The Timeless Poetry of Yugkavi Siddhicharan Shrestha

Taranath Sharma

It was exactly fifty-six six years earlier from today that I had moved to the famous Benaras Hindu University in Varanasi for my graduate studies, after passing the intermediate examination in Humanities in first division from St. Joseph College, Darjeeling, affiliated to Kolkata University. Five or six years earlier than that, I had been privileged to gather some insight of Siddhicharan Shrestha’s poetic excellence through the textbooks edited by famous linguist of Darjeeling, Paras Mani Pradhan. I had imbibed a conscious awareness and full knowledge of some of his verses like the following, full of national glory:

A Nepali I am, gifted to mount scary mountain tops,
Compassionate to the needy, even to the foes.

Together with it, I had thoroughly learnt his own ‘Bhanubhaktaprati’, a revolutionary poem, that approximately ran as this:

Like sprays from a cascade, piercing through the hill,
Your poetry to the people is a hearty appeal!

Who has without revolution
Seen the home of peace-fairy?
Light of changes, is what we need
For the youthful Nepalis.

Come one, come all, brothers, sisters, mothers, you all rise
We the poet’s, the poet is ours – sing to shake the skies.

In the union of students from different parts of Nepal gathered for higher education at Benaras Hindu University, the following exceptionally beautiful poem by the revered Yugkavi Siddhicharan Shrestha was sung with honour as the national song:

Mountain décor, fragrance-adorned
Glory, Mother Nepal!
Aryans, others, Buddhists, Hindus
Mix in bosoms vast!

India, China friends in bosom
Held in arms so boldly
Temples, gumbas, mosque and churches
Making lives holy!  

Life kissed by mystery-bedecked
Art of conscious time
Hamper, khukri, pannier, and grail  
Tools in joyful clime 
Ever Koshi, Gandaki and
Karnali croon hymns!    

This way, our Yugkavi instilled a sense of pride in our national glory, and unity in diversity and integrity, and sowed the seeds of patriotism in the hearts of the educated Nepali youths, through his lyrical poetry in a successful and highly praiseworthy way. This has conferred to him a position in Nepali literature that is unparallel, and ever worthy of remembrance.

As time passed, I was even more attracted to Nepali poetry, and was more and more influenced by the highly emotive, thought-provoking and timeless poetic creations of the Yugkavi. Rendering a clear portrayal of the ordinary Nepali lifestyle amid scarcity, poverty, ill-governance and injustice, he has made an appeal to all of us to glitter and shine out with his master lesson of optimism and zeal, and this has given us an unmatched encouragement and immeasurable inspiration:

Sorrows fall on humanity, stones remain unhurt
Storms with hail thrash the flowers of the garden first.
Larger a heart, more the sorrows come to batter one
Gandhi has to face the bullet, others face no harm!

Treasuring the nation in his heart, the type of poetry engendered by his deep contemplation of the glorious national history and the sacrifices of the ancestors, is best exemplified by the following unforgettable excerpts from his poem ‘Jhanda’:

Thrashing with ease troubles many, it has reached hither
Never ever bowed to rivals, brows held ever higher
Glory marks its lovely flutter, as in breeze it waves 
Full of fame and pride it is our national flag!

If this flag – an emblem of our national esteem – symbolizes the collective power of the nation, it also has the power to safeguard all treasures of the people. The poet projects the idea that along with this, it has always been escorting us along a progressive path. To such a subject of national esteem the poet gives a clear expression in this way:

We are seated altogether, in the shade of glory
As in combs are safely housed, swarms of honey bees!

The following verses give a potent articulation of the solidarity, national integrity and the sense of awareness of the Nepalese:

Diverse people came and settled, from lands far and near
Our air, land and water, today they all share!

To we the Nepalese, decently tied to a thread of unity for ages, if ever anyone poses a threat and castes evil eyes upon us, the poet’s strong heart has a befitting answer, indicative of our self-respect:

If with aims to plunder this home, someone intimidates
Let him reckon, before too long, he shall meet his end.

Sporadically at times, flames of revolts appear to be rising inside the poet. After unveiling the importance of our national flag, the poetic mind flows this way:

Envisioning end of callous tussles from the earth,
Let the waves of revolt rise from the people’s heart
Let it bolster untold power, day by day for ever
To the people just and smart, brave in arduous labour!

Born and brought up in the warm lap of Okhaldhunga blessed by the pristine panorama of nature, he moved for his work to Kathmandu, the centre nourished by the love of every Nepalese. His immemorial poetry of patriotism in one hand makes us proud of our national glory, and on the other, brightens the entire world of poetry with the liberate ideal of universal fraternity echoed in his poetry that enlivens natural beauty and incorporates the highest intimacy of humanity:

Gopas, Kirats, Aryans, Mongols
All derived their powers here,
Procured in ages with penance and cost,
We have the esteem, gathered by years
Awareness to preserve greenness,
In the garden common to all
Blossomed is our unity-tree,
Here it is – its crimson flower!

By establishing a connection of our own traditional ideals with the humanism of contemporary awareness, the Yugkavi has made such an artistically sublime poetic expression as this:

Philanthropy is the faith, karma it be ours,
Philanthropy alone can make us humans proper!
Philanthropy is a shuttle, helping human rise
It is knowledge of the human, making them so wise!
Taking arms of philanthropy, human march ahead!
Deadly darkness of the world, let us put to end!

In fact, what reasons do we have to discriminate people from people? The poet has a categorical claim:

Same is the air, water or sun; same is the food we all chomp
Of the same earth, our mother – we are daughters and sons
We have no difference at all,
You are mine, and I am yours!

[Critic, linguist, travel writer and essayist, Late Prof. Sharma was a retired professor of the Tribhuvan University and a visiting professor of the University of Michigan.]