it. In some cases, parents use it to reprimand children when they fail to do well in their exams.
5. ‘साँच को आंच क्या?’ (Saanch ko aanch kya?)
Literal Translation: “Pure gold is unaffected by a flame.”
Similar English Proverb: “Truth fears none.”
Contextual Use: As per this old Hindi proverb, those who are honest and truthful have nothing to fear. If you remain honest, no matter how challenging the odds, you will not fail.
6. ‘सौ सुनार की, एक लोहार की’ (Sau sunaar ki, ek lohaar kii)
Literal Translation: “Hundred blows of a goldsmith, single blow of a blacksmith.”
Similar English Proverb: “Quality over quantity.”
Contextual Use: The proverb means to say that one tactic from a smart man is equal to the hundreds of tactics of an amateur. It states that your adversary may keep trying to pin you down with many little hits, but you can defeat them with one calculating move.
7. ‘दाल में काला’ (Daal men kaala)
Literal Translation: “Something black in the lentil.”
Similar English Proverb: “To smell a rat.”
Contextual Use: This phrase is used when something doesn’t feel normal or right, or when someone is suspicious of foul play. Simply put, the expression is best used when there is something fishy going on.
8. ‘एक हाथ से ताली नहीं बजती’ (Ek haath se taali nahi bajti)
Literal Translation: “A single hand does not clap.”
Similar English Proverb: “It takes two to make a quarrel.”
Contextual Use: An argument can only be started by two or more people. There is no way for one person to entirely blame the other side for the argument.
9. ‘ओखली में सिर दिया तो मूसल से क्या डर?’ (Okhli mein sir diya to musal se kya dar?)
Literal Translation: “If you put your head in a mortar, then why fear the pestle?”
Similar English Proverb: “To cross the Rubicon.”
Contextual Use: Okhli-Musal is Hindi for a mortar and pestle, where mortar is called the okhli, and the pestle is a musal. Like its western counterpart, it is typically used to grind spices or chilies by grinding the spice into fine pieces.
Essentially, the phrase implies that since you have found yourself in a challenging situation, why are you afraid of the obstacles that lie ahead?
10. ‘अंधेर नगरी, चौपट राजा’ (Andher nagari, chaupat raja)
Literal Translation: “An incompetent king will lead his city into darkness.”
Similar English Proverb: “Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned.”
Contextual Use: This line is from an iconic Indian play that evolved into an idiom. The story is about a cruel and worthless king who has little regard for the welfare of his subjects. Ultimately, he falls victim to his own autocracy.
This idiom basically implies that an incompetent ruler or head of state brings darkness or “andhera” to his regime.
11. ‘सौ चूहे खाकर बिल्ली हज को चली’ (Sau chuhe kha kar billi haj ko chali)
Literal Translation: “After killing a hundred mice, the cat goes on a pilgrimage.”
Similar English Proverb: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Contextual Use: The proverb suggests that a person who committed a variety of sins now portrays themselves as innocent or pretends to be righteous. It may also refer to a person who attempts to conceal their shameful acts by presenting themselves as a saint.
12. ‘सावन के अंधे को हरा ही हरा नज़र आता है’ (Sawan ke andhe ko sab hara hi nazar aata hai)
Literal Translation: “One who goes blind in spring sees only greenery all around.”
Similar English Proverb: “All things look yellow to the jaundiced eye.”
Contextual Use: The phrase is used to refer to people who do not see reality, especially when they have lived through prosperous times and are now confronted with dire circumstances. In essence, this saying refers to biases based on prior experience or incomplete information. As if you were wearing pink glasses and seeing the world through them.
“Saavan” means spring in Hindi. In this context, it refers to a situation where a person is stuck in the past “the days of saavan” and is refusing to look at the future and the present.
13. ‘दूध का जला छाछ भी फूंक फूंक कर पीता है’ (Dudh ka jala chaach bhi fuk-fuk kar pita hai)
Literal Translation: “The person who’s burned from milk is scared of buttermilk too.”
Similar English Proverb: “Once bitten twice shy.”
Contextual Use: Buttermilk is a fermented dairy beverage popular in India. People usually drink buttermilk or "chaach" on hot summer days to stay hydrated.
The Hindi proverb suggests that if one has had an unpleasant experience with something, they will be more cautious in the future when performing the same action. For example, a person who nearly drowned while attempting to board a boat will always be afraid of doing so in the future.
14. ‘जल में रहकर मगरमच्छ से बैर नहीं किया जाता’ (Jal main rehkar magarmach se bair nahi kiya jata)
Literal Translation: “Don’t upset a crocodile while sharing the same water.”
Similar English Proverb: “You cannot live in Rome and fight with the Pope.”
Contextual Use: Essentially, this proverb implies that going up against someone stronger and more powerful unnecessarily is not a good idea. The saying has another meaning: that one should not harbor ill feelings towards someone who has provided shelter for them.
15. ‘घर का भेदी लंका ढाए’ (Ghar ka bhedi lanka dhaye)
The burning of the effigy of Ravana on the occasion of Dussehra in India. The festival marks the triumph of light over darkness.
Literal Translation: “The person knowing the secrets of the house can cause the fall of Lanka.”
Similar English Proverb: “A small leak will sink a great ship.”
Contextual Use: The proverb illustrates that a close person that knows your secrets may reveal them to the world and cause significant harm if you have differences with them. Thus, it is imperative that you exercise caution when it comes to disclosing your closely guarded secrets. In the wrong hands, sensitive information can cause irreparable damage.
This proverb refers to a section of the Hindu epic 'Ramayana' in which Vibhishan, the younger brother of Ravana, the King of Lanka, parted ways with him. Vibhishan then joined hands with Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Ultimately, Ravana and his kingdom, Lanka, were destroyed as a result of this event.
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