THE FIRST POET
The title of Adikabi, the first poet, was first inked to paper by Motiram Bhatta while writing the biography of one of the most iconic faces of our nation: Adikabi Bhanu Bhakta. However, there were other poets before him, as Motiram himself recognized, but Adikabi Bhanu Bhakta Acharya was the first poet who wrote with an understanding of the “marma”(inner essence) of poetry. Something that is evident through his works.
Son to Dhananjaya Acharya, a government official to General Amar Singh Thapa, Adikabi Bhanu Bhakta Acharya was born into a Brahmin family in Chundi Ramgha, Tanahu. His excellent education and lenience into religion was credited to his grandfather Shri Krishna Acharya. Belonging to a wealthy family, financial woes were the last of his concerns and his life was not initially routed onto the path of becoming the revered poet that he is known as today. That was until he met a grass-cutter whose thoughts left a lasting impact on the 22 year old Bhanu Bhakta Acharya. The modest grass-cutter wanted to give something to society so that he could be remembered after death too, and this opened his eyes to a whole new dimension. In fact, this is considered to be the point that sparked the literary creativity in Bhanu Bhakta Acharya. The following is the poem he wrote about the grass cutter: Ghasu Kuwa.
The modest grass-cutter wanted to give something to society so that he could be remembered after death too, and this opened his eyes to a whole new dimension.
Brahmins were the teachers, scholars, and priests of the society by virtue of their caste. Their education was Sanskrit oriented since most religious texts of the Hindu religion were in that language. After the fall of the Khas Empire in the 15th century, its language which evolved into present day Nepali was considered bastardized and limited to speech. Yet, Adikabi Bhanu Bhakta Acharya was glorified for writing in the colloquial Nepali Language. Because his works contained very little Sanskrit, Hindi, or Nepali, he was very well received by the Nepali commoners as well as scholars. The interesting thing was, he did not study Western literature, and all he knew was from what he learned about in his native land. This lent such a strong Nepali aroma and flavour to his writing that few poets have been able to equal his simple creations in terms of content: a sense of religion, simplicity, and the warmth of his native land, all of which are the strongest features of his poetry.
When completed, his translation of the Ramayan was so lyrical that it was more like a song than a poem. However, his creation was not published and he was to die without receiving credit for his contribution.
Adikabi Bhanu Bhakta Acharya is most famous for his translation of the Ramayana from Sanskrit to the Nepali language. This made it accessible and readable to a wider group of Nepali readers. When completed, his translation of the Ramayan was so lyrical that it was more like a song than a poem. However, his creation was not published and he was to die without receiving credit for his contribution. It was later in 1887 that Motiram Bhatta found his manuscript and printed it in Benares, India. The translation was named “Bhanubhaktey Ramayana”.
But it wasn’t all a bed of roses for the Adikabi. Bhanu Bhakta resided in Kathmandu during his younger days, trying to pursue a career in writing. However, he needed to make some sort of steady flow of cash as he had no job that could fetch him regular income in Kathmandu. His friends managed a job for him in the accounts department of Shri- 3 Commander-in-Chief General Krishna Bahadur Junga Rana in 1835. His new job fetched him a handsome salary that kept him afloat. Then, Bhanubhakta dedicated himself to writing poetry. Everything was all right and all of a sudden, something went terribly wrong. He was shoved off into to a Kathmandu prison on charges of misappropriation of state funds; but the offence was not his, and that of his grandfather, who had been long dead and gone. For a long period his case was not heard. So he decided to write a poem to the minister pleading for his freedom. Not only did the poem win him his freedom, he was also awarded with a bag of money.
Excrepts from petition to PM:
Everyday I see kind authorities and they get rid of my worries.
I am at peace and at night I watch dances for free.
I do what my friends – mosquitoes, fleas, and bedbugs – say:
The mosquitoes sing and the ticks dance, I watch their play.
I was jobless, wealth-less, my hard-earned food came from the spade,
I served those people so everyone would notice me and give me respect.
Without wavering I served and they were pleased and they gave
overflowing attention that is never, ever, taken away……
……My body is weak, it is made of grain and water.
How shall I say what has befallen me here?
I have suffered much sorrow, my body grows heavy,
and I have been ill for many days….
I have no wish to spend the rest of my life in this quarrel.
I have no wish to become a millionaire and fill my house with treasures.
Days pass by uselessly and I cannot comfort myself
if you would decide my case it would be a great help.
I have talked with the warden and he does not speak.
Even if he does, his: ‘tomorrow, tomorrow,’ sounds like a joke.
What are these tomorrows? It would be better to know I won’t be freed.
Many tomorrows passed. Please fill this empty bag of mine, I beg
WORDS: ANKIT SHAKYA
ILLUSTRATOR: NIREN TULADHAR