Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nepali Literature Sans Center

Nepali language and script have always been surrounded by controversies. The first literature in Nepali language is considered to be ‘Baaj Parikshya’ written around 1700 BS which is conflicting in itself. Though the historical evidences depict that Nepali language is derived from ‘sinjali’, it was also not in the Nepali form initially; it was in ‘khas’. Its region of birth is Jumla from where it got propagated all over. Research has excavated copperplates and some folk songs of that time, written in 1393 BS. Moreover, Nepali language used to be written in ‘kalaukshyari’ script which afterwards was slowly replaced by Hindi script ‘devanagari’ because of the people who went to Banaras to study. The ‘devanagari’ script which we use today is a progeny of ‘brahmi’ script. Therefore, even if ‘khas’ is accepted to be the mother of Nepali language, some facts indicate that though ‘khas’ exists in history, it didn’t fall into a scriptural group that is proven by the non-scriptural names they used like ‘krachalla’, ‘chapilla’, ‘chap’, etc. Thus, researchers claim Nepali language to be independent of ‘khas’ language.

Current debate

Nevertheless, there are plenty of such arguments regarding Nepali language and presently, another topic that has heated the debate table is about the center of Nepali language. Nepali students who went to Banaras to study then, influenced by Hindi and Sanskrit literature, established the press culture of Nepali literature - many years before and after Bhanubhakta’s ‘Ramayan’, no substitute of Banaras could be seen. Above this, the literary movement initiated by Motiram Bhatta fueled its momentum to a phenomenal extent. Later, because of a more educated class living in Darjelling and Pastor Gangalal Pradhan’s translation of Bible into Nepali followed by activities of ‘SuDhaPa’ slowly shifted the command of Nepali literature to Darjelling. Balkrishna Sama hence could say without hesitation, "What Darjelling thinks today, Nepal thinks it tomorrow" but the end of Rana regime, rapid literacy awareness in Nepal and the dignity of capital city finally transformed Kathmandu as the center of Nepali literature. The era after this transformation gradually increased the number of writers focusing on the centralised system of state governance that established Kathmandu as the only center of Nepali literature and the fertile land for writers in the coming several decades.

Literature from diasporas

But today Nepali literature has crossed the geographical boundary and has established itself as a language spoken and written in almost every continent of the world. If we calculate the number of magazines and books published in Kathmandu in Nepali language, it’s just 10 per cent of what is published around the globe. In this estimate, north-eastern states of India alone cross the count of the overall books and magazines published in Kathmandu. What about the publications in other Asian countries along with Europe, America and Australia? Presently, after Africa joined this bandwagon and because of the excessive use and easy access to Internet, the focal point of Nepali literature has been completely upset.
This interpretation has practically been justified even more after Tribhuwan Univesity, realising the importance of Nepali literature produced by the diasporas, recently decided to start its study incorporating two Nepali novels, one from Hong Kong and the other from United States, into its Masters level curriculum. From the coming academic session, these novels will be studied as the 9th Paper Nepali literature course namely under ‘Diasporic Studies’ in the Humanities and Social Science faculty. All these amendments indicate that Nepali literature is now going beyond borders and the conventional notion of regarding Nepali literature from the diasporas qualitatively low has been defeated, giving rise to a new philosophy that seriously needs to be contemplated in the days to come if we want to understand Nepali literature more sincerely and accurately.

Off the Center

Kathmandu, after reigning for ages, has now no hold over the dominion of Nepali literature. And also the fact that Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal doesn’t necessarily validate that the bridle of Nepali language and literature should also be in its hands because a lot of Nepali language speakers are now living in diasporas. This reality of Nepali literature should be realised properly by the ones ensconced inside this bowl of Kathmandu valley rather than the writers outside.


Milan Raut said...

a wonderful write-up... i didn't know so many facts that you have mentioned and its a matter of real appreciation that TU has started diasporic studies... First Banaras, Darjelling and then Kathmandu and now the centre has no name... really liked the way you have mentioned everything precisely... thank u for the post...

A New Beginning said...

Great post as ever Jayant, got to learn a lot.Thanks!:)

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