Motiram in the Eyes of Critics

English.SahityaPost Desk

Motiram’s contribution to Nepali literature is immense, but he stands out as the pioneer of four things: revival of romantic/erotic poetry, initiation of the tradition of biography and criticism, ushering of the culture of ghazal writing into the Nepali language, and starting the tradition of literary journalism. Various critics have evaluated Motiram’s contribution from different dimensions. Here are some of the representative estimation of Motiram from critics, extracted from different published/unpublished sources.


Before the rise of Motiram Bhatta, a type of slackness was visible in the tradition of erotic poetry. It’s possible that poets didn’t dare hone their pens in this direction after Nitryodaya reprimanded his younger brother, poet Patanjali Gajurel for being a ‘miscreant, who frayed Saraswati’s curtain and tortured her,’ solely for writing poems with erotic content. This is not a baseless thing, but this indicates that the society was not prepared to welcome poets of this type, and allegations of obscenity were not tolerated. But this slight, coming from ideal, private sector was not like a (socio-political) prohibition.  Motiram Bhatta was the pioneer of the second productive phase of erotic poetry.  Enthusiasm is seen among poets who came after him. ‘Pikadoot’ is a model of the type of decent poetry with erotic ethos he wrote. His erotic poems have been anthologized in his books Shlok Sangraha and Shukti Sindhu. Ghazals in Sangeet Chandrodaya are also of the same type.

  • Krishna Chandra Singh Pradhan in “Nepalima Shringalkaleen Kavitako Bikas” (The Development of Nepali Poetry in the Erotic Phase). Sajha Samalochana. Fifth edition. Ed. Krishna Chandra Singh Pradhan. Lalitpur: Sajha Prakashan, 2058 BS.  pp. 173-190.


Though Motiram’s contributed to Nepali prose and plays is considered quite significant, his most remarkable and best-recognized contribution lies in his role in the foundation of Kavi Mandali  (Poet’s Group), and the unprecedented literary exuberance it engendered as a result of it engagement in solving the problems the group faced, and the new consciousness it brewed. Motiram Bhatta, who rose to become a  cause of influence, inspiration and promotion for innumerable writers, was the mastermind behind the organization of such a group, and was the leader, who led the group with success in order to foster new literary consciousness and active environment. He had the talent, study, practice and enthusiasm for doing all this. It was Motiram, who, through the same group of poets, did the task of initiating the medieval age, especially the age of erotic poetry in Nepali literature, especially Nepali poetry, and honing the same to a climax.  Though the group had some poets who wrote devotional poetry, most of the poets in the group fundamentally wrote erotic and romantic poems. Through its problem-solving approach, the group, in fact, trained a large number of poets in its days.

  • Kumar Bahadur Joshi. “Motiram Bhatta ra Unko Kavi-Mandali” (Motiram Bhatta and His Group of Poets). in Sajha Samalochana. Fifth edition. Ed. Krishna Chandra Singh Pradhan. Lalitpur: Sajha Prakashan, 2058 BS.  pp. 259-264.


Motiram Bhatta is one of the most important and influential figures in the development of Nepali prose and poetry, and in the early study of its literary history. Yet he is often mis-represented as being merely an organizer and biographer, and his own literary gifts are frequently under-rated. As the son of a Brahman pandit, Motiram was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. Accordingly, he was sent to Banaras in the company of his mother in 1871; there he began his education in Sanskrit and Persian. In 1880, at the age of fourteen, he returned to his birthplace, Kathmandu, to marry but stayed here for less than a year, returning to Banaras in 1881, where he was enrolled in an English-medium school. Thus, Motiram was exposed to a great variety of linguistic and literary influences during his youth. Although imbued in the Sanskrit tradition of Brahman scholasticism, he was unusually familiar with Persian, Urdu, Hindi and English and was probably the first  Nepali poet to receive any “western-style” education.

  • Michael James Hutt.   Nepali: The Emergence of a National Language.  Ph.D. Thesis, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1984. p. 205.


In a very short span of life, Motiram Bhatta created, edited, and tras-created almost a dozen books. He was a brilliant as well as a multi-dimensional genius.  He, along with the great poet Bhanubhakta Acharya who preceded  Motiram Bhatta, and Lekhanath Paudyal, who  followed him, are honored as the three outstanding pillars of the  foundational stage of Nepal literature. Bhanubhakta wrote for the first time in a lucid, rhythmic language. Motiram introduced him to the world, established his own  fame and introduced Lekhnath Pudyal as a great master and perfectionist of classical legacy through refined and polished literature and paved the way for the development of modern Nepali language and literature.

Motiram Bhatta is an undisputed forerunner of medieval period of Nepali literature. He has earned this respect and honor for his untiring work and unprecedented contribution to Nepali literature. He familiarized the new language of epic poetry and drama, and introduced the Perso-Arabic tradition of poetry known as ghazal. His new school attracted many young writers, and Nepali literature experienced a turning point through his works. [I have mentioned his ‘new school of thought’ known as Moti Mandali (meaning the Moti’s Circle) as the first trend in my Kavyik Aanadloanko Parichaya.] Motiram is a turning point in Nepali literature. His exposure to Hindi and Urdu languages, and connections with literary groups in Benaras gave him much impetus to take a departure from the prevalent Nepali literature. That exposure inspired him to craft a new sort of Nepali language—which launched a more vivid and varied type of writing.

The nation was ravaged by some eighty years of the Anglo-Nepal war. The war ended in 1816 but at the cost of half of the territory of the kingdom. This was quite disappointing. Great warriors and patriots in thousands lost their lives to save the nation but all went in vain. During the war days, no substantial literature was created. When peace was restored, disappointed authors either went towards bhakti (devotional) literature or took up heroic poems. So the development of Nepali remained stagnant. A moment came with Motiram, the visionary vibrant and multi-talented youth who shone like fire though is life was extinguished in a remarkably brief period of time.

Motiram introduced Bhanubhakta by writing Bhanubhaktako Jeevan Charita which has been translated into English by Motibir  Rai of Darjeeling. This is the first  book of biography of the first poet as well as the foundational stone of Nepali criticism.

  • Govinda Raj Bhattarai PhD., senior critic and novelist


Motiram’s other contributions to Nepali literature are usually subsumed under his identity as the person who introduced Bhanubhakta to the Nepali reading public. Never in these textbooks is the story of what I have here called the “rediscovery” of Bhanubhakta in the second and following decades of the 20th century told along with the story of Motiram’s discovery of Bhanubhakta. In fact, these stories suggest that once Motiram published Bhanubhakta’s Ramayana in 1988, its popularity grew organically amongst the Nepali populace. Writing against this version of nationalist history first  requires investigation of the original discovery of Bhanubhakta by Motiram and then of the subsequent rediscovery.

  • Pratyush Onta, “Creating a Brave Nepali Nation in British India: The Rhetoric of Jati Improvement, Rediscovery of Bhanubhakta and the Writing of Bir History” in Studies in Nepali History and Society 1(1): June 1996. pp. 37-76.


The place Motiram Bhatta has in Nepali literature is same as the one Babu Harishchandra has in Hindi literature. In Kashi, Motiram came under the influence of Babu Harishchandra, and from his inspiration, committed himself to literary creation, as opined by some critics. Those days, a gentleman called Ram Krishan Verma used to operate Bharat Jeevan, a daily newspaper. He was a good friend of Motiram. Not long after, he started published its Nepali version, by the name Gorkha Bharat Jeevan, and Motiram Bhatta took over its leadership. In the 1987, at Motiram’s initiative, Saat Kanda Ramayan, the first seven cantos of the Ramayan translated by Bhanubhakta was published from Bharat Jeevan Press. Before the entire work was published, only one canto, “Bal Kanda” first came out of this. This is considered the first Nepali book in print.

  • Dr. Goma Adhikari in Bharatiya Nepali Sahityako Vishleshanatmak Itihas (Analytical History of Indian Nepali Literature). Manipur: Gorkha Jyoti Prakashan, 2018. p. 184.


The founder of Nepalese journalism is considered to be Motiram Bhatta, a Nepali poet, who brought out the first Nepali monthly publication Gorkha Bharat Jeevan in the year 1886 AD.

The magazine Gorkha Bharat Jeevan, which was a monthly literary magazine was printed at Bharat Jeevan Press, Banaras in British India. Although it was launched by Motiram Bhatta, the editor of the magazine was Ram Krishna Varma.

One of the first Nepalese advertisements was related to Gorkha Bharat Jeevan which was published on the cover of Gorkha Hasya Manjari also printed by the Bharat Jeevan press in Banaras in 1888.

Since Gorkha Bharat Jeevan was the first and pioneering publication ventured by the Nepalese in India, there is no doubt that this magazine championed the cause of enhancing and enriching the Nepali language.

Was it a historical compulsion or just a mere coincidence that the first Nepali magazine was brought out from British India?

Given the authoritarian and repressive nature of the Rana regime, it was just futile to expect of a first publication from Nepal, just as it was not possible for Herzen and Ogarev to bring out first censorship-free Russian publication Kolokol from Czarist Russia.