Monday, November 30, 2020

Meeting of two titans: Literary intimacy between Laxmi Prasad Devkota and BP Koirala

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Itahari, 14 November (2020) - Today is Laxmi Pooja for Nepali Hindus observing the four-day-long Tihar festival that began on Friday. The day today is also the 111th birth anniversary of Nepal's Mahakavi (Great Poet) Laxmi Prasad Devkota.

Devkota (1909- 1959) is one of the widely read poets in Nepal. His life is glanced at from multiple angles by millions of eyes. However, there are some interesting parts of Devkota's life that are not yet discussed extensively in the public domain. One of that for example is his connection with his contemporary BP Koirala (1914-1982). 

Laxmi Prasad Devkota and BP Koirala are great figures of Nepal in their own respects. Devkota, a lightweight in democratic politics, is the literary giant of the country. BP Koirala, on the other hand, is a good literary figure with a towering political persona.  Tragically, there are very few discourses about their connectivity in their literary and political activities, mainly in the last stage of the autocratic Rana regime and during the dawn of democracy in Nepal. 

Here are three publicly known direct and indirect connections between Devkota and Koirala. 

Editor of Yugbani, the mouthpiece of Nepali Congress 

Devkota was not a cadre and leader of any political party but he was a strong supporter of the anti-Rana regime activities led by democratic forces. According to Nepal's veteran journalist Bhairab Risal who had interviewed Devkota, Devkota was editor of Yugbani Weekly published from Varanasi, India since 1947 (2004 BS). 

 It is said that the political weekly was a mouthpiece of the Nepali National Congress advocating democracy in Nepal. Devkota volunteered to edit the weekly during his self-exile escaping the predatory eyes of the Rana regime on democratic activist Devkota. Despite Devkota's association in the Nepali National Congress-run weekly, it is not clear whether Devkota and Koirala had an interaction on the issues of the weekly and party activities for the pro-democracy movement in Nepal. 

After the dawn of Democracy, in 1952  King Tribhuwan handpicked Devkota in the Nepal Sallakar Parishad (Nepal Advisory Council) which was like a pseudo parliament.  Nepal's first parliamentary elections were held only in 1959. 

On 26 July 1957, Devkota became Minister of Education and Autonomy during the Premiership of Dr. KI Singh, the leader of the then United Democratic Party. In spite of his close to the four-month-long association in the cabinet let by the United Democratic Party, Devkota was not its dedicated party cadre and leader. 

Tea party with a poetry recital 

There are no instances in the public domain about the poetry recital of Laxmi Prasad Devkota where BP Koirala was in the audience row. Neither do we have any publicly known events where both Devkota and Koirala recited poetry together. Koirala was also an occasional poet and his poems were published at times in various newspapers. 

There was an incredible poetic gathering of these two giant figures of Nepal. It was 24 January 1953 ( 2009 BS Magh 11).  At this gathering to which BP Koirala has called 'tea party', Devkota recited some of his beautiful poems. BP Koirala even praised Devkota's poetic potent. He has described that poetry gathering in his diary of the day. Where he has said, ''Poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota invited me for a tea party. I affectionately tuned into his some of his poems. He was an extraordinary genius. He was an artist to whom any country could be proud of.'' 

This historic tea party together with poetry recital is printed in a book titled 'BP Koiralako Diary 2008 BS to 2013 BS' which loosely translates as 'Diary of BP Koirala 1951-1956'. The book, first printed on Bhadra of 2076 BS (September 2019), is published by Shikha Books of Kathmandu. This dairy is edited by Padam Bahadur Thapa of Bhaktapur. Mahesh Paudyal translated its original version of English into Nepali.  Editor Thapa said the original manuscript of the diary was collected from Nehru Memorial Museum and Library located at Teen Murti Bhawan of India's capital New Delhi in 2006.  

However, on Devkota side, there are no written documents about his impression and intimacy with BP Koirala, said Padma Devkota, the son of poet Devkota. ''There might be some government records about speech as the opposition leader in presence of King Mahendra'', he added. 

State tribute to Devkota during Premiership of BP Koirala 

On 15 September 1959 (2016 BS Bhadra 30), just a day after the demise of Devkota at Pashupati Aryaghat of Kathmandu, then Nepal's first democratically elected Prime Minister BP Koirala addressed the House of Representatives. He said, ''The untimely demise of the luminary of Nepali literature world, great poet Laxmi Prashad Devkota, has caused great loss to the nation.'' PM Koirala even proposed to postpone the parliamentary businesses of both houses.  Two minutes' silence was observed at both houses of Nepal's bicameral parliament.

Even leaders from other political parties like the then main opposition leader Mrigendra Shamsher Rana and the leader of Nepal Communist Party Tulsilal Amatya spoke on Devkota's greatness.  Rana said, ''I do not think he has passed away. He won't die. The man who has stayed at the hearts of 10 million people, can't die and won't die.'' Likewise, Amatya had said, ''The death of Devkota has not only stunned the Nepali literature but also the world literature.'' A book titled Pahilo Sansad  (First parliament) written by Jagat Nepal has briefed this historic sentimental scene of Nepal's first democratically elected parliament. 

Likewise, Nepal said the then Minister of Construction and Communications, Ganeshman Singh had pledged to pay off  Devkota's debts of Rs. 22 thousand and also gave Rs. 3 thousand for performing Hindu last rites of debt-trapped Devkota. According to author Nepal, it was announced by Minister Singh after meeting Devkota in his last stage. This issue was published in Government-run Gorkhapatra on 15 September 1959. (RSS)

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