Laxmi Prasad Devkota elevated the literary stature of our country in the eyes of the world. His great works sprang from an intensity of vision and feeling. Devkota was perhaps the first writer of Nepali literature who rose to such a height where no others had ever been before.
Devkota was a versatile and voluminous writer who left no branch of literature untouched and produced works of outstanding merit in every field. He was a great poet and also a great dramatist. At the same time he was a great prose writer and is regarded as the founder of modern prose style. Devkota is, without doubt, the brightest star in the literary firmament of Nepal.
Laxmi Prasad Devkota was born into a middle class Brahmin family at Dhobi Dhara in 1909 on the auspicious day of Laxmi Puja, that’s why he was named as Laxmi Prasad Devkota. But what an irony! His name ‘Laxmi’ stands for wealth, but he remained a pauper throughout his life. Instead goddess Saraswati (a deity of wisdom) blessed him.
From an early age Devkota was into literature. He began to show poetic genius from a very tender age. His early poems, which bore the stamp of poetic fervour, actually belied his age. At times, when Devkota was studying at the Durbar High School in the 6th grade, he used to recite poems composed by himself. Those early poems he composed in grade 6 were about nature, god, and beauty. As a young prodigy Devkota wrote sublime poetry on a variety of subjects. Many times his friends did not believe he had written such excellent poems. All teachers at Durbar High School were greatly impressed with the young prodigy.
He was a bright student. He passed every exam with flying colours. He passed matriculation at 16, I.Sc. at 18, and B.A at 20. It was a very cherished desire of Devkota to hold an MA degree in English literature, but due to poor economic situation he could not pursue MA Without being affected by the vicissitudes of life he went ahead with his rich stock of writings. His unwavering efforts for writing literature never subsided however unfavourable the circumstances were. Devkota left no branch of literature untouched in the course of his career. He wrote poems, novel, stories, dramas, essays, and so on. No other literary figures had ever tried to write as much in so many genres as Devkota had written with such precision and remarkable success. In fact Devkota had produced stocks of fine literature, but his superiority rested largely in poetry and he is better known as a poet of high stature. Nepali poetry soared to new heights with Devkota’s groundbreaking poetry.
Among his vast range of literary creations, he personally admired ‘Muna-Madan’. This mini epic of Devkota’s was published in 1935. Muna-Mandan is also considered the magnum opus of the poet. The book is considered to be one of the most popular books of Devkota’s in Nepal, and also the most sold in Nepal till today. The theme of Muna-Madan is fluid and heart touching and therefore makes an interesting read even now. Devkota has been remarkably successful in depicting the hardship the young men faced on the way to Lhasa and the worries their families harboured in the absence of their loved ones. The whole episodes of love, fear, and worries have been flamboyantly and poignantly depicted by Devkota in his chef d’ oeuvre, Muna-Madan.
There are several famous lines in Muna-Madan, which have become catchwords in the literary world. For instance, “A man is great by his heart, not by his caste. Devkota believed in the service of downtrodden people of our society rather than visiting to temples. He has vividly spelled out this theme in his popular poem Yatri. Devkota had an amazing level of willpower and endurance, he wrote the epic, ‘Sulochana’, in only ten days. Another great epic, ‘Shakuntal’, was completed in only three months! During the Rana regime Devkota held a position as an author at ‘Bhasanuwad Parishad’ and a professor at Tri-Chandra College. While working in these positions he began to feel guilt within himself. His self-respect was hurt and he denied to work under the command of the Ranas, who ruled the country by torturing and terrorising the masses. He gave up the teaching post at Tri-Chandra College and headed to Benaras, India, in 1947.
In Benaras, he began to edit ‘Yugwani’. Devkota wrote several inflammable articles against the Rana tyranny in Yugwani, and encouraged people to take up cudgels in their hands and wage a war against the Rana oligarchy. When Devkota was waging a war against the Ranas through his rabble-rousing writings in Yugwani, his wife was suffering the pangs of separation from her husband that had begun to eat her vitals. About this time due to crushing poverty and also passing through extreme hardship, Devkota’s two sons died early. With the premature death of his two young sons, Prakash Devkota and Krishna Devkota, Laxmi Prasad Devkota broke down completely.
Living in self-exile in Benares Devkota was leading a sad and dull life devoid of the merry company of his wife and children. A downhearted mother went to Banaras and made her husband agree to sign the amnesty paper, which Mrs. Devkota submitted the amnesty paper to the Rana office and a general amnesty was granted to Devkota under the condition he would not write anything against Rana regime, in Nepal or elsewhere.
As the Rana regime collapsed the freedom loving Nepali people felt great relief and happiness. Devkota was now entirely free to serve his motherland. He once again dedicated himself to writing literary creations with gusto. Devkota was made vice chancellor at the ‘Nepal Rastria Vidhyapith’. He was also once appointed to the post of education minister for three months in 1957.
By nature Devkota was a kind of tramp. He hated being confined or restricted in any way. He was a free spirit and also an eccentric—perhaps every man or woman of his stature is odd to some extent. He actually wanted to be free to serve literature.
Devkota had incredible ingenuity in writing poetry. He had command of Nepali, Sanskrit, Hindi, and English languages. There are several volumes of poems in English to his credit.
In a nutshell Devkota was like a colossus in Nepali literature. He wrote about a varied range of subjects by stimulating richness with the stock of his poetic ingenuity. There is possibly not one area of Nepali literature that has been left untouched that Devkota has not enriched and embroidered with a superlative degree of excellence. Devkota symbolises Nepali poetry, as far as writing poetry and essays are concerned, Devkota stands alone. He has successfully and brilliantly expressed the various, and varied moods of life in his poems and essays.
The enormous volumes of Devkota’s poems are written in highly sophisticated language, which describe the different moods of life. His selection of words, especially for poetry, is a most peculiar one. To give the full spirit of life to his poetry he did not even mind borrowing words from other languages including Sanskrit and Hindi. Devkota’s poetry is a torrent of emotions that does not rain but pours.
Our sincere tribute to the great poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota would be to make an effort to introduce his breathtaking literary works to the world at large. Special efforts must be made by the government of Nepal to have Devkota translated into foreign languages. It would be an injustice to circumscribe Devkota’s great works to only a few languages.
Tuberculosis left him emaciated and completely bed-ridden and eventually Laxmi Prasad Devkota died in 1959 at the quite early age of 50.