Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota Study and Research Centre
Friday, March 14, 2008 12:16:00 AM
by Bhuwan Thapaliya
|Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1909-1959), lovingly known as Mahakavi or
Great Poet for his great body of powerful poetry and significant writings in Nepali and English, commands great respect in the world of Nepali letters.They say that if his works had been translated into English he might have received the Nobel Prize for literature.
Source: Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota Study and Reseach Centre.
Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1909-1959), lovingly known as Mahakavi or Great Poet for his great body of powerful poetry and significant writings in Nepali and English, commands great respect in the world of Nepali letters. Nearly half a century after he left the literary scene, Devkota’s contributions in diverse genres of literature and many areas of Nepalese social and cultural life remain deeply felt and appreciated. MAHAKAVI LAXMI PRASAD DEVKOTA STUDY AND RESEARCH CENTRE was set up in June 2005 at the initiative of writers, academicians and concerned citizens to honour the memory of Laxmi Prasad Devkota and to promote research and scholarship on his life and works.
The objectives of this Centre are:
- to act as a non-profit organization to preserve Devkota’s physical and intellectual properties by developing Kavi-Kunja, the Devkota Home, and the poet’s birthplace at Dhobidhara as sites of cultural heritage where objects used by the poet are displayed;
- to preserve these objects used by the poet as well as his manuscripts with a view to publishing, translating, and discussing them;
- to promote the study, research and publication of Nepalese literature at home and abroad and to introduce world literature in Nepal through research and academic discussions, thereby promoting Devkota Centre as a study and research organization; and
- to promote and encourage creativity.
To realize these broad objectives, Devkota Centre plans to pursue the following programmes:
• Conserve Mahakavi's home and develop it as a site of cultural tourism,
• promote Nepalese literature, arts and crafts nationally and internationally through wide-ranging means available,
• compile the materials and objects used by the Mahakavi and set up library-cum-museum to display them for public use,
• create necessary infrastructure for the study and research of Mahakavi Devkota and Nepalese literature,
• organize national and international level seminars to conserve and promote Nepalese literature and culture,
• initiate and distribute awards and prizes in the name of creative artists including Mahakavi Devkota,
• publish research articles, monographs,
• set up publication house to print works of Mahakavi Devkota and other writers, and
• initiate other required programmes.
About Laxmi Prasad Devkota.
Source: Various media reports.
Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1909-1959) Born on the festival of the Goddess of wealth "Laxmi Puja" and so named as a present from the Goddess Laxmi, Laxmi Prasad Devkota turned out to be wealthier in knowledge and wisdom rather then in money and riches. His works are filled with the love and belief in human goodness. His numerous poems, classics, essays and dramas are portrayed with feelings of nationalism, romanticism, and his belief in humanity. Laxmi Prasad could write anywhere and everywhere. No other Nepali writer has been able to produce as man poems as Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota. But perhaps his greatest possession was his heart as it said that he would give out all he had to the poor and needy although he himself was not doing very good economically. Laxmi Prasad was even given the post of Minister of Education a year before his death, but he gave this up for his love of the Nepali literature. They say that if his works had been translated into English he might have received the Nobel Prize for literature.
Written by: - Laxmi Prasad Devkota.
Translated by: - David Rubin
David Rubin. Nepali Visions, Nepali Dreams.
1980 Columbia University Press.
Library of Congress catalog: PK2598.D37A27.
Oh yes, friend! I'm crazy-
that's just the way I am.
I see sounds,
I hear sights,
I taste smells,
I touch not heaven but things from the underworld,
things people do not believe exist,
whose shapes the world does not suspect.
Stones I see as flowers
lying water-smoothed by the water's edge,
rocks of tender forms
in the moonlight
when the heavenly sorceress smiles at me,
putting out leaves, softening, glistening,
throbbing, they rise up like mute maniacs,
like flowers, a kind of moon-bird's flowers.
I talk to them the way they talk to me,
a language, friend,
that can't be written or printed or spoken,
can't be understood, can't be heard.
Their language comes in ripples to the moonlit Ganges banks,
ripple by ripple-
oh yes, friend! I'm crazy-
that's just the way I am.
You're clever, quick with words,
your exact equations are right forever and ever.
But in my arithmetic, take one from one-
and there's still one left.
You get along with five senses,
I with a sixth.
You have a brain, friend,
I have a heart.
A rose is just a rose to you-
to me it's Helen and Padmini.
You are forceful prose
I liquid verse.
When you freeze I melt,
When you're clear I get muddled
and then it works the other way around.
Your world is solid,
yours coarse, mine subtle.
You think a stone reality;
harsh cruelty is real for you.
I try to catch a dream,
the way you grasp the rounded truth of cold, sweet coin.
I have the sharpness of the thorn,
you of gold and diamonds.
You think the hills are mute-
I call them eloquent.
Oh yes, friend!
I'm free in my inebriation-
that's just the way I am.
In the cold of the month of Magh
warming to the first white heat of the star.
the world called me drifty.
When they saw me staring blankly for seven days
after I came back from the burning ghats
they said I was a spook.
When I saw the first marks of the snows of time
in a beautiful woman's hair
I wept for three days.
When the Buddha touched my soul
they said I was raving.
They called me a lunatic because I danced
when I heard the first spring cuckoo.
One dead-quite moon night
breathless I leapt to my feet,
filled with the pain of destruction.
On that occasion the fools
put me in the stocks,
One day I sang with the storm-
the wise men
sent me off to Ranchi.
Realizing that same day I myself would die
I stretched out on my bed.
A friend came along and pinched me hard
and said, Hey, madman,
your flesh isn't dead yet!
For years these things went on.
I'm crazy, friend-
that's just the way I am.
I called the Navab's wine blood,
the painted whore a corpse,
and the king a pauper.
I attacked Alexander with insults,
and denounced the so-called great souls.
The lowly I have raised on the bridge of praise
to the seventh heaven.
Your learned pandit is my great fool,
your heaven my hell,
your gold my iron,
friend! Your piety my sin.
Where you see yourself as brilliant
I find you a dolt.
Your rise, friend-my decline.
That's the way our values are mixed up,
Your whole world is a hair to me.
Oh yes, friend, I'm moonstruck through and through-
That's just the way I am.
I see the blind man as the people's guide,
the ascetic in his cave a deserter;
those who act in the theater of lies
I see as dark buffoons.
Those who fail I find successful,
and progress only backsliding.
am I squint-eyed,
Or just crazy?
Friend, I'm crazy.
Look at the withered tongues of shameless leaders,
The dance of the whores
At breaking the backbone on the people's rights.
When the sparrow-headed newsprint spreads its black lies
In a web of falsehood
To challenge Reason-the hero in myself-
My cheeks turn red, friend,
red as molten coal.
When simple people drink dark poison with their ears
Thinking it nectar-
and right before my eyes, friend!-
then every hair on my body stands up stiff
as the Gorgon's serpent hair-
every hair on me maddened!
When I see the tiger daring to eat the deer, friend,
or the big fish the little,
then into my rotten bones there comes
the terrible strength of the soul of Dadhichi
and tries to speak, friend,
like the stormy day crashing down from heaven with the lightning.
When man regards a man
as not a man, friend,
then my teeth grind together, all thirty-two,
top and bottom jaws,
like the teeth of Bhimasena.
red with rage my eyeballs rool
round and round, with one sweep
like a lashing flame
taking in this inhuman human world.
My organs leap out of theirs frames-
my breathing becomes a storm,
my face distorted, my brain on fire, friend!
with a fire like those that burn beneath the sea,
like the fire that devours the forests,
as one who would swallow the wide world raw.
Oh yes, my friend,
the beautiful chakora am I,
destroyer of the ugly,
both tender and cruel,
the bird that steals the heaven's fire,
child of the tempest,
spew of the insane volcano,
Oh yes, friend,
my brain is whirling, whirling-
that's just the way I am.
Title: Muna Madan
by Laxmi Prasad Devkota
adaptation by Pallav Ranjan
copyright of this English version held by Pallav Ranjan
All rights reserved
a fire burns in my mind.
Don't leave, my life,
Brightness of eyes,
my star of night,
don't take your light.
Tear open this chest of mine
perhaps the pictures
in my heart,
when you see them,
will change your mind.
Give me poison
to drink instead.
See? My pain
falls with my tears,
but tears do not speak,
thoughts stay within the mind.
Love, even my tears
fail to speak.
don't speak like this,
I will be returning.
For twenty days
I will stay in Lhasa,
I will travel twenty days
on the road.
Smile at me,
for if you would smile
I could raise myself
to Lord Indra's Heaven.
are to achieve or to die,
do not put a barrier of tears
upon my roads.
The cranes return
with the sun.
It will be a great day,
the day of our meeting.
My Rama, my Krishna:
the sun at night,
smiles as you prepare your flight,
how shall I combine these?
Don't leave me here.
I sparkle beside you,
without you I am stone.
Take me with you,
hold my hands,
we will face jungles,
Muna, my Muna,
look at mother, look at her,
the oil that feeds that lamp
is about to dry.
Both of us can't leave her,
stay, care for her.
Her eyes that have seen
three twenty winters
shine as she looks
upon your face.
Pale hair, brittle body,
a mother's love
could not tie your feet.
Shadows of her affection call
but cannot hold you back.
What will you gain
in that land
as precious as her love?
Bags of gold,
they are the dirt of hands,
the soup of nettles,
a peace in mind
are better. Stay,
satisfy your thoughts.
But what do I do?
- a gulp of milk
for my mother's throat,
- her dreams to build a resthouse
and taps for her people,
- on your delicate hands
- a strong foundation for a home
made insecure by loans
these wishes sing in my mind,
their voices are in my mind.
The music moves my feet Muna.
There is God above
and I have a heart.
I will cross those angry floods.
I mean well, but if things go wrong,
at least I will have died
with a song.
You tighten the knot
inside my heart.
Do not return then,
I will draw an unforgettable
picture of your face
The maidens of Lhasa dance,
they seem as if they are carved of gold,
their voices laugh like the streams
as they play on barren hills and fields.
Leave, my love,
darkening the home and the city,
even tears do not have strength.
Maybe in darkness,
memories will gleam
or flash like lightning.
And sorrow shower
upon my clothes.
[Narrator, describing Madan's journey]
Naked earth, cloud mists,
climbs are hot, flowers poison,
poles with flags are death.
There, see monasteries
and Lamas with shaven heads.
One day the roof of gold
against the skies
beneath the Potala Palace,
Yak skin walls,
angels on cloth.
Young Bhotenis white as bones,
passers by bowing
before gurus with sunken eyes.
[Narrator, describing Muna at home]
Pearls fell. Pearls fell
when Muna smiled.
But now she wilts.
In sleep, tears wet her face,
her days are long,
her nights are long,
her time is sad.
In her voice, hear,
there is a soft tearful drizzle.
After the end of light,
even a flickering lamp is bright.
Women came with stories,
men showed they cared,
When you see a rose, brother,
do not touch it.
Do not with lust, spoil it.
A wondrous being
is a jewel of God
do not try and corrupt it.
Go to the worms of the city
and tell them your words.
Make the moon fall,
make mountains rise,
I will wait for his feet
and my Heaven,
God has created
four beautiful days,
that is life,
don't throw mud
to spoil them.
[Narrator, describing Madan's journey]
Smooth pebble gold,
new country, fresh light,
the smell of musk.
Madan stayed, six months passed
before memories came like water:
ill mother, Muna's eyes large with weeping.
At night he was unable to sleep.
Hiding a heavy bag of gold in clothes,
gathering the musk,
he met up with a few friends
and left for home.
What a nightmare!
A buffalo dragged me down!
I fell in mud, mother,
the darkest buffalo dragged me down.
don't shiver with fear,
I will take all the ill
that comes to you
upon my head,
My eyelids quiver,
my heart is pain,
a shadow of evil
has come into our home.
Perhaps he has no time,
perhaps he hopes to come soon,
paths lead through high mountains
maybe this is why he has not come.
Madan falls ill with cholera on the road home.
Don't leave! Don't leave me
to the crows and vultures!
My friends, I will not die yet.
I will stand,
my throat is dry,
my chest is burning,
wipe these tears from my eyes,
I still have breath.
We have no medication
and no one's here.
Stay! Each of us
has to leave someday,
God will give you salvation.
Madan wakes and leans on his elbows,
his friends have left, the day drowns in red,
wind sleeps, birds are quiet, it is cold, he falls.
What is this fire?
Does the forest burn?
Is this fire going to kill the dead?
Is it a robber or a thief?
Is it a demon?
Madan decides to call for help.
Your friends are bad.
My house is some miles away,
you will not die. I will carry you there,
you'll be all right.
Tibetan brother, you are a god,
your words are wonderful.
I have been told,
I am a man of lineage
and noble caste.
I hold your feet with respect, brother,
I am holding your feet.
A man's greatness
is determined by his heart
not by the caste
and the lineage he brings.
The Tibetan carries him to his house, rests him on wool, gives him water and kindness, searches for herbs, crushes them, and makes him drink. He gives Madan yak milk and makes him strong. At Madan's home tangerines are in flower, thoughts are soft and sad.
You have forgotten me.
Tell me, how could you forget?
Which hateful god took you?
I cannot see, hills are covered by curtains.
The image I see of you is empty.
Your voice is tells me stories of happiness
in my sleep. I have no wings to fly with.
I cannot search for my love.
Why have you left our wealth
and stayed in that city.
Are you ill? Do your eyes fill up with tears
when you think of me?
Dust don't touch, thorn don't hurt.
Madan wants to thank the Tibetan by giving him some of his gold, but the Tibetan refuses material rewards.
What will I do with yellow gold?
My children can neither eat this gold
nor will it give them warmth.
My wife is dead, she is in Heaven,
the clouds are her decoration,
her jewels and gold.
Chance blessed and I have helped.
I will not barter goodness for wealth.
Ask you mother, if you will,
to pray for my children.
Madan's mother sees a clear face
and calls, the air responds,
the breeze touches her.
No tears in eyes, only a peace
a softness of the evening
reflected on that pond.
She reaches out to Muna.
My darling, it is time to leave,
to cross the river, don't weep.
Everyone walks this way,
the rich and those who suffer poverty.
Earth has to meet the earth.
This flood of unhappiness,
stand against it, do not fall.
I saw the world flower,
I saw it wilt,
and I have known God.
The seeds we plant here
will grow in Heaven.
What you have given, love,
you will get back
when you leave this place.
Look at me, I take all
I have done with me.
The gold that you found in sleep,
I will take with me.
I want to leave now,
but is Madan not coming?
I want to see him before
shutting my eyes to this world
in case I die before I see him, tell him,
the old woman asked him not to weep.
I will clean and shine
the memories of you with tears,
mother, don't worry,
nothing has happened yet.
Madan's mother begins to shake,
her voice fades,
she feels for Muna's hands at times
and when she holds them,
she asks in a faraway voice,
"Where is my son?"
A great wind shakes the branches,
a crow screams, travelers stare at the peaks.
Madan's head is on his palms,
his arms rest upon his knees,
the crow screams.
Madan looks at the crow.
Did you see my city?
My house is clean in that valley.
Go to my mother, she has white hair,
go to Muna, she is bright.
Tell them that I am well,
tell them not to worry about me,
trees on the lawn must be ripe with fruit,
go, eat, and tell them my story.
There is strange screaming in the city tonight.
wet eyes, dimmed lamps, strong winds,
dogs cry, no moon.
Rumor of Madan's death
has reached home.
See tears drip from leaves
and a young broken tree.
The old woman's breath struggles.
Muna has fallen.
Why did I come, mother?
What did I come to see?
My mother, you have torn my chest.
Look at my face, mother, look at me.
I have come. I have sinned. Look at me.
Why do you look afar when I am close,
look at me. See me cry. Comfort me.
Don't leave, come back,
don't you recognize me?
I could not even
take care of you mother.
What is this peace
that has spread across your face,
speak to me. How could I hurt
that gentle heart of yours
I have brought bags of gold, mother,
I put them at your feet,
we will make the resthouse
and the taps, mother,
where you point.
Come back, don't look there,
don't point towards the skies.
Madan goes to his sister when he cannot find Muna.
Tell me, sister, tell me, where is my Muna?
My mother is dying, but I do not see her.
Your Muna went to her parents in sorrow,
when you left and did not come back.
She left my mother alone?
How could she leave her alone when I was gone?
Muna went away from us
when she was ill herself.
She shone like a diamond
among the daughters,
she left because she was unwell.
How is Muna, who has been to see her?
She must ask for water,
who has given my Muna water to drink?
She does not need water, she is cured and healed,
she does not need your herbs.
And my love, I would have met her
but I could not find a road to take me
to her parents' home.
If she is healed why hasn't she returned,
why hasn't she come back?
She searches for roads but there are no roads
to lead her back from her parents' home.
This is strange, what do you mean?
She is over the clouds,
in that city heavy with light.
My sister, tell me Muna is here.
Tell me she is upon this earth.
Tell me when she will be back.
She lives across the river.
On the other side.
But she laughs with the flowers,
dances with water,
blinks with the stars,
speaks with the blackbird,
and her eyes, they shine.
She weeps with the dew
and when she is sad,
you will see the mist sinking.
My brother, Muna is not dead,
the birds have made songs of her,
hear them sing.
Muna isn't dead, tell me she lives.
Tell me she is at her parents' home.
The roots of my hopes,
the wings of my mind,
tell me Muna is here.
Tell me when she will be back!
She is not here, on this side of earth.
She lives where sorrow does not stain.
she picks flowers of happiness
in the gardens of Heavens.
Cruel sister. Your words are death.
Letting the buds of hope open, bloom
and sway before my eyes. Making ears
swallow gulps of poison.
Muna, O Muna, you were the temple of worship
and the chains of life.
Life, why did you leave?
My sister, let me look upon my Muna
call her, sister, let me see her for a little while.
O Muna, my Muna, come down to me,
my queen, let me gaze upon you for a little time.
My brother, my dear brother, take heart,
this dirty life has to leave.
In the end, the wind will take the fistful of ashes,
this blossom of meat has to fall and wilt.
My sister, remember, "My chest wants to explode,"
she said. "What will we do with gold?"
"It is better to eat nettles and satisfy our souls," she said.
God, how could you create her
and then ruin what you have made.
How could you make this flower
and then drag her down like this?
You gave me this flower,
how could you destroy her like this?
My sister, when I first saw her,
when I first saw Muna's face
I never thought that Muna could die,
sister, I thought she would never die.
How could the fire take her?
Where can I find her,
hold her to my chest?
Give me her ashes, sister,
I want to rub her ashes on my chest.
Mother, Muna, I will not stay here.
I will not stay here sister,
I will not stay.
Do not look upon this earth Muna
I am also coming.
With token of tears,
with the jewels of love
that you left behind
Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota Study and Research Centre