Sama: an eclectic playwright, humanist poet, and sensible essayist



By Sarad Pradhan

A genius poet, accomplished playwright, rational essayist, talented painter, pioneer photographer Bala Krishna Sama, had created his own history in the Nepali literature with his virtuosity. The main forte of Bala Krishna Sama is writing plays and dramas. Inspired by Shakespeare’s blank verse, he wrote plays  not in rhymed lines in Anusthtup metre and became successful in writing Mutuko Vyatha (Heart Aliment, 1929 AD) breaking the traditional Sanskrit prosody concluding it in tragedy. It was his experimental effort, which paid him well establishing him as Shakespeare of Nepali plays. Apart from the influence by Shakespeare, he is an eclectic playwright by all accounts and it would be injustice to him to keep him confined within the genre of Shakespeare. His upbringing in the court of Ranas where dance and staging plays was regular feature, Bala Krishna Sama wrote first play at the age of 19 naming it as Tansen ko Jarhi(Shower at Tansen). One of the most praiseworthy aspects of Sama’s plays is that he gives his own interpretation to the theme taken from mythology. Plays like Dhruva and Prahlad have made Sama rational and agnostic as he depicts Prahlad as a representative of humanist and spiritual ideals rather than a devote protected by God. He argues in Prahlad that the only person who follows mother nature’s path in deference will win. “He who appropriates the path of Nature and twist it to make his own and destroy it, may win for a time; but that nihilist will be defeated in such a way in the long run that he will not find a single straw to catch at in his drowning.” ( Translated by Madhusudan Devokta in English). Prahlad is considered to be his best work which recognises the significance of materialistic work but makes it worthless in the absence of moral values. In Prahlad, Sama seeks a continuum between spiritualism and materialism. This play has been translated into English by Madusudan Devkota, the younger brother of great poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota. His other noteworthy plays are Prempinda(1953), Bhakta Bhanubhakta(1943), Amarsimha(1953), Mukunda Indira(1937), Andhabeg(1939), Bhimsen Thapako Antya(1955), Ma(1945) and Amit Vasna(1959).

Bala Krishna Sama is a great humanist poet which is well reflected in his poem called Swagat(Welcome) appeared in Sarda in 1934. He writes,” I welcome misery if I embrace it makes other happy.” As time passed by, one could notice his intellectual capabilities heightening in the poetry as well. In the preface of Ago Ra Pani(Fire and Water, 1954), he defines poetry as ‘intellectual softness of emotion’ and he says he puts more emphasis on the facet of intellectuality. Ago Ra Pani explores the history of mankind in the poetic expression and it appears an intellectual exercise in poetic form. In Ago Ra Pani, he presents himself a product of rational school of thought as against his earlier self of emotional poet.

“In the orange geography of live fire

Entwined and lapping horde of flames

Blinded by ego, the rumbling roar-

Mutual whispers, attraction, warm embrace-

Tremors of sole domination and self satiation

Spread everywhere,

But from the very core of these

The remnant of the trampled and sucked

The vapour of water boiled-

The fugitive water mass

Blacked, blued and crimsoned by revolution

Feeling stuffy, gasping escaped and landed up above.”

(Translated by Dr. Kumar Pradhan)

The passage quoted above from Ago Ra Pani is quintessentially a dialogue between the two most important elements, which have contrast characteristic. Portraying fire as egoist and jingoistic and water as all compassionate, he outpours his thought and philosophy in verse to elucidate the creation of earth. The collection of his poetry in English-Express after Death-named after his famous poem Mritu Pachhiko Abbivyangana published in 1972 provides an insight to his poetry for English readers. Many of his poetry in this collection have been written in original English. This collection is a paradigm of Sama’s command in English. A few lines quoted below from Expression after Death translated by Sama himself is self explanatory and it doesn’t need extra explanation to support the fact that Sama is a genius poet.

“Look, all my agonies have vanished,

And I am well at last.

I was burdened and suffered headaches,

My neck was tied fast, my hand and fee were bound,

It was hard to breathe with my chest all tightened up,

Pity and Love squeezed my heart out,

They pierced my liver,

Entangled veins did hard knots form,

And my bones did noisily grind themselves,

Still I called them mine,

And my blood cried out a flood of tears.

Now I know what it is to become free from all bondage.


Is “ death the name of this?

If so, then let me sleep soundly.”


Chiso Chuho(The Cold Oven, 1958) is an epic which shows Sama’s virtuosity. Against the traditional norm, the main character of this epic is an untouchable boy Shante who falls in love with a high caste girl Gauri and it is not written according to the established rules of epic.

Niyamit Akasmikata(Regulated Accident) gives his view on life which established him as a profound thinker. He writes in the preface of the book that this book is not an answer to my philosophy but a quest. “I have not erected god first and believed it as truth. I have placed the truth and worshipped it as god; that’s why I am among the ones who believe that people have right only in the journey of far temple of truth.” Mero Kavita Ko Aradhana is an autobiographical account published in two parts, which details his journey from a privileged class Rana to a scholar who occupied the chair of Royal Nepal Academy as vice chancellor. Nepali Lalit Kala is a short work on fine art.

One of his talents that has been eclipsed is story writing. His few story like Kaikeyi, Phukeko Bandan, and Saran Saran have been included in Katha Kumsum, the first anthology of Nepali short stories published in 1938 brought out by Nepali Sahitya Sammelan, Darjeeling, under the editorship of Surya Bikram Gywali. Rupko Mulya(The Price of a Face) revolves around Ranu, an ugly and ill woman who is married off to the rascal man. In the story, Sama makes her main character Ranu express his philosophy about the value of face saying that there is no difference between Bimal, the one Ranu loved but he gets married with other in some pretension, and she syas Bimal looks like as smooth as velvet whereas her husband is coarse as the hem. Physiological analyses can be found in his stories like Taltal(Addiction), Khukuri, and Phukeko Bandan(United Bondage). Other stories like Harisiddhi, Tangan Ghora( The Stallion), Parai Ghar(Others house) are noteworthy. Most of the characters in his stories are women and he makes his characters speak his thought and philosophy analyzing their inner feeling.

Born at Gyaneswore, Kathmandu in December 1903 in the affluent Rana family behind the Royal Imperial Opera House, he was appointed Captain in the Nepal Army in 1923 and later promoted to the post of Lieutenant Colonel in 1952. He worked as the Chairman of Nepal Bhasha Prakashini Saminit, a Publication division of the government since 1933, was imprisoned briefly when he raised voice for democracy. Later he was nominated a member of the Royal Nepal Academy in 1957 and appointed its vice-chancellor in 1968. He died in 1982 in Kathmandu.