Laxmi Prasad Devkota
Laxmi Prasad Devkota
|Minister of Education and Autonomy|
26 July 1957 – 15 May 1958
|Prime Minister||Kunwar Inderjit Singh|
|Born||13 November 1909|
(B.S.1966 Kartik 27)
Dhobidhara, Kathmandu, Nepal
|Died||14 September 1959 (aged 49)|
Aryaghat, Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
|Children||5 daughters and 4 sons|
|Parents||Tilmadhav Devkota (father)|
Amar Rajya Lakshmi Devi (mother)
|Occupation||Poet, Playwright and Scholar|
Laxmi Prasad Devkota was a Nepali poet, playwright, and novelist. Honored with the title of Mahakavi in Nepali literature, he was known as a poet with a golden heart. He is considered to be the greatest and most famous literary figure in Nepal. Some of his popular works include the best selling Muna Madan, along with Sulochana, Kunjini, Bhikhari, and Shakuntala.
Devkota was born on the night of Lakshmi Puja on 13 November 1909 (B.S.1966 Kartik 27) to father Teel Madhav Devkota and mother Amar Rajya Lakshmi Devi in Dhobidhara, Kathmandu. His father was a Sanskrit scholar, so he attained his basic education under the custodianship of his father. He started his formal education at Durbar High School, where he studied both Sanskrit grammar and English. After finishing his matriculation exams from Patna at the age of 17, he pursued Bachelor of Arts along with Bachelor of Laws at Tri-Chandra College and graduated from Patna University as a private examinee. His desire of completing his master's degree was left incomplete due to his family's financial conditions.
Only after a decade from his graduation as a lawyer, he started working in Nepal Bhasaanuwad Parishad (Publication Censor Board), where he met famous playwright Balkrishna Sama. At the same time, he also worked as a lecturer at Tri-Chandra College and Padma Kanya College.
Learning and style
Devkota contributed to Nepali literature by starting a modern Nepali language romantic movement in the country. He was the first writer born in Nepal to begin writing epic poems in Nepali literature. Nepali poetry soared to new heights with Devkota's innovative use of the language.
Departing from the Sanskrit tradition that dominated the Nepali literary scene at the time, and being inspired from the Newar language ballad song Ji Waya La Lachhi Maduni, he wrote Muna Madan (Nepali: मुनामदन) (1930), a long narrative poem in a popular Jhyaure bhaka (Nepali: झ्याउरे भाका) folk tune. Muna Madan is undoubtedly the best-selling book in the history of Nepali literature. The 2003 film Muna Madan, which was Nepal's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 76th Academy Awards, was based on this poem. The work received immediate recognition from the Ranas—the country's rulers at the time. Muna Madan tells the story of Madan, a travelling merchant, who departs to Tibet in a bid to earn some money leaving behind his wife, Muna. 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 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 had heard this song from locals singing it at a local Pati (Nepali: पाटी or फ़ल्चा). He was highly fascinated by the song and decided to re-write it in Nepali language. Since the Rana rulers had put a ban on the Newa trade, language and literature, he changed the main character from a Newa merchant as in the original song to a Kshatriya (warrior class) character. Although Kshatriya people did not practice trade for their living during those days, he had to depict it as such in order to lure 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
The son of a Kshatriya touches your feet not with hatred but with love.
Devkota, inspired by his five-month stay in a mental asylum in 1939, wrote a free-verse poem Pagal (Nepali: पागल, lit. 'The Lunatic'). The poem deals with his usual mental ability and is considered one of the best Nepali language poems.
"जरुर साथी म पागल !
Surely, my friend, I am mad,
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 (Nepali: महाकाव्य) 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, Kālidāsa's romantic comedy of earthly love with a symbolic structure that points to redemption through the coinciding of sensual and sacred love."
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 (Nepali: भिखारी, lit. '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
Fallen from the blackest clouds
Many of his poems focus on mundane elements of the human and the natural world. The titles of his poems like Ban (Nepali: वन, lit. 'The Woods'), Kisaan (Nepali: किसान, lit. 'The Peasant'), Baadal (Nepali: बादल, lit. 'Clouds') shows 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 Ban, 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?
Where are your friends? Who goes 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 and broke the traditional rules of essay writing and embraced a more fluid and colloquial style which had more clarity in meaning, expressive in feelings and eloquent in terms of language. His essays are generally satirical in tone and are characterized by their trenchant humour and ruthless criticism of the modernizing influences from the West on Nepali society. An essay titled Bhaladmi (Nepali: भलादमी, lit. 'Gentleman') or 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 Ke Nepal Sano Cha? (Nepali: के नेपाल सानो छ?, lit. 'Is Nepal is 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 an essays book entitled Laxmi Nibhandha Sanghraha (Nepali: लक्ष्मी निबन्धसङ्ग्रह).
Laxmi Prasad Devkota was not active within any well-established political party but his poetry consistently embodied an attitude of rebellion against the oppressive Rana dynasty. During his self-exile in Varanasi, he started working as an editor of Yugvani newspaper of the Nepali Congress, leading to confiscation of all his property in Nepal by the Rana Government. After the introduction of democracy through Revolution of 1951, Devkota was appointed member of the Nepal Salahkar Samiti (Nepali: नेपाल सलाहकार समिति, lit. 'Nepal Advisory Committee') 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.
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 Ranchi, India, for five months. With financial debts later in his life and being unable to finance the weddings and dowries of his daughters, he is once reported to have said to his wife, "Tonight let's abandon the children to the care of society and youth and renounce this world at bedtime and take potassium cyanide or morphine or something like that [sic]."
Later years and death
Laxmi Prasad Devkota was a chain smoker throughout his life. After a long battle with cancer, Devkota died on 14 September 1959, at Aryaghat, along the banks of Bagmati river in Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu.
|Title||Year of first
|First edition publisher
(Kathmandu, unless otherwise stated)
|Bana Kusum (बनकुसुम)||Epic|
|Maharana Pratap (महाराणा प्रताप)||Epic|
|Prithvi Raj Chauhan (पृथ्वीराज चौहान)||Epic|
Poetry / short novels / essays / novel
|Title||Year of first
|First edition publisher
(Kathmandu, unless otherwise stated)
|Like Strength (बल जस्तो)||Poetry|
|The Beggar - Poetry Collection (भिखारी - कवितासंग्रह)||Poetry|
|Gaine's Song (गाइने गीत)||Poetry|
|Butterfly - Children's Poetry Collection (पुतली - बालकवितासंग्रह )||Poetry|
|Golden Morning - Children's Poem (सुनको बिहान - बालकविता)||Poetry|
|Farmer - Musical Play (कृषिवाला - गीतिनाटक)||Verse Drama|
|Meeting of Dushyant and Shakantula (दुष्यन्त-शकुन्तला भेट)||Short Epic|
|Muna Madan (मुनामदन)||Short Epic|
|Duel between Raavan and Jatayu (रावण-जटायु युद्ध)||Short Epic|
|Kunjini (कुञ्जिनी)||Short Epic|
|Luni (लुनी)||Short Epic|
|Prince Prabhakar (राजकुमार प्रभाकर)||Short Epic|
|Kidnapping of Sita (सीताहरण)||Short Epic|
|Mahendu (म्हेन्दु)||Short Epic|
|Laxmi Essay Collection (लक्ष्मी निबन्धसङ्ग्रह)||Essay|
|The Sleeping Porter (सोता हुआ कुली)||Poetry|
- "Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota, the most famous writer in Nepal".
- "Our Echoes: Laxmi Prasad Devkota".
- MICHAEL HUTT (7 March 2018). "A voice from the past speaking to the present". Kathmandu: The Record Nepal. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
- "The great poet (Laxmi Prasad Devkota)". Kathmandu: Boss Nepal. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
- Muna Archived 6 December 2013 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 Saraswati(goddess of knowledge and education).
- http://www.weallnepali.com/sahitya-sumana/laxmi-prasad-devkota-laksmi-prasada-devakota Muna Archived 6 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- "Gorkhapatra". Archived from the original on 6 December 2013.
- Rubin, David (translator). Nepali Visions, Nepali Dreams: The Poetry of Laxmi Prasad Devkota. Columbia University Press, 1980, p. 40.
- Pande, N. Mahakavi Devkota, p. 30.
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