Bhim Birag: A Name Immortalized by His Songs

Aashwasan Dahal

Renowned lyricist and acclaimed writer Bhim Birag was born to father Tulsi Bahadur Maharjan and Laxmi Devi Maharjan at Maisthan, Birgunj on Magh 15, 1991 B.S. A good football player during his childhood, he used to participate in different competitions. During his football match he was attacked intentionally on legs by his friends. His economic condition was not good enough and slowly the inflammation of joints moved to upper part of his body. This disease is known as Spondylitis. His ill upbringing drastically turned worse after the demise of his father. His father died in 2006 B.S. and his mother was also ill, so he was raised in maternal uncle house. They gave him heart breaking words that he should die. This is the beginning of his struggle story.

His disease made him stay alone at home and he used this time in literature and music along with his formal studies. There were harmonium, piano, guitar and tabala in his house. His father along with his uncle was a popular artist. Due to his loneliness, his friend Dolen Bahadur Amatya said called in ‘Bairagi’ and he removed Bahadur from his name and used ‘Birag’ as his title name. During a conversation with Purnima Gole he became nostalgic remembering his childhood. She also asked which was the happiest moment of his life. To this he said, “I was an instructor to an artist in Birgunj. In 2019 B.S.,  there was a cultural program in Paranipur and King Mahendra was amazed to see my talent and he took responsibility for my treatment.” All crew members cried at this moment and provided blessing to Birag.

Connection with Makawanpur

Birag came to Makawanpur in 2026 B.S. to edit the newspaper Narayani. He made Makawanpur his working place from this time till his death. According to him he was cheered by the environment of Makawanpur, especially Hetauda. The rivers like Rapti, Karra and Samari stole his heart. Being raised in the Tarai,  it was a new experience for him. He used to sing Hindi songs too and came to know about ‘Ghazals’ in 2030 B.S. He published his ghazal collection titled Bhim Biragko Ghazal Sangraha in 2057 B.S.

His stay in Hetauda turned out to be memorable because of his amazing creations and also his friendship with, Melody King Narayan Gopal Gurbacharya. Nanda Gopal Gurbacharya received a contract to work in Hetauda. Similarly, his brother Narayan followed him. He had become an established singer by that time. He worked as a motor mechanic. When there was a case of welding he did it without any precaution. Thus he damaged his eyes and he wore glasses with a heavy frame. It can be said in a sense that the glass is a gift to Gopal from Hetauda.

Three songs of Birag titled ‘Aaja bholi harek sanjh’, ‘Timilai pani ma jastai’ and ‘Kasari bhule ma’ were recorded by Gopal in his voice during his stay in Hetauda. Both were drunkards and they used to go to Rapti for the purpose. Gopal insisted Birag to write something on alcohol to provide a message that it is not good and ‘Aaja Bholi’ is the creation. Similarly, he wrote a memoir ‘Moments with Swarsamrat’ in 2056 B.S., remembering Gopal.

Though his formal education was limited to Intermediate in Arts due to his poor health condition, Birag’s self–study was quite comprehensive.  He has written nine books which include song collections, story collections, long narrative poems and an epic Mohabhanga which is related to Bhagvad Geeta and was published in 2059 B.S.

Birag’s contribution to Nepali literature and music earned him many prestigious awards. Some of them are Rastriya Pratibha Puraskar, Gyan Purna Puraskar, Narayani Wangmaya Puraskar, Lekhnath Rastriya Puraskar. Lekhnath’s birth centenary was organized by a committee under Birag’s  chairmanship in 2041 B.S.

When asked by Purnima regarding the meaning of life, Birag told that it is a gift of God to him. He once said,  “Life is music. What we speak should be noted to make melody and walking is like a practice of music because when we walk we do one-two, one-two, stepwise. Without music human life is incomplete.”

His song ‘Fulai fula matra pani hoina raichha jeevan’ sung by veteran singer Madhu Chhetri earned Madhu Radio Nepal’s Rastriya Pursakar. This song is based on reality. According to him, rose is the king of flowers and to pluck it we should be aware of thorns. Life is  full of struggle and we must find happiness inside it. His song ‘Ma eklai bachi dinchu’ too is the outcome of his struggle.

Birag is himself the composer of most of his songs. His notable songs includeDukheko mutu’, ‘Na bolau kasailai’, ‘Pujako ful jastai’, ‘Ful le maya dharti lai’, Niurihna kasaiko aghi’, ‘Maridina manish le’, etc. Beside Gopal his songs have been sung by velvet voice Prem Dhoj Pradhan which includes ‘Galat modma jaba’ and ‘Timro mero jindagani’ included in Ghaite Jawani a music album.

Birga was cared for by his daughter Abha in his later days. His writing stopped after the demise of his inspiration, his wife Anu Devi Chhetri. It was a happy and inter-caste marriage.

A multi-dynamic person and a great performer, Birag is an immortal name in Nepali music.  Life is a beautiful flower and after sometime it will dry and fall because everyone is mortal. A victim of diabetes and hypertension, Bhim Birag passed away on Falgun 20, 2068 B.S while undergoing treatment at Patan Hospital, Lalitpur. His creations, however, shall keep him alive forever.

A stanza of Ram Man Shrestha is relevant to characterize Birag’s life:

 Ma yahi katai bilaunechhu tara
Akshar aksharle bachirahane chhu

[I shall vanish somewhere here, someday. But then, I shall continue to live in letters I composed.]