Literature in Nepal, Languages

Nepal is known for its great diversity of people, from the many languages spoken to the variety of ethnic groups. This great array of backgrounds has contributed much to the development of literature in Nepal. From poetry to short stories, from essays to novels, Nepal has produced an abundance of literary figures and works worthy of note. Nepal's literature has been written in a variety of local languages, the most popular being Nepali literature, followed by Nepal Bhasa literature. Let us have a closer look at the history of literature in Nepal.

The Nepali language has its grounding in Sanskrit and has developed over many years into a widely spoken local language. The oldest Nepali literary work that has been discovered is a book by an unknown author entitled ‘Khanda Khadya’ dating back to 1642 B.S.* ‘Jwarup Pati Chikitsha’ of 1773 B.S. By Bani Bilas Jyotirbid and translated by Prem Nidhi Pant is the oldest Nepali book with a known author. Those who have made a study of Nepali Literature have seen fit to divide its history into 5 eras:

Before Bhanu Bhakta Era (from the beginning up to 1871 B.S.)
Bhanu Bhakta Era (from 1872 through to 1936 B.S.)
Moti Ram Era (from 1940 to 1976 B.S.)
Before Revolution Era (from 1977 through 2007 B.S.)
After Revolution Era (from 2007 B.S. to the present)

Before Bhanu Bhakta Era

The majority of literature in this era was written in poetry form. Shuwananda Das, a Newar, played a major role in Nepal’s literature during the era, composing mostly poetry. His poetry was unique in that he made use of lyrical folk songs. His poetry often related to the king and various victorious events. Prithivi Narayan Shah, the author of ‘Divya Upedesh’, never wrote works in his own hand but his thoughts and advice was penned for him. His works are said to provide excellent instruction even appropriate for today. Shakti Ballav Arjjyal was a writer and scholar of this period also serving as a royal priest.

Bhanu Bhakta Era

Bhanu Bhakta Aacharya, after whom this era is named, is considered a legend of Nepali literature having exerted a great influence on the writings of Nepal. Born in Ramgha, Bhanu Bhakta was taken to Kasi by his grandfather where he could study further. Many writers of this particular age based their works on mythology, largely giving up on politics. Yadu Nath Pokhrel was the exception. Being a great Nepalese patriot much of his work revolved around the army. He is likely the first poet in Nepal to make use of English words.

From this era onward a variety of styles and mediums for literature in Nepal were introduced. Today, Nepalese authors continue to produce outstanding literary works, some translated into other languages and read by people around the world.

*Bikram Sambat, according to the Nepali calendar.

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