Laxmi Prasad Devkota

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Mahakabi
Laxmi Prasad Devkota
लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा
Mahakavi laxmi prasad devkota.jpg
Minister of Education and Autonomy
In office
26 July 1957 – 15 May 1958
MonarchKing Mahendra
Prime MinisterKunwar Inderjit Singh
Personal details
Born(1909-11-13)13 November 1909
Dhobidhara, Kathmandu, Nepal
Died14 September 1959(1959-09-14) (aged 49)
Pashupati Aryaghat
NationalityNepali
Spouse(s)Mandevi Chalise[1]
Children5 daughters and 4 sons[2]
Parent(s)Tilmadhav Devkota (father)
Amar Rajya Lakshmi Devi (mother)
RelativesLok Priya Devi (sister)[2]
OccupationPoet, Playwright and Scholar

Laxmi Prasad Devkota (Nepali: लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा) (1909-1959) was a Nepali poet, playwright, and novelist. Honored with the title of Mahakabi (Nepali: माहाकवि; transl.The great poet) in Nepali literature, he was known as a poet with a golden heart.[3] He is considered to be the greatest and most famous literary figure in Nepal.[4] Some of his popular works include the best-selling Muna Madan, along with Sulochana, Kunjini, Bhikhari, and Shakuntala.[5]

Early life[edit]

Devkota was born on the night of Lakshmi Puja on 13 November 1909 (27 Kartik 1966 BS) to father Teel Madhav Devkota and mother Amar Rajya Lakshmi Devi in Dhobidhara, Kathmandu.[6][7] 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.[8] 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 to complete his master's degree was left incomplete due to his family's financial conditions.[4]

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.[8]

Learning and style[edit]

Devkota contributed to Nepali literature by starting a modern Nepali language romantic movement in the country. He was the second 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.[9] The work received immediate recognition from the Ranasthe country's rulers at the time. Muna Madan tells the story of Madan, a traveling 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 of longing, and the torment of death.[10]

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 a 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.[5]

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.

Considered his magnum opus, Muna Madan has remained widely popular among the lay readers of Nepali literature; it remains the most popular Nepali book since 1936;[11] the book was also translated into Mandarin; it was well received by China and considered successful.[12]

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.[13][14]

Laxmi Prasad Devkota
Laxmi Prasad Devkota

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."[15]

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:

Devkota with poet Madhav Prasad Ghimire
Devkota (right) with poet Madhav Prasad Ghimire

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:

Besides poetry, Devkota also made significant contributions to the essay genre. He is considered the father of modern Nepali essay writing. 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.[16] His essays are published in an essays book entitled Laxmi Nibhandha Sanghraha (Nepali: लक्ष्मी निबन्धसङ्‌ग्रह).[5]

Devkota also translated William Shakespeare's play Hamlet into Nepali.[17] Moreover, he translated his own epic, Shakuntala, into English and wrote several poetry, essays, plays, and epics in English.[18]

Politics[edit]

Commemorative stamp of Devkota
Commemorative stamp of Devkota (1965)

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 the 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.[19][20]

Personal life[edit]

Family[edit]

Devkota'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.[21]

Health[edit]

In the late 1930s, Devkota suffered from nervous breakdowns, probably due to the deaths of his parents and his two-month old daughter. Eventually, in 1939, he was admitted to the Mental Asylum of Ranchi, India, for five months.[20] 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]."[22]

Later years and death[edit]

A photo of Devkota smoking (2013 BS (1956-1957))
A photo of Devkota smoking (2013 BS (1956-1957))

Laxmi Prasad Devkota was a chain smoker throughout his life. After a long battle with cancer, Devkota died on bhadra 2016 B.S, at Pashupati Aryaghat, along the banks of Bagmati river in Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu. Prior to his death, Devkota's income was terminated by the Nepal Academy of Literature and Art because he attended the Afro-Asian Writers' Conference, which was held in modern-day Tashkent, without first seeking permission from them.[19] He also spoke at the ceremony, praising well-known figures for their contributions to Nepali literature, including Bhanubhakta Acharya, Lekhnath Paudyal, Pandit Hemraj, and Somnath Sigdel.[23][24] Devkota claimed in an interview that he hadn't received pay for the previous eight months and that as a result, he had been unable to purchase the medication he needed to treat his disease; moreover, he was struggling to even buy food. Devkota's personality was vibrant and assertive despite the fact that he was battling cancer, but his room was disorganized.[19]

Publications[edit]

Epics[edit]

Epics of Laxmi Prasad Devkota
Title Year of first
publication
First edition publisher
(Kathmandu, unless otherwise stated)
Notes Ref.
Shakuntala 1945 Sajha Epic
Sulochana 2002 Epic
Bana Kusum Epic
Maharana Pratap Epic
Prithviraj Chauhan 1992-1993 Epic
Prometheus 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
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
Pagal (पागल) 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 Essay Collection (लक्ष्मी निबन्धसङ्‌ग्रह) Essay
Champa (चम्पा) Novel
The Sleeping Porter (सोता हुआ कुली) Poetry
The Witch Doctor and Other Essays 2017 Sangri~La Books Essays (English)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shrestha 1981, p. 117.
  2. ^ a b Shrestha 1981, p. 5.
  3. ^ गिरी, अमर (30 October 2019). "देवकोटा र मानवता: कुन मन्दिरमा जान्छौ यात्री ?". Gorkhapatra (in Nepali). Archived from the original on 5 November 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  4. ^ a b Lamsal, Yuba Nath (6 December 2013). "Poet The Great: Laxmi Prasad Devkota". Gorkhapatra. Archived from the original on 25 April 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Hutt, Michael (7 March 2018). "A voice from the past speaking to the present". Kathmandu: The Record Nepal. Archived from the original on 24 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  6. ^ पराजुली, गोपाल (27 July 2022). "महाकवि लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा". Gorkhapatra (in Nepali). Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2022. 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).
  7. ^ Sharma, Kumar (23 October 2014). "Mahakavi Devkota: The legend lives on". The Kathmandu Post. Archived from the original on 28 July 2022. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  8. ^ a b Hutt 1991, p. 40.
  9. ^ Chi, Minnie (23 January 2004). "Nepal's Submission for Best Foreign Language Film (Academy Award)". University of California, Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2 June 2020. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  10. ^ गौतम, प्रभाकर (29 June 2019). "नेवारी गीतिकाव्य 'जि वया ला लछि मदुनी' बाट प्रभावित थियो देवकोटाको मुनामदन". Setopati (in Nepali). Retrieved 27 July 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Acharya, Tulasi (16 April 2022). "The Nepali literary environment". The Kathmandu Post. Archived from the original on 17 April 2022. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  12. ^ Mahat, Sunny (4 January 2019). "'Muna Madan' in Mandarin". The Annapurna Express. Archived from the original on 9 May 2022. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  13. ^ Hutt 1991, pp. 53–56.
  14. ^ Thapa, Manjushree (11 October 2002). "Poetry for a derainged time". Nepali Times. Archived from the original on 15 November 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  15. ^ Devkota 1980, p. 40.
  16. ^ Panta, Pradipna Raj (29 October 2021). "Nepal Through Eyes Of Devkota". The Rising Nepal. Gorkhapatra Corporation. Archived from the original on 20 November 2021. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  17. ^ Trivedi, Chakravarti & Motohashi 2021, p. 102.
  18. ^ Chalise, Vijaya (27 October 2008). "Devkota birth centenary Who cares for this national genius?". The Himalayan Times. Retrieved 31 July 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ a b c रिसाल, भैरव (27 October 2019). "महाकविसँगको त्यो अन्तर्वार्ता". Himal Khabarpatrika (in Nepali). Archived from the original on 24 February 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2022. कुराकानीमा देवकोटाले आठ महीनादेखि हातमा रातो पैसो नपरेकोले ओखती त कता-कता चुल्होमा आगो बल्न पनि मुश्किल भएको वेदना साट्नुभयो । म त्यहाँ डेढ घण्टा जति बसें हुँला । क्यान्सर जस्तो रोगबाट ग्रसित भए पनि महाकविको व्यक्तित्वमा तेज र ओज थियो । तर कोठा भने असरल्ल, सामान भद्रगोल ।
  20. ^ a b उप्रेती, अरुणा (6 September 2020). "दुई किताब : देवकोटाको जीवनशैली, सिकाइ र सहयोग". Online Khabar (in Nepali). Archived from the original on 6 September 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  21. ^ "A Concocted Emotion Is not Poetry: Padma Devkota". The Gorkha Times. 1 February 2022. Retrieved 15 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ Pandey 1959, p. 30.
  23. ^ देवकोटा, लक्ष्मीप्रसाद (14 November 2020). "महाकविको 'इच्छापत्र'". Himal Khabarpatrika (in Nepali). Archived from the original on 6 April 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  24. ^ Chauhan 2009, pp. 99–105.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]