1 Mooguktilar

Essay Of Laxmi Prasad Devkota In Nepali Language Quotes

Mahakavi महाकवि
Laxmi Prasad Devkota
लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा

Laxmi Prasad Devkota

Minister of Nepal for Education and Swayat Shasan
In office
26 July 1957 – 15 May 1958
Personal details
Born12 November 1909
Dhobidhara, Kathmandu, Nepal
Died14 September 1959 (aged 50)
Kathmandu, Nepal
Nationality   Nepal
Spouse(s)Mandevi Chalise
Children

5

and 4 Sons
OccupationPoet, Playwright and Scholar

Laxmi Prasad Devkota (Nepali: लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा, 12 November 1909 – 14 September 1959) was a Nepalipoet, playwright, and novelist. Honoured with the title of Maha Kavi (literal translation: 'Great Poet') in Nepali literature,and is known as the poet with the golden heart. Devkota is by and large regarded as the greatest poet in the history of Nepal and Nepali language. Some of his popular works include Muna Madan, Kunjini, and Sakuntala.

Life[edit]

Early life[edit]

Devkota was born on the night of Lakshmi Pooja on 12 November 1909 (1966 Kartik 27 BS) to father Teel Madhav Devkota and mother Amar Rajyalakshmi Devi in Thatunati (now Dhobidhara), Kathmandu.[1] He started his education at Durbar High School in Kathmandu, where he studied both in Sanskrit grammar and English. After finishing his Matriculation exams from Patna at the age of 17, Devkota pursued the Bachelor of Arts along with the Bachelor of Laws at Tri Chandra College and graduated from Patna University as a private examinee.[2][3] Only after a decade from his graduation as a lawyer did he finally started working in Nepal Bhasanuwad Parishad (Publication Censor board), where he met famous Playwright of Nepal Balkrishna Sama. At the same time, he worked as a lecturer at Tri-Chandra College and Padma Kanya College.

Health[edit]

In the late 1930s, Devkota suffered from nervous breakdowns, probably due to the death of his mother, father, and his two-month old daughter. Eventually, in 1939, he was admitted to the Mental Asylum of Rachi, India, for five months. Going into debt later in life to finance his daughters' dowries and weddings, he is reported to have said to his wife, "Tonight let's abandon the children to the care of society, and youth and I renounce this world at bedtime and take potassium cyanide or morphine or something like that."[4]

Later years and death[edit]

Laxmi Prasad Devkota was a chain smoker throughout his life. After a long battle with cancer, Devkota died on September 14, 1959, at the ghat of Bagmati River in Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu.

Family[edit]

Laxmi Prasad's son, Padma Devkota, is also a poet and writer, and served for many years as a professor at the English Department, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.

Work and Style[edit]

Devkota contributed to Nepali literature by starting a modern Nepali language romantic movement in the country. Born in Nepal, he was the first to begin writing epic poems in Nepali literature. Nepali poetry soared to new heights with Devkota's innovative use of language.

Departing from the Sanskrit tradition that dominated the Nepali literary scene at the time, being inspired from the Newar language (original Nepali language) ballad song Ji Waya La Lachhi Maduni, he wrote Muna Madan (1930), a long narrative poem in popular jhyaure bhaka folk tune. Muna Madan is undoubtedly the most sold book in the history of Nepalese literature. Being pictured as a movie, Muna Madan was able to get selected for the Oscar Award, which also signifies the level of the creation. The work received immediate recognition from the Ranas – the country's rulers at the time. Muna Madan tells the story of Madan—a traveling merchant—who departs from his wife Muna to Tibet in a bid to earn some money. The poem describes the thematic hardships of the journey: the grief of separation, the itching longing, and the torment of death.

The ballad Ji Waya La Lachhi Maduni is a tragic song based on a newa (original inhabitant of Nepal) merchant. There are three persons in the song, the merchant, his mother, and his wife. The merchant is about to leave Kathmandu for Tibet on work. The song starts with the wife pleading with her mother-in-law to stop him, saying that it's not even been a month since she came to their home and he wants to go away. Being raised in Kathmandu, Devkota heard this song from the locals singing it at the local pati (फल्चा in Nepal language). He was highly fascinated by the song, and decided to re-write it in Khas language. Since the Rana rulers had put a ban on the newa trade, language and literature, he changed the newa merchant character from the original song to a Kshatriya (warrior class) character. Although Kshatriya people do not practice trade those days for their living, he had to write in a way that lured the Rana rulers.

The following couplet, which is among the most famous and frequently quoted lines from the epic, celebrates the triumph of humanity and compassion over the hierarchies created by caste in Nepalese culture.

क्षेत्रीको छोरो यो पाउ छुन्छ, घिनले छुँदैन
मानिस ठूलो दिलले हुन्छ जातले हुँदैन ।

A Kshatriya touches your feet not with hatred but with love.
Great is a man with a great heart; not with great caste, creed, or by birth.

Considered his magnum opus, Muna Madan has remained widely popular among the lay readers of Nepali literature.

Laxmi Prasad, inspired by his five-month stay in mental asylum in 1939, wrote free-verse poem Pagal (The Lunatic).The poem deals with his usual mental ability and is considered one of the best Nepali language poems.

जरुर साथी म पागल !
यस्तै छ मेरो हाल ।
म शब्दलाई देख्दछु !
दृश्यलाई सुन्दछु !
बासनालाई संबाद लिन्छु ।
आकाशभन्दा पातालका कुरालाई छुन्छु ।
ती कुरा,
जसको अस्तित्व लोक मान्दैंन
जसको आकार संसार जान्दैन !

Surely, my friend, insane I am
Such is my plight.
I visualize words
but hear the visible.
fragrance I taste
and the ethereal is palpable to me.
The things I touch--
the world denies their existence
nor knows their shape

Devkota had the ability to compose long epics and poems with literary complexity and philosophical density in very short periods of time. He wrote Shakuntala, his first epic poem and also the first "Mahakavya" (epic poem) written in the Nepali language, in a mere three months. Published in 1945, Shakuntala is a voluminous work in 24 cantos based on Kālidāsa's famous Sanskrit play Abhijñānaśākuntalam. Shakuntala demonstrates Devkota's mastery of Sanskrit meter and diction which he incorporated heavily while working primarily in Nepali. According to the late scholar and translator of Devkota, David Rubin, Shakuntala is among his greatest accomplishments. "It is without doubt a remarkable work, a masterpiece of a particular kind, harmonizing various elements of a classical tradition with a modern point of view, a pastoral with a cosmic allegory, Kalidasa's romantic comedy of earthly love with a symbolic structure that points to redemption through the coinciding of sensual and sacred love."[5]

Devkota also published several collections of short lyric poems set in various traditional and non-traditional forms and meters. Most of his poetry shows the influence of English Romantic Poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge. The title poem in the collection "Bhikhari" ("Beggar") is reminiscent of Wordsworth's "The Old Cumberland Beggar". In this poem, Devkota describes the beggar going about his ways in dire poverty and desolation, deprived of human love and material comforts. On the other hand, the beggar is also seen as the source of compassion placed in the core of suffering and destitution. Devkota connects the beggar with the divine as the ultimate fount of kindness and empathy:

कालो बादलबाट खसेको
अन्धकारमा भित्र बसेको,
ईश्वर हो कि भिखरी?
घर, घर, आँगन चारी
बोल्दछ, आर्तध्वनिमा बोल्दछ
करुणामृत दिल भारी ।

Fallen from the black clouds
Living in the darkness
Is he the god or a beggar?
He wanders from house to house
He speaks in tunes suffused with pain
A heart weighed with compassion.

Many of his poems focus on mundane elements of the human and the natural world. The titles of his poems like "Ban वन" ("Woods"), "Kisaan किसान" ("The Peasant"), "Baadal बादल" ("Clouds") show that he sought his poetic inspiration in the commonplace and proximal aspects of the world. What resonates throughout most of his poetry is his profound faith in humanity. For instance, in the poem "Woods," the speaker goes through a series of interrogations, rejecting all forms of comfort and solace that could be offered solely to him as an individual. Instead he embraces his responsibility and concern for his fellow beings. The poem ends with the following quatrain that highlights the speaker's humanistic inclinations:

दोस्त कहाँ छन्? साथ छ को को? घर हो तिम्रो कुन देश?
जान्छौ कुन पुर भवन मुसाफिर, ल्यायौ कुन सन्देश?
दोस्त मेरो शुभ उद्योगी, साथ छ साहस बेश ।
विश्व सबै घर, हृदय-पुरीतिर ल्याउछु सेवा सन्देश ।।

Where are your friends? Who go with you? Which land is your home?
What place do you seek, Traveler? With what news do you roam?"
"My friend is decent diligence. Courage comes with me.
whole world's my home. To heart-land I roam with hues of Humanity"

Besides poetry, Devkota also made significant contributions to the essay genre. He is considered the father of the modern Nepali essay. He defied the conventional form of essays by blatantly breaking the rules of grammar and syntax, and embracing a more fluid and colloquial style. His essays are generally satirical in tone and are characterized by their trenchant humor and ruthless criticism of the modernizing influences from the West on Nepali society. An essay titled भलादमी (Bhaladmi) or "Dignitary" criticizes a decadent trend in Nepali society to respect people based on their outward appearances and outfit rather than their actual inner worth and personality. In another essay titled के नेपाल सानो छ? (Ke Nepal Sano Cha?) "Is Nepal insignificant (small)?", he expresses deeply nationalistic sentiments inveighing against the colonial forces from British India which, he felt, were encroaching all aspects of Nepali culture. His essays are published in the collection Laxmi Nibhandha Sanghraha (लक्ष्मी निबन्धसङ्‌ग्रह).

He was a reallygifted person. He wrote khanda kabya Sakuntala in only three months, in the time he could spare from full time clerical work. His friends challenged him to do so If he could and he did it. So we can say he wrote such a beautiful book in about a week.

Politics[edit]

Laxmi Prasad Devkota was not active in any well-established political party but his poetry consistently embodies an attitude of rebellion against the oppresive Rana dynasty. During his self-exile in Varanasi, he started working as editor of Yugvani newspaper of the Nepali Congress party, leading to confiscation of all his Nepali property by the Rana Government. After Introduction of democracy through Revolution of 1951, Devkota was appointed as a member of Nepal Shalakar Samiti in 1952 by King Tribhuvan. Later in 1957 he was appointed as Minister of Education and Autonomous Governance under the premiership of Kunwar Inderjit Singh.

Publications[edit]

Epics[edit]

Poetry / Short Novels / Essays / Novel[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

  1. ^MunaArchived 2013-12-06 at the Wayback Machine. Being born on the auspicious day of Laxmi pooja(the goddess of wealth), he was regarded as the gift of goddess Laxmi, but in contradiction to it, he became a gift of goddess Saraswati(goddess of knowledge and education) .
  2. ^MunaArchived 2013-12-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^GorkhapatraArchived 2013-12-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^Pande, N. Mahakavi Devkota, p. 30.
  5. ^Rubin, David (translator). Nepali Visions, Nepali Dreams: The Poetry of Laxmiprasad Devkota. Columbia University Press, 1980, p. 40.

Devkota : The Child of Fortune

October 31, 2013 , by Sewa Bhattarai,


Photo: Santosh Raj Pathak

Padma Prasad Devkota was a former teacher of English literature at Tribhuvan University. He is also the only surviving son of Nepal's most beloved poet Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota. For this Laxmi Pooja, which also happens to be the birthday of Mahakavi Devkota, DREAMS team sat down with Padma Prasad Devkota to talk about his memories and assessment of his father. 

Early memories

I remember going to Darjeeling with my father. That was in the year 2011 BS. I pestered my father to buy me a toy airplane. There, my childlike eyes saw for the first time a remote controlled plane, which the shopkeeper flied around the shop. I was fascinated, but since it was too expensive, my father bought me a normal plane and a book of alphabets which was as big as me. We took the plane home, an adventure. Back then, there were only two taxi services in Kathmandu: Laxman Driver and Sitaram Driver. From the airport we took a taxi, Laxman Driver, and my new toys got left behind in it. They lived nearby at Kalikasthan. We went back the very next day to get my toys, and once I got them back, I promptly drowned the airplane in a tub of water.

I remember in Darjeeling we lived at the house of Surya Bikram Gyawali. Since I was very young, I troubled my father a lot. He had literary meetings to attend, and wanted to leave me at home with unknown females. When I protested, he pointed a policeman out to me and said, if you cry, the police will take you away and keep you for the whole day. So I stayed behind.

In the year 2015 BS, my father asked me. “You are a big boy now, don’t you want to go to study?” “Yes, I do” I said, though I did not really understand the question. “I will admit you to a school, will you go?” he asked, “yes” I said, though, again, I did not know what a school was. So he had me admitted to Padmodaya High school, with my permission.

At home, we children were engrossed in our childish games, we did not really ask for our father’s time. But when we wanted to be with him, he never turned us away. We climbed on his back and pulled his hair while he was writing, and he never reacted.  He was always like that, calm and never coming to temper. He was the same at home and outside. His private and public personas were not different. He was what he was, wherever he was. If someone is different in private and public, then we need to understand that there is something wrong.

I have inherited no qualities of my father. I feel that he loved me least of all his children, even though I loved him the most. I may be mistaken though. Two of my elder brothers had died when I was very young. I was the only son my parents had left, and also the youngest child. Maybe that is why my father used to take me around with him often. I remember going to literary conferences with him, and meeting Bhimnidihi Tiwari, Madhav Ghimire, and other contemporary poets. Later, at school, I was more interested in the poems of Madhav Ghimire or Kedarman Vyathit, but not so much in Indra Bahadur Rai’s.  I was biased towards people I knew.

While my father was alive, we took him as a normal father. But after his death, I was traumatized. I was studying at St. Xavier’s in Jawalakhel, and was in grade II or III. Bandhu Prakashan had published my father’s biography, a thin volume with a blue cover. The cover had the famous smiling photo of him. I was a boarder at the school. I took the book with me, and during study hours, I would take it out and put it on the edge. Father Downing used to walk by, checking if the students were reading. I wanted him to notice the book. For many days he did not, but one day he stopped by, picked up the book, and asked. “Is this your father?” When I got the opportunity to say yes, my heart filled with pride.

Devkota’s writing

Because my father passed away when I was not even ten, I felt like I did not understand him when he was alive. When I grew up, I began reading his works in a bid to understand him better. I found surprising revelations. Many people assume Devkota was a modern poet, or a free verse one. Probably because the poem Paagal is so famous. His other famous work, Muna Madan, adds to his image as a folk writer. But this puts his classical talents at shadow. He was a classical poet, first and foremost. He could write in the most complicated meters and make it sound lyrical. All of his works were imbued with deep philosophy. His writings had the lofty and sublime quality, and a representation of the collective unconscious through mythology, that I find missing in most contemporary literature. I say this though I am no expert of Nepali literature. Writers of today write more for individual identity, while in my father’s age, writers like Bal Krishna Sama, BP Koirala, Guru Prasad Mainali and Lekhnath Paudyal wrote for the nation. There were barely a hundred good Nepali books then. Devkota and his contemporaries wanted to enrich Nepali literature, give readers quality art, and develop a national corpus.

I like all of my father’s creations. I do not have favorites. However, I avoid political poems. Which is perhaps the reason I do not consider Pagal, perhaps his most popular work, to be his finest. Though it is a laudable poem in itself, it is mainly a poem of political rebellion. It is not artistically strong as his other creations. It is too simple. It has easy contrasts, for example, I smell sound, and I hear the inaudible. Anyone can say this. There are instances when even Pagal is poetic: “where the moonlight smiles on iron, and there I see Padmini.” But it is not consistent. I like Jureliko Gaan instead, which is very poetic, I have translated it myself. And when I read the poem Saghan Tamishra Prati (To the dark night), I was so awed by it that I memorized it when i was very young. I still know it by heart. But many would not even understand the title of the poem, because the language is so rich with Sanskrit inputs.

Devkota’s personality

My father was eccentric. You have to understand that to understand his writing. Sometimes he would be so engrossed in writing, he would not come to eat hours after the food was ready. He slept when he wanted, went where he pleased, gambled as he liked. He did not follow the clock. Sometimes he would be gone for days, and sometimes give away prized possessions. And yet, because we saw people come looking for him and respect him, we admired him as children.  Naturally, for every child, their father is a hero.

There were many who were enthralled by his personality. He was multitalented: a polyglot who spoke Nepali, Hindi, Tamang, Sanskrit, Newari, and a few other languages. He could compose effortlessly in all of those. He was a master of literature, mythology, folklore, and philosophy.  He often experimented with language. Coleridge had said in his introduction to lyrical ballads that he wants to express the ordinary in extra ordinary ways. Devkota has done the same, writing even about sisnu and dust with symbols and metaphors. Not everyone can do that. When he spoke, he could mesmerize the audience with the fluency of his speech and power of his arguments. His ideas were lofty, his poems sublime. No wonder, he was famous for the entirety of his persona before people could even get to his writings. I see nothing wrong with that. To admire a beautiful lyrical poem, you need not understand the words. The beauty of the meter (chhanda) itself can entrance you. My father was the same.

Devkota’s vision

Many say that Devkota was ahead of his time. But what do they mean by that? Today the debate of whether or not to teach children in their mother tongue has gained wide currency. But Devkota knew even then that limiting yourself to a local language was not the answer. In the poem Rastriya Gaan (which few people have read), Devkota has unified the languages, ethnicities, and castes of Nepal. In an impassioned speech in the parliament, he had rejected the proposal of making Hindi the national language of Nepal.

In a book called Nepali Bhasa, Devkota wrote an essay of the same name, along with some other earliest linguists of Nepal. “If there is a universal language that can communicate to people of the world, we will learn it. But until then, our national language must be Nepali, because regional languages cannot reach out to wider audiences. We must develop regional languages along with the national languages, ignoring national language will come at a huge cost” he had said. Our leaders could just have read a few lines from this essay to make the people understand that the nation is not limited to a region.

After 1951, Devkota went abroad, and realized that while the nation is important, the outside world could not be ignored. His began moving towards an international nationalism, writing about international issues. VS Naipual has written a novel called mimic men, about people who copy imperialists. But Devkota had known about these mimic men long ago. He called themlabarpaande, people who only copied India and did nothing else. Why do we realize that these concepts exist only after foreign writers make theories about them, while we ignore the insights of our own gems? Devkota’s ideas are still relevant today.


Mother Manadevi

My mother Manadevi was used to my father’s eccentricities. She nurtured him and the family out of love. After my father’s death, she was the one who brought the family up, despite struggles. And yet, history has not judged her kindly. Just recently, there was an article in Nepal magazine about her. The writer Basanta Sharma alleged that my mother took my father’s salary from his coat pocket before he had even entered the room, and spent it at the Kunja. The insinuation was that the Mahakavi’s wife frittered away his fortune.

Now, it was well known to the world that my father was eccentric. When he was coming home from work, he could very well have given away money every step of the way, to debtors and to anyone else who asked. He could have given away even his clothes to a beggar. He lived in his own world, did not care how the world ran itself. And my mother was the one who took the brunt of his eccentricity, trying to run a house with what little he could spare from his whimsical activities. Naturally, she wanted to take and keep safely my father’s salary. When he had any left in his pocket, that is.

After 2004 BS, my father was forced to go to Benaras after a fiery political speech. My family was isolated. People knew of my father’s association with the Nepali Congress, and feared to come close. Not even my mother’s maiti visited herWe were still very young. Imagine the burden it placed on a lone, illiterate woman to support her family, when she had no way of getting a job. And one of my brothers had just died. To get away from the pressure of these worldly problems, my mother sometimes went to listen to Bhajans at the Kunja. Wealthy women of her community may well have donated to the Kunja, but my mother had no fortune to fritter. I am pretty sure Basanta Kumar Sharma did not see her do so, he was writing merely on heresy. It is a shame that responsible journalists do not make the effort to check their facts before they make allegations.

Devkota’s legacy

If Devkota had just written the Muna-Madan, he would still be a great poet of Nepal. But he has given us so much more.There may be just as many younger writers influenced by his writing as with his personality. Jagdish Ghimire confessed that when he sits down to write, all he can think of is Devkota’s style, and tore away an entire Khandakavya. Poets like Bairagi Kainla, of the generation that immediately succeeded Devkota’s, told themselves and their contemporaries that their writing must be different from Devkota’s. So in a way, their writing, which consciously moved away from Devkota’s style, was influenced by Devkota as well. But a full study of the impact of his writing is yet to be carried out.

People come to me every year and ask about how many children he had and what his habits were. But I do not think these are important. Yes, there are many facets of Devkota unexplored, but they can all be found in his words. Despite his visionary ideas and his multiple talents, Devkota’s most enduring legacy is that of a poet. A poet’s duty is to change the society through his words, and that’s what he did.

Devkota is like another Himalaya in Nepal. We know he exists, we praise him, but we never really understand him. Instead of introducing him as an object, we need to focus on his vision. Every Laxmi Pooja, I am happy that Nepalis everywhere celebrate him. But I plan to stay at home and avoid the hullaballoo myself. Journalists come once a year, and ask me how many siblings I had, they don’t ask about Devkota. When I say anything about Devkota, they misquote me. And if they can, they criticize me for hindering the conservation of Devkota’s house. Why would I hinder it? It is easy to criticize, but the reality is that people just want to take credit for doing the work, but no one really wants to work. I am always concerned about preserving my father’s legacy through the Devkota Study and Research Center. We are a small organization, voluntarily run, and not given much to publicity, but if you want to learn about Devkota, you are always welcome there. 

****

Text by: Sewa Bhattarai in conversation with Padma Devkota (Laxmi Pd. Devkota’s son)
Photographer: Santosh Raj Pathak
Historical (B/W) Image Source: Documentary on Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota by Yadav Kharel


Tags: Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Padma Devkota

Categorised in: Features

Leave a Comment

(0 Comments)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *