My last meeting with the legendary poet DHARMARAJ THAPA
Dharmaraj Thapa is no more with us but his service to enrich Nepali literature will remain alive in our memory for days to come. Meanwhile, I feel grateful to get an opportunity to spend some time with him before he left us forever. This piece of article is my heartfelt tribute to Dharmaraj Thapa.
Dharmaraj Thapa is much known for his outstanding service for the development of folksongs and Nepali literature in tandem. His unflinching dedication to the service of Nepali folk-song and literature has made him larger than life.
Dharmaraj Thapa was born at Batulechaur in 1924. Unlike his father, Harka Bahadur Thapa, who fought in the First World War, Dharmaraj didn’t show an iota of inclination to join in the military service. His interest rather lay in Nepali folk-songs and literature. Today, his efforts to promote these two loves of his life have been fully recognized. Several important awards, prizes, honours, and commendations have made him famous. His is a name Pokhara is proud of.
Dharmaraj had tremendous interest in folksongs and literature. To clinch his thirst of knowledge, one day he left his home and set out for an arduous journey to Kathmandu, in 1939. Dharmaraj desperately wanted to achieve higher education. During his long journey to Kathmandu, all on foot, he stayed at different places, where local residents would flock in the evening and sing melodious folk songs. Young Dharmaraj was himself a talented folk-singer. He thoroughly enjoyed the folksongs. After 8 days long journey, he eventually reached to Kathmandu.
While living in Kathmandu, he passed Madhyama from Shresta Pathshala. Later in 1944 Dharmaraj managed to get a job in a trust at Kalmachan. Then his monthly salary was 12 rupees. Later he was transferred to Gorakhapatra and was promoted to the grade of “Mukhiya (a senior officer)” and his monthly salary rose to 18 rupees.
Around this time Dharmaraj began to take profound interest in poetry and folk-singing. He never missed a single opportunity to take part in a song or poetry competition, doing this he was constantly improving his talent. His reputation as a budding singer and poet was always reaching new heights. A major turning point came in his life when his talent was recognised by none other than the late King Mahendra. The king awarded him the prestigious title “Jankavi Keshari” in 1956.
In 1952 Dharmaraj set out for a Jagaran Yatra (Awakening journey). This Herculean journey lasted for a year. During his tedious journey, he visited many places across the country, and got to learn several new folksongs which he had never heard before in his life. Part of his itinerary included a visit to India. During which he stayed in Dheradun for a few months and wrote a drama called “Bhuleko Chhaina (not forgotten).” This drama was performed in Dehradun and was an instant success. He received accolades and appreciation for his work from expatriate Nepalis of Dehradun. From Dehradun, he went to Asam, Guhati, Silong and Darjeeling. Wherever he went in India, expatriate Nepalis would turn out to greet him.
Dharmaraj’s happiness knew no bound when the senior poets and authors Parasmani and Dharanidhar vociferously praised him in Darjeeling. While living in Darjeeling, he developed a close relationship with the illustrious literary fraternity. While staying in Assam, he also published “Bilauna.” After the year long tour in India he returned to Nepal.
In order to polularise various genres of folk-song, he began the publication of “Danfechari Prakashan” (a publication house). He published several good books through his publication. Doing this he had highlighted the works of many budding writers and poets. His publication was always easily available to publish literary materials of even those authors and poets who had not made a name in the literary firmament.
In 1968 he received the highest honour of Nepali literature, the “Madan Purustkar,” for one of his lyrical poems called “Mangali Kusum”.
In 1969 he was appointed to a prestigious post as a member of the Royal Academy. Around this time, he had published several outstanding books such as “Sagarmathako Serophero”,” Tanahun Fulbari”, ” Hamro Lokgeet ” and ” Lok Sahityako Bibechna.”
Dharmaraj’s work for the promotion of folk literature and folk-singing is outstanding. He is perhaps the only living littérateur who has extensively traveled around the country on foot, collecting the songs and also seeing how his fellow countrymen are living in far-flung areas. He is truly a gifted man with enormous talent, who can compose great songs and invent poetry in a matter of fraction. His songs are well-composed and rich with lyrics, which also carry the woes and hardships of ordinary Nepali people. He sings songs with heart-felt emotion, for all these reasons, his songs are very popular among the masses.
Dharmaraj’s dedication to the service of Nepali folksong and literature has set an example. Great litterateur like Laxmi Prasad Devkota did also appreciate the talent Dharmaraj showed in his works. Balkrishana Sama fondly called Dharmaraj “the Shakespeare of Nepal”. Balkrishna Sama, a noted dramatist, loved Dharmaraj’s rustic melodies tinged with various colours of Nepali life.
Apart from his literary and folksong service, he is credited to bring the Gaines into the limelight. Dharmaraj encouraged the Gaines to exploit their natural folk-singing talent. For this, he brought them to Kathmandu, where they could show their talent to a wider audience. Dharmaraj was the first man who suggested Gaines to call them “Gandharavas”. The term Gaine is considered to be offensive by the younger generation of Gaines. They would rather like to be addressed as Gandharvas.
Dharmaraj Thapa received the highest honor of Nepali literature, Madan Purustkar, in 1968 for ‘Mangali Kusum, a lyrical poem. “MADAN PURUSKAR” is the highest literary award of the country. There are countless awards and felicitations bestowed upon him.
He received the title of “Bulbul Shan” awarded by Laxmi Prasad Devkota in 1951, a gold medal awarded by Nepali Sahitya Sammelan in 1953, “Devkota Puruskar”, first prize received in 1955 in a poetry competition, “Janakavi Keshari”, awarded by King Mahendra in 1956, “Subhjanmostashav Padak”, awarded by the king Mahendra in 1956, “Indrarajyalaxmi Puruskar”, awarded by the Royal Nepal Academy, “Yugkavi Siddhicharan Shrestha Puruskar”, awarded by Kumudini Homes, Pokhara, “Chhinlata Geet Puruskar” in 1998, “Jagdambashree Puruskar” in 1998, “Yugkavi Siddhicharan Shrestha Puruskar” in 1998 and so on.
Dharmaraj is also credited to bring legendary sarangi player Jhalakman Gandharva to limelight. Had he not coaxed Jhalakman and brought him to kathmandu, who knows, the country might have never known a talent call Jhalakman.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER
LB Thapa is a travel blogger. He is also the author of six books. His books have been published by Nirala Publications, New Delhi, India and Himalayan Maphouse, Kathmandu, Nepal. His book, POKHARA AND ANNAPURNAS has been translated into seven foreign languages. LB Thapa’s books are also available on www.amazon.com
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