In 1772, Warren Hastings, governor-general for Bengal, “issued,” as Davis writes, “his recommendation that the British colonial administration should seek to govern the territories under its control not according to British law but rather according to the laws and customs of the local residents.” (This was what Star Trek would call the Prime Directive.) Anticipating Michel Foucault and Edward Said by two centuries, Hastings argued that translating such texts was a political act: “Every accumulation of knowledge, and especially such as is obtained by social communication with people over whom we exercise a dominion founded on the right of conquest, is useful to the state.”
The British (Protestants) knew that any self-respecting religion had to have One Book; so they asked some educated, Anglophone Calcutta Brahmins, What is your One Book? or indeed, What is your Bible? And the answer was, the Gita. In 1785 Wilkins published his full English translation of the Gita, the first work of classical Sanskrit translated directly into English; he made it sound as biblical as possible, using King Jamesian “thee”s and “thou”s.