Laxmi Prasad Devkota
|Laxmi Prasad Devkota
लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा (Nepali)
|Born||12 November 1909
|Died||14 September 1959
|Occupation||Poet and Scholar|
Laxmi Prasad Devkota (Nepali: लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा November 12, 1909 – September 14, 1959), was a Nepali poet. Devkota is revered by many as the greatest poet of Nepal, and has been given the title of "Maha Kavi" ("The Great Poet").
Devkota was born into a Brahmin family as the third son of Pandit Til Madhav and Amar Rajya Laxmi Devi. He was born in Dilli Bazar, Kathmandu on the day of Dipawali, the Festival of Lights, which is a celebration of Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. His name literally means a gift "Prasad" from the goddess of wealth "Laxmi". His family was never financially stable.
Devkota studied science at Tri Chandra College in Kathmandu. After completing the intermediate level studies at Tri Chandra College, he enrolled in Humanities and that was when he began to read English poetry. In 1931, Devkota went to Patna on scholarship hoping to study English for his Master’s degree. But because seats were not available as expected, he enrolled for the Bachelor of Law degree instead. After he received the degree, he returned home and started to live the family life. Devkota offered tuition-bearing classes to supplement his earning, sometimes for fourteen hours a day, but his financial problems never left him.
Devkota lost both of his parents and his very young daughter within a span of two years during the mid 1930s. He fell into a depression and became a chain smoker. In 1939, his brothers put him into a mental hospital in Ranchi, India for five months. He makes references to his experience in the lunatic asylum in his famous free-verse poem पागल ("The Lunatic"). After he returned to Nepal, he worked as a part of Nepal Bhasanuwad Parishad, a state organization that acted as a censorship board, and also taught at Tribhuwan University. He wrote several of his epic poetry during this time. In late 40's, dissatisfied with the Rana regime, he went into a self-imposed exile in Benaras, India, where he edited Yugbani, an opposition journal.
After the autocratic Rana regime was overthrown in 1950, he returned to Nepal and helped publish Indreni, a bilingual literary journal. Although he was constantly in severe financial hardships, he was getting wide recognition as an important figure in Nepali literature. He was appointed the Minister of Education by the first democratically elected government of Nepal in 1957. However, in 1958, he was diagnosed with cancer, and a year later, he passed away.
Laxmi Prasad Devkota was primarily a humanist who occasionally wrote from an atheistic point of view too. Given this reality, some critics have tried to line him up with Marxism or other similar politically leftist ideologies. Apparently in one of his last poems to a friend, he said "Aakhir Shree Krishna rahecha eka" (" in the end, Lord Krishna happens to be the only truth"). However, there has been much intellectual skepticism about this last statement.
Devkota contributed to Nepali literature by bringing the Sanskrit tradition to its end and by starting a modern romantic movement in the country. Devkota was the first to begin writing epic poems in Nepali literature. Nepali poetry soared to new heights with Devkota's groundbreaking and innovative use of language. Departing from the Sanskrit tradition that dominated the Nepali literary scene, he wrote Muna Madan (1930), a long narrative poem in popular "jyaure" folk meter. The work received immediate recognition from the Ranas who ruled Nepal at that time. It tells the story of Madan who departs from his wife Muna to Tibet to make money. The poem deals with the themes of the hardships of journey away from home, the grief of separation, longing and death. The following couplet which is among the most famous and most frequently quoted lines from the poem celebrates the triumph of humanity and compassion over any artificial hierarchies created by culture:
क्षेत्रीको छोरो यो पाउ छुन्छ, घिनले छुँदैन
A Kshatriya touches your feet that hatred cannot touch.
Devkota had the ability to compose long epic poems with literary complexity and philosophical density in very short period 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.
Devkota also published several collections of short lyric poems set in various traditional and non-traditional forms and meters. Most of his poetry shows influence of English Romantic Poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge. The title poem in the collection "Bhikhari" ("Beggar") is a 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
Fallen from the black clouds
Many of his poems focus on mundane elements of the human and the natural world. The titles of his poems like "Ban" ("Woods"), "Kisaan" ("The Peasant"), "Baadal" ("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 his humanistic inclinations:
दोस्त कहा छन्? साथ छ को को? घर हो तिम्रो कुन देश?
Who are your friends? Who go with you? Which land is your home?
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 in the 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).
- Shakuntal (शाकुन्तल)
- Sulochana (सुलोचना)
- Bana Kusum (बनकुसुम)
- Maharana Pratap (महाराणा प्रताप)
- Prithvi Raj Chauhan (पृथ्वीराज चौहान)
- Prometheus (प्रमीथस)
Poetry / Short Novels / Essays
- bal jasto (बल जस्तो )
- Kunjini (कुञ्जिनि - खण्डकाव्य)
- Gaine Geet (गाइने गीत)
- Putali (पुतली)
- Krishibala (कृषिवाला - गीतिनाटक)
- Dushyant-Shakantula Bhet (दुष्यन्त-शकुन्तला भेट खण्डकाव्य)
- Munamadan (मुनामदन - ख-Jatayu Youdha (रावण-जटायु युद्ध)
- Luni (लुनि)
- Sun Ko Bihan (सुनको बिहान- बालकविता)
- Raj Kumar Prabhakar (राजकुमार प्रभाकर)
- Sita Haran (सीता हरण)
- Mahendu (म्हेन्दु)
- Laxmi Nibandaha Sangraha (लक्ष्मी निबन्धसङ्ग्रह)
- Poems Of Laxmi Prasad Devkota In Nepali (From Laxmi Kavita Sangraha) Compiled By Sanjaal Corps
- Biography of Devkota at SpinyBabbler.org
- Laxmi Prasad Devkota: Nepal's Greatest Poet
- Maha Kabi: Laxmi Prasad Devkota
- Important Works of Devkota at Online Sahitya
- "Muna Mandan"
- Nepalicollections.com - Voice of Mahakabi