Laxmi Prasad Devkota

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Laxmi Prasad Devkota
लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा
Laxmi prasad devkota 2.gif
Laxmi Prasad Devkota
Minister of Nepal for Education and Swayat Shasan
In office
26 July 1957 – 15 May 1958
Personal details
Born 12 November 1909
Dhobidhara, Kathmandu, Nepal
Died 14 September 1959(aged 50)
Kathmandu, Nepal
Nationality    Nepal
Spouse(s) Mandevi Chalise
Children 5 Daughters and 4 Sons
Occupation Poet, Playwright and Scholar

Laxmi Prasad Devkota (Nepali: लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा, 12 November 1909 – 14 September 1959) was a Nepali poet, playwright, and novelist. Honoured with the title of Maha Kavi in Nepali literature, 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 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 you 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.

Work and Style[edit]

Laxmi Prasad Devkota on a Nepalese stamp

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 history of 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 character. Although Kshatriya people do not practice trade those days for their living, he had to write in a way that lures 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 the Nepalese culture.

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 poem.

Devkota had the ability to compose long epics and 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. 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 an 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:

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 his humanistic inclinations:

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).

He was a really God gifted person. He wrote khanda kabya Sakuntala in very less time about three months and that was when he was free during office hours. 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. He was really a blessing of God.

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 Rana dynasty.During his self exile in Varanasi he started working as editor of Yugvani newspaper for Nepali Congress party resulting in confiscation of all his property in Nepal 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 premiership of Kunwar Inderjit Singh.

Publications[edit]

Epics[edit]

Epics of Laxmi Prasad Devkota
Title Year of first
publication
First edition publisher
(Kathmandu, unless otherwise stated)
Notes Ref.
Shakuntal (शाकुन्तल) 1945 Sajha Epic
Sulochana (सुलोचना) Epic
Bana Kusum (बनकुसुम) Epic
Maharana Pratap (महाराणा प्रताप) Epic
Prithvi Raj Chauhan (पृथ्वीराज चौहान) Epic
Prometheus (प्रमीथस) Epic

Poetry / Short Novels / Essays / Novel[edit]

Poetry / Short Novels / Essays of Laxmi Prasad Devkota
Title Year of first
publication
First edition publisher
(Kathmandu, unless otherwise stated)
Notes Ref.
Like Strength (बल जस्तो) Poetry
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
Dhumraketu Short Epic
Laxmi Nibandaha Sangraha - Laxmi Essay Collection (लक्ष्मी निबन्धसङ्‌ग्रह) Essay
Champa (चम्पा) Novel

References[edit]

  1. ^ Muna 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. ^ Muna
  3. ^ Gorkhapatra
  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.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]