Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mahananda Sapkota: A Messiah Of Nepali Language

Mahananda Sapkota’s role is colossal in Nepali literature. He played an active role in bringing about social change in the mind of people especially in the eastern Nepal through writing and a massive campaign for education. At a time when social and political activities were strictly prohibited, Mahananda showed courage to launch a crusade for education, social reforms and political awareness in Nepal.
Mahananda Sapkota was born on Baisakh 30, 1953 BS in Debanchhap of Ilam to Ramchandra Sapkota and Saraswoti Sapkota. His original name was Yagyanidhi Sapkota and his name was registered as Mahananda when he enrolled in a school in Tejpur of Asom, India.
As there was no school in the village, he learnt basic literacy and number from a local scholar in Ilam but he quit the learning and worked as a cattle herder. In 1964 BS, his mother moved to Asom, India and took Mahananda with her. They settled in Tejpur of Asom where he joined a government school and completed the seventh grade. In 1975 BS, he went to Darjeeling with Dharanidhar Koirala. In Darjeeling, Mahananda continued his study under Dharanidhar’s guidance but didn’t complete matriculation level. From association with Dharanidhar, he learnt about Nepali literature and was inspired to write poems.
Mahananda left Darjeeling and again moved to Asom in 1979 BS. During his stay in Darjeeling, political consciousness had dawned on Mahananda and he got involved in the Indian independence movement. As he was involved in political activities, he had to face harsh treatment from British colonial rulers. But he continued his political activities and worked in different places for survival. In the meantime, he started working as an editor of ‘Gorkha Sansar Weekly’ a mouthpiece of political organization ‘Gorkha League’. In ‘Gorkha Sansar’ a poem ‘Desh Dasa’ ( condition of the country) with his byline was published. In this poem, he briefly mentioned about the political and social condition of Nepal. It was the heyday of Rana family oligarchy in Nepal and he indirectly held Rana rulers responsible for the country’s pitiable condition. He wrote another poem ‘Stri Udbodhan’ (Women’s Awareness) in 1990 being pained by an incident of attack on a woman by a gang of hoodlums.
In 1993, Mahananda Sapkota returned to Nepal with a mission to educate and mobilize the people against the tyrannical political system, feudalism, exploitation and discrimination. Although he was a religious person, he opposed all kinds of discriminations practiced in the name of religion and culture. He was of the belief that social awareness and education were the only way to get rid of all problems existing in the society.
Mahananda was not well educated person. During his time, the opportunity for education in Nepal was limited. So he had to go to India for education and he could not pursue education there, too, because of his personal and family problems. Moreover, he was of unstable nature and he did not concentrate on study. Instead, he liked to move from one place to another that discontinued his study. Whatever knowledge he acquired was by self-study. Mahananda is thus called a self-made person.
As he could not get good opportunity for study, he didn’t want the next generation to suffer. So, he preached the message of education in every corner of eastern Nepal. He established ‘Nepali Language Publicity Association’ in Karphok of Ilam through which he preached the message that only education and knowledge could make a person different and enlightened. As a part of campaign for education, he established schools in different parts of Nepal including Ilam, Dharan, Dhankuta and other places in order to educate more people. He not only established schools but also persuaded people to educate their children. When he established a school in Dharan and started teaching there, Rana rulers took it a big threat to them. The Rana rulers, therefore, ordered the immediate closure of the school.
He was a true patriot and democratic person. He always longed for democracy, pluralism and open society. Influenced and inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, he preached the ideals of democracy and non-violence from Asom to Darjeeling and Nepal. In 1997 BS, the Rana rulers executed four young Nepali revolutionaries and imprisoned several others for their involvement in political activities against the Ranas. This incident deeply shocked and saddened Mahananda Sapkota. Then he left Dharan and went to Chainpur of Sankhuwasabha where he continued his mission of establishing schools and teaching the people about social reforms and democracy. He established a school in Chainpur and taught there for sometimes.
In Dharan, a deadly cholera broke out and several people died of the disease. The dead bodies were seen everywhere but people refused to cremate the bodies of the so-called untouchables. Mahananda Sapkota took initiative to cremate the bodies of the ‘untouchables’. This is a testimony that he was a true reformer and a crusader against discrimination on the ground of caste.
When Krishna Prasad Koirala, father of late BP Koirala, was arrested, Mahananda’s house was raided on the suspicion that he had a link with Koirala. But nothing objectionable was found in his residence and Mahananda was released. By this time, Mahananda had been a popular name among those who had been working against the Rana rulers. He was then invited to Calcutta ( Kolkata) by the Nepali Congress leaders in 2003 and was asked to help the party. Mahananda then started editing the ‘Nepal Pukar’, a mouth organ of the Nepali Congress. Since then, he got directly involved in the activities of the Nepali Congress.
After the political change in 2007 BS that overthrew the Rana family oligarchy and established multi-party democracy, he started keeping away from politics. Had he desired, Mahananda could have got plump positions in the changed context. He refused posts and positions but concentrated solely on development of education, Nepali language and literature. In 2008 BS, he announced that he was completely disassociated with politics.
At that time, there were a few books and reading materials in Nepali language. The schools especially in the Terai areas had prescribed books written in Hindi language. Mahananda then decided to write and prepare text books in Nepal language. This commitment made Mahananda an acclaimed writer.
He was also a journalist as he edited journals like ‘ Gorkha Sansar’ and Nepal Pukar’ for sometimes. He established printing press in Bhadrapur of Jhapa, which is the first printing press in east Nepal. He also started the publication of magazine " Nepal" under his own editorship.
His writing journey began right at his school age. Mahananda once said in his own words that he had started writing in Nepali language when he was studying in grade 8. This was the period when he was in Darjeeling under Dharanidhar Koirala’s guardianship. He considered Dharanidhar as his literary and political guru. The influence of Dharanidhar was visibly seen in Mahananda’s poems which have the messages of political and social awakening.
He is a writer, reformer, researcher and a crusader for the promotion and development of Nepali language and literature. Mahananda produced a total of 24 books that include lyrical poems, masques, poetries, essays, literary criticism, dictionaries, grammar books, research works and books for children. He was influenced by oriental philosophy. He wrote poems in meter and his poems are very apt and clear in meanings. Unlike his predecessors, he did not eulogize the rulers nor did he confine his writing to abstract metaphysical objects and romantic themes. He wrote on social themes clearly projecting and exposing the social reality. His message was to rise for change. The people of eastern Nepal found the spirit of angel for change in Mahananda Sapkota and followed his path during the dark days under the Rana tyranny. The political awareness in the eastern Nepal that finally led to the organized movement for democracy was often attributed to the campaign and crusade launched single-handedly by Mahananda Sapkota. But this contribution has not adequately been mentioned in Nepal’s literary history, which is, in a way, injustice to Mahananda Sapkota. His sacrifice and dedication for social and political cause without any selfish motive were a big inspiration for many people of that time.
He was of the view that unless people were awakened and educated, society cannot prosper. His poems and writings were always aimed at generating awareness on patriotism, reforms and consciousness. The collection of folk songs ‘Man Lahari’ is one of the best works of that time, in which he has given the message that one should not be extravagant by unnecessarily spending on material and physical objects like clothes and ornaments because it not only strips the people of money but also makes their children pauper. He emphasized on the internal beauty of a person. The internal beauty of the person is one’s knowledge and wisdom, which can be attained only through education, free and creative thinking and association with good people.
He had, of course, creative mind and his works reflect that. Some critics call Mahananda Sapkota a researcher, linguist and social worker more than a creative writer. This, too, is an underestimation of his role and contribution. He is a versatile writer, who has contributed to different genres of literature, apart from working for the promotion of Nepali language. His works have contributed a lot in promoting Nepali language, literature and Nepali nationalism. From Ilam to Asom and Darjeeling, he popularized helped popularise Nepali literature. It is this reason why Mahananda’s name is taken with high respect both in Nepal. The messiah of Nepali literature passed away in 2035 BS.

Post by: Sharad Khatiwada


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