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Lakshmi Prasad Devkota

Mahakavi महाकवि
Laxmi Prasad Devkota
लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा
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Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota
Born12 November 1909
Dhobidhara, KathmanduNepal
Died14 September 1959
Kathmandu, Nepal
OccupationPoet and Scholar
Nationality   Nepali
Lakshmi Prasad Devkota (Nepaliलक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा; born on 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 on the night of Lakshmi Pooja in 1966 BS to father Teel Madhav Devkota and mother Amar Rajyalakshmi Devi in Dillibazar,Kathmandu.
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 caste and culture:
Considered his magnum opus "Muna-Madan" has remained widely popular among the lay readers of Nepali literature.
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:
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).
Laxmi Prasad Devkota is known among us as the Mahakabi or Poet the Great— the title given by the state for his unmatchable contribution to Nepali literature. He deserves that title as he had done so much in this field through his genre of writing that has earned a greatest honour and respect in the heart of Nepali speaking population both at home and abroad.
Devkota was born on the night of Laxmi Puja in 1966 BS from the womb of Amar Rajya Laxmi Devi in Dillibazar, Kathmandu. As he was born at a time when the entire Hindus including his family were worshiping Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, his parents took his birth as the greatest gift of Goddess Laxmi. Accordingly, his name was given Laxmi Prasad. However, he turned out to be the gift of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge.
His father Tilmadhav Devkota was a scholar in Sanskrit language. Laxmi Prasad Devkota attained his basic education at home under the custodianship of his father. He was from a middle-class family and financial status of the family was not very sound. He completed Bachelor’s Degree in liberal arts and law. But his desire to complete Masters’ Degree could not be accomplished in the absence of sound financial position of the family.
Right after graduating from college, he started working as a personal tutor. It is said that he used to teach more than 13 hours a day. He had to do that to support his family. During Devkota’s time, the country had been under Rana’s dictatorial regime. Young Devkota knew the importance of education and he vowed to do something to help educate the masses—the idea was not well received by the then Rana rulers.
Devkota was a brilliant student and did well in school. Right from the early age, he was keen on Nepali literature. At the age of ten, he wrote a poem when he was studying in Drubar High School—the school set up for the education of the ruling Rana children. The ordinary people had to seek special permission to study in this school. Laxmi Prasad Devkota’s father also had to run from pillar and post to ensure admission for his son in the Durbar High School.
Devkota and his friends were keen on generating awareness among the people and educating them. They decided to establish a library to generate public awareness. They had to seek permission from the government even to establish a library during those days. Devkota and his friends, thus, were put behind bars for trying to establish a library. As a result, poet Devkota had to undergo a great suffering. He was later fined and released. Devkota then went to Benaras, India, where he used to sell his poems for his survival. He also worked as an editor of Yugbani magazine in Benaras and gave continuity to his writing.
After he returned to Kathmandu, he wrote Muna Madan—an epic poem based on folk verses. Although, Devkota has written many books including some of his masterpieces, he loved Muna Madan the best. It is said that Devkota, when he was in death bed, had asked his friends and relatives to preserve Muna Madan even if all other works were to be burnt.
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Muna Madan is perhaps the most popular of all works of Devkota. The simplicity of language, folk and lyrical verses and rhythmic expression made this book popular among the all including ordinary folks. Muna Madan’s popularity also made Ranas to appoint Devkota a member of the Nepal Bhasanuwad Parishad. During this period, Devkota wrote the epic, Shakuntala, in three months. It is said that Puskar Shumshere Rana challenged him to write another epic in a period of one month. Accepting the challenge, Devkota wrote another epic Sulochana in ten days. Both Shakuntal and Sulochana are Devkota’s masterpieces. For sometimes, he worked as a lecturer in Trichandra College. He also served as Education Minister of Nepal for three months.
Although Devkota started writing during the Rana period when the free thinking and creative writing used to be discouraged, he broke the traditional and conventional style and introduced a new genre and approach in writing poems and other forms of literature. Devkota is a versatile writer and has written poems, epics, prose, essays, plays and fictions. But he is basically a poet. He was influenced by western poets like William Wordsworth, John Keats and PB Shelley. As a lover of nature and romantic poet, we find Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats in Devkota’s poetic works. The way Devkota’s Charu and Wordsworth’s Lucy Gray appear similar in expression and theme, it is said that Devkota wrote Charu as a dedication to Wordsworth.
What spiritualism is to Lekhnath, nature is to Devkota. The theme of much of his works is nature and human sensitivity, feelings and love. In this way, Devkota is a master in romantic poetic work in Nepali literature. Although the romantic era in writing began during the period of Motiram Bhatta, it was still immature and imperfect. Devkota is the one who both professed and practiced and gave a new dimension to romantic poetic works in Nepal. While Motiram fantasised the romantic style with conservative tone, Devkota unified it with sense and reality. Devkota had a deep passion for nature and has perfectly practiced it through his aesthetic use of nature’s image in his poetic works. He tries to instill beauty and fragrance of nature in his poems through his craft of words and sentences and eloquent expression.
As a path breaker in the Nepali literature in general and poetic works in particular, Devkota is an atheist and a radical egalitarian. He challenged the tradition of attributing everything to God’s willingness. If there is, at all, any God, it is within human being and the best way to attain godliness is to serve the less privileged fellow humans. He has, thus, strongly and explicitly expressed this feeling in his much acclaimed poem "Yatri" (Traveler, or Pilgrim), he has opined that God dwells within a human and not in any temple and has called upon the pilgrims not to wander about in search of God but to go back home and devote to the service of mankind—the downtrodden ones who have undergone sufferings. However, towards the end of his life, he suddenly turned religious, thus, writing " Akhir Shri Krishna Rahechha Eka (After all there is the God – Lord Krishna)
Straightforwardness, lucidity and honesty are some of the characteristics of Devkota’s poetic works. His feelings, sensibility and expressions have been blended perfectly and brilliantly with words and meanings that have created an explosion of thoughts and ideas in his writings. We find spontaneous expression in Devkota’s poems; indeed, he was known for not revising his work and prioritized expression over grammar, meaning his poetry and prose is sometimes less polished.
Humanitarian feelings are well entrenched in many of his poems through which the poet has advocated egalitarian society free from poverty, hunger, class and creed. For him, there is no class other than human being and no creed other than serving to human being. In Muna Madan he has, thus, said "Manisa Thulo Dilale Huncha Jatale Hudaina" (a man attains greatness not by caste but because of his heart or feelings).
Devkota has also written essays, one act plays and plays and novel. Devkota is the first modern essayist in Nepal. Laxmi Nibanda Sangraha (Collection of Laxmi Prasad Devkota’s essays) is the example of the modern essays in Nepali language, which have clarity in meaning, expressive in feelings and eloquent in terms of language. In this, Devkota broke the traditional style of essay writing and popularized the personal and expressive style of essays writing instead of descriptive and narrative approach. The Laxmi Nibanda Sangraha is perhaps the most brilliant book of essays ever produced in Nepali literature.
As a versatile and multi-dimensional writer, Devkota has made contribution in the field of plays, fiction and short stories. Sabitri Satyaban is Devkota’s acclaimed play, which has earned equally high fame for Devkota. Champa is the only fiction Devkota has ever written.
Despite holding some important and high-ranking positions, his financial status was always precarious and he had to struggle to survive. But his difficulties never deterred him from writing.
Recognizing his unprecedented contribution in the field of literature, he was honoured as a life member of the Nepal Academy. Devkota was also conferred with the title of Mahakabi (Poet the Great). He died at the age of 50 due to cancer in 2016 BS. With his demise Nepal lost a brilliant icon of Nepali literature.
Devkota’s contribution to Nepali literature is as follows-
Poetic works: Muna Madan, Raj Kumar Prabhakar, Kunjini, Shakuntal, Sulochana, Basanti, Putali, Bhikhari, Mhendu, Ravana-Jatayu Yuddha, Chhahara, Chilla Patharu, Luni, Mayabini Sashi, Maharana Pratap, Manoranjan, Nabras, Sitaharan, Dushyanta Shakuntala Bhet, Aakash Blochha, Balkusum, Chhayasanga Kura, Katak, Gaine Geet, Sunko Bihan, Bhavana Gangeya, Sundari Jarpini, Aashu, Prathimas, Prithiviraj Chauhan, Maina, Pahadi Pukar, Muthuka Thopa, Laxmi Kabita Sangraha and Laxmi Giti Sangraha.
Essay: Laxmi Nibandha Sangraha
Plays: Sabitri Satyaban, Rajpur Ramani, Basanti, Maina and Krishibala and Bharatmilap.
Laxmi Katha Sangraha (anthology of Devkota’s short stories)
Fiction: Champa
Devkota translated William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth into Nepali
SOURCE: Gorkhapatra