Bhanubhakta has been credited with making Nepali a unifying lingua franca, but His translation of the Ramayana from Sanskrit into lilting Nepali verse made. भानुभक्त रामायण: Bhanubhakta Ramayana of Nepal (Different Ramayanas of India). Item Code: NAI Cover: Hardcover. Edition: Publisher.

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Arts De constructing a Nepali icon Bhanubhakta ramsyan been credited with making Nepali a unifying lingua franca, but some are not sure. Today, 13 July,is the th birth anniversary of Adikavi Bhanubhakta, the poet who is credited with single-handedly cementing the Nepali nation with its unifying language.

His translation of the Ramayana from Sanskrit into lilting Nepali verse made the poet a household name throughout the Nepali speaking world.

Bhanubhakta Acharya

Ironically, he was embraced first by Nepali-speakers living in India for whom the Nepali language had become the symbol of their separate identity. Within Nepal, even for Nepalis for whom the language was a mother tongue, there was more of a ho-hum attitude about Nepali and many from Bhanubhakta’s time to today took the language for granted.

The bust of this poet from Tanahu was installed in Darjeeling ineighty three years after his death and four years after his birthday was first marked in also in Darjeeling. At that time Bhanubhakta was hardly heard of in his own homeland. But there was something potent in the idea that this poet, an apparently apolitical man of letters, could symbolise something larger than his work-no less than a generic “Nepali” identity, with the Nepali language as a cornerstone.

Bhanubhakta would not remain a poet for long. For officialdom that began to define Nepali nationhood in the s, Bhanubhakta became too tempting a symbol. Panchayat-era bureaucrats turned the poet into an icon of national identity and unity-right alongside the monarchy.

Bypassing the richness and diversity of Nepal’s many languages and cultures, undercutting with a broad sweep of ceremony and rhetoric the possibility that the people brought together by Prithvi Narayan Shah could have evolved their own common reference points, of which the Nepali language was only one.


Getting the stamp of approval of officialdom in a sense discredited the poet’s worth. And instead of celebrating Prithvi Narayan’s famous dictum of “a garden with many flowers” there was the danger of elevating one language to the level of a national symbol at the cost of others.

Bhanubhakta’s legacy finally returned to Nepal inwhen a group of writers in Dharan took a fancy to the celebrations in Darjeeling and that year celebrated Bhanu Jayanti, as they called it.

InBhanu Jayanti, which had already started taking on the air of a tradition, made it to Chudi Ramgha in Tanahu, where Bhanubhakta was born inand resulted in the establishment of a library. Another birth anniversary also fell on this day inthat of Tulsidas who is credited with translating the Ramayana. In Birgunj that coincidence was reason enough for quite a clamour, and doubtless imbued this “Nepali” Bhanubhakta to stand for with the additional characteristic of Hinduism.

Bhanubhaktako Ramayana by Bhanubhakta Acharya

Kathmandu was slower to catch on, here were a couple ramatan years of low-key celebration by writers, and inthe poet finally arrived in the capital when Darjeeling writer Gopal Pandey Asim’s Nepali Siksa Parisad NSP funded a large celebration.

The by-now state-supported annual event was slowly pushed in different districts and along the way, many towns and villages named local sites after Bhanubhakta, and Bhanu Jayanti slowly incorporated nationalistic slogans. Krishna Bhattachan, Tribhuvan University sociologist and janajati activist calls this “the manufactured reality of Bhanubhakta”, and says it was not always accepted unquestioningly. There was an undercurrent of suspicion among the diverse ethnic groups of Nepal, and also among feminists, who said Bhanubhakta’s work is too patriarchal for him to be a source of national pride.

After the People’s Movement inmuch of that anger and dissent has found expression. There is now lively-sometimes heated-discussion about this “national figure”.

Bhanu Jayantis themselves have become staggeringly boring affairs. Historian Pratyoush Onta has studied the Bhanubhakta phenomenon, and suggests that the elevation of armayan poet as a central figure in established stories of Nepali history was driven by more complicated motivations.


But he wasn’t and TU’s Bhattachan points to the rich story-telling cultures of the Maithili and Magar languages, and asks: Ballav Mani Dahal, a social scientist and authority on Nepali literature, says: This is hardly acceptable in byanubhakta pluralistic society.

Bhanubhakta, he says, did not undertake his epic translation to serve the Nepali language. It was sheer coincidence that his translation of the Ramayana emerged at a time when the Nepali language was only just developing as the lingua franca. Last year, the first full-length feature film, Bhanubhakta was made on the life and times of the poet. And Yadav Kharel, its director, defends the effort: Various ethnic groups in the military needed Nepali to communicate among each other.

Bhanubhaktako Ramayana (भानुभक्तको रामायण)

And yet the resonance of the Nepali language in the diaspora, combined with a more urgent need for a symbol of togetherness was precisely what drove the conception of Bhanubhakta as an icon of Nepali unity. Says noted Darjeeling-based literateur, Indra Bahadur Rai: The strongest unifying factor of our diverse communities here is the Nepali language. And Bhanubhakta’s presence subtly knits us together. This year, says Rai, celebrations will go beyond Darjeeling and Kalimpong to other parts of north-eastern India.

Bhanu Jayanti in Kathmandu this year will be the same predictably rigid celebration it has been for the bhanhbhakta few decades. Students from government schools will be made to line up outside the Durbar High School in Rani Pokhari, politicians will garland the bust of Bhanubhakta, give a speech extolling the poet we will all forget for another year. Perhaps the best way to celebrate Bhanubhakta the poet is to forget about symbols for a while, and buy a collection of his tapes produced by Music Bhaanubhakta which contains the entire recitation in soothing Nepali folk chhanda of the Bhanubhakta’s Ramayana.