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Friday Supplement
Paras Mani Pradhan: ‘Touchstone’ Of Nepali Literature
Yuba Nath Lamsal

In Nepali, Paras Mani is a mythical ‘touchstone’ that has the magical power to turn anything into gold. True to his name, Paras Mani Pradhan, too, is a jewel of Nepali literature. His contribution is, indeed, magical that took the Nepali literature to a newer height at a time when the state of Nepali literature was in slumber. During Paras Mani’s period, Nepal was under Rana regime which restricted political and social activities including creative writing. During those days, Benaras and Darjeeling provided free atmosphere for Nepali political activists and at the same time these Indian cities became a fertile ground for Nepali literature. This was the period that produced Dharanidhar Koirala, Paras Mani Pradhan, Surya Bikram Gyawali, Lainsing Bangdel and the alike who made a significant contribution to the development of Nepali literature with the message of awakening and revolt.

This was the period, when Paras Mani along with Dharanidhar Koirala and Surya Bikram Gyawali launched a movement that proved to be catalyst in creating new awareness among Nepalese people especially in Darjeeling about Nepali language and literature. Paras Mani was its initiator and motivator.

Paras Mani Pradhan was born in 1955 BS in Kalebung of Darjeeling, India to Bhagyamani Pradhan and Laxmimaya Pradhan. He was taken to Sindhebung by his sister Tulasa Pradhan when Paras Mani was just a three-year old boy. His early childhood was spent like that of any other village boy who herded cattle and supported the family in the household chorus. Later he joined a local primary school in the village. After completing primary level from the local school, he went to Darjeeling for further study and did his matriculations. He completed Bachelor’s Degree from Calcutta (now Kolkata).

As his financial condition was not sound, he could not pursue further education and had to take up the job to support himself and his family. He joined Scottish University Mission Institution in Darjeeling as a teacher of Nepali and Sanskrit. This was a kind of prestige to get this job by a person of Nepali origin. During that time, people of Nepali origin were either not well-educated or they were often treated badly by the authorities and others in the West Bengal. He later became sub-inspector of a government’s schools and he was also appointed teacher of Government High School in Darjeeling.

Apart from his job, he simultaneously devoted to writing and promoting Nepali language and literature. He took up various tasks for the promotion of Nepali language and literature that included writing, editing, publishing and managing different magazines, organizing social and literary forums to generate awareness among the people about their language and carrying other programmes aimed at bringing about progressive changes in the society

As he had already started working as an editor of a literary magazine "Chandrika", he also established a library in Kurseong in order to make people more aware. He adopted another approach to generate awareness among the people for the rights of the Nepali-speaking population and also for the promotion of Nepali language and literature. This was the method of drama staging. The level of understanding and education among the Nepali-speaking population in Darjeeling was relatively low and Paras Mani chose drama staging to make his message across the targeted people. He staged several dramas written in Nepali language. He then started writing plays to be staged. In the period between 1974 BS and 1979 BS, Paras Mani Pradhan wrote many plays, most of which were staged. Taking into account the relatively low level of understanding among the Nepali-speaking population, he chose very simple and colloquial language in his plays so that the people from all walks of life could understand clearly. His objective was not only to entertain people and project his literary genius but also to give a clear message to the people—a message to rise for their language and linguistic rights. Later, the use of simple and colloquial language became a trait of Paras Mani Pradhan’s literary writing.

His untiring effort and struggle for the cause of Nepali language and literature often landed him in trouble. He was once arrested for establishing Nepali literary organization and launching movement. Although his activities were peaceful, they were dubbed by the authorities as the ones motivated by extremist politics.

During Paras Mani’s time, Nepali was not the medium of instruction in schools in Darjeeling. He fought a relentless struggle demanding introduction of Nepali language as a medium of instruction in schools and recognition of Nepali as one of the national languages of India. Although this could not be possible during his life time, Nepali was ultimately recognized as a national language of India, thanks to the movement initiated by Paras Mani Pradhan. Now Nepali is the medium of instruction in the schools in the district of Darjeeling; as a subject of study at the college and university level and also as the official language of Darjeeling district. Nepali also acquired recognition by the Sahitya Akademi ( Literary Academy) of India as one of the national languages of India.

At a time when students in Darjeeling had no scope to learn in Nepali due to the lack of textbooks and grammar, Paras Mani came to their assistance. He initiated a project of massively writing books and other materials in Nepali language and also encouraged other budding writers to create the Nepali reading materials in schools and colleges. In this campaign, his colleagues like Surya Bikram Gyawali and Dharanidhar Koirala and several other young writers joined Pradhan’s campaign and made it successful.

Apart from being a crusader for Nepali language and literature, he was also an acclaimed writer. He has written essays, poems, plays and stories. In addition, he was also a linguist, grammarian and lexicographer. He has written grammar books and dictionaries.

His writing career began as a journalist. He edited literary magazines ‘Chandrika’ in 1974 BS and ‘Bharati’ from 2006 to 2015 BS. During this period, he wrote many articles, essays, poems and stories and got them published. This was Paras Mani’s most productive period as a writer.

He always tried his best to promote and develop Nepali language and literature and also bring about a positive and progressive change in the society, for which he launched various literary as well social movements in Darjeeling.

His life of 70 years was marked by many ups and downs. But no difficulty and turbulence ever deterred him from pursuing his mission. He faced the problems, difficulties and tumults with courage, wisdom and determination, which earned success in his career as a creative writer, linguist and social reformist. Paras Mani is, thus, regarded as one of the best motivators for the cause of Nepali literature. What Motiram Bhatta did to establish Bhanubhakta and promote Nepali language in Nepal, Paras Mani did the same in Darjeeling with support from Dharanidhar Koirala and Surya Bikram Gyawali.

There are about 200 books and periodicals to his credit. The role Paras Mani Pradhan played for the development of Nepali language and literature is by far the tallest contribution made by any Nepali living outside Nepal.

Some of his works are: Nepali Byakaran (Nepali grammar), More than a dozen books on Nepali language and literature, Standard Dictionaries both from English to Nepali and from Nepali to English, Lokgeet (folk songs), ‘Tipan Tapan’ (Collections), ‘Rochak Samsmaran’ (Interesting Recollections) ‘Kwaati’ (Amalgamation), Batulbatul ( Collection), ‘Kathe Jhaakri’ (Rustic Shaman), Panch Paurakhi Purush ( Five Hardworking Men), Buddha Charitra ( Buddha’s Character), and biographies of Bhanubhakta Acharya, Motiram Bhatta, Lekhnath Poudyal and Balkrishna Sama. Apart from these books, he has written a number of articles in several magazines and newspapers and has also translated various books and other stuffs from other languages like Sanskrit, Hindi, English and Bengali into Nepali.

Be it poems, essays or other stuffs, His works preach the message of liberalism, reforms, progress, reality, patriotism and politeness. His essays are written in a narrative and descriptive method but they appear more like stories that sustain the interest of the readers. Some of his essays reflect his own life, action and reminiscences. "Tipan Tipan", which won the "Madan Puraskar ( Madan Literary Prize) is the book of Paras Mani’s essays that contain his reminiscences. "Panch Paurakhi Purush" is also a collection of essays that won Tribhuvan Puraskar ( Tribhuvan Literary Award). This book contains the biography of Nepal’s best literary icons namely Bhanubhakta Acharya, Chakrapani Chalise, Nara Bahadur Bharati, Baburam Acharya, Dharanidhar Koirala, Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Somnath Sigdyal and Paras Mani Pradhan.

In terms of quantity, Paras Mani Pradhan has produced many books. But critics have dubbed his writing as ‘below standard’ in terms of quality. Late Ghataraj Bhattarai, a noted literary critic, has described Paras Mani as ‘not being the writer of high quality’. To some extent, it is true because his works are devoid of high degree of imagination but contain description and a message. But his role as a campaigner, motivator and reformer is definitely unforgettable and unmatchable.

He is an ardent advocate of writing in the standard and grammatically correct language and his writings have always a ‘uniform style". According to him, the language of writing should always be simple but grammatically correct so that the literary writing should be taken as a standard language for the commoners. Grammatical errors in the Nepali language and literature always pained him and this inspired Paras Mani to write several books on Nepali grammar.

Thus Paras Mani’s service for the cause of Nepali language has been widely acclaimed. Paras Mani Pradhan was conferred the degree of the Doctor of Literature both by Tribhuvan University of Nepal and the North Bengal University. He was also honoured with Madan Puraskar (a prestigious prize in the field of Nepali literature) and the prestigious Tribhuvan Puraskar by the Royal Nepal Academy (Now Nepal Academy). Paras Mani passed away on Magh 20, 2042 BS.

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