Kathmandu, Feb. 25 - World famous Oxford University Press of USA has published Nepal’s epic poem "Sugata Saurabh" in English, creating a history. This is the first time the world famous publisher took out a Nepali author’s work with English translation. It is expected to enable international readers to relish literary magnificence of Nepal.
Originally written by Kavi Keshari Chittadhar ‘Hridaya’ (Tuladhar) in Nepal Bhasha (Newari), epic poem "Sugata Saurabh" is one of the greatest works in Nepali letters. The epic is based on Lord Buddha’s life and replete with Nepal’s typical art and culture; the epic is adored as the ‘magnum opus’ all Nepali people take pride in.
The epic epitomises Hridaya’s great artistry and cultural nuance. Critics say his epic is "extraordinary in aesthetic artfulness, creative in its rendering of biographical narrative and scholarly in its doctrinal exposition."
Poet Hridaya had written the epic while serving a five-year jail sentence for having published a Newar poem during the Rana regime. The epic was first published in 1947 in Nepal.
Dr. Todd T. Lewis and Subarna Man Tuladhar translated the marvel of Newar letters into English. Lewis is Professor at Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, USA while Tuladhar is Director of Studies at Nepal Administrative Staff College.
"Prof. Lewis had come to Nepal some 35 years ago for his scholarly research into Buddhism and culture of ‘Uday,’ one of the Newar merchant and craftsman communities," Tuladhar, one of the translators, reminisced during the talk with this scribe. "During his stay in Nepal for nearly 12 years he came in contact with me for learning local Newar language and culture, and it led us to the translation of ‘Sugata Saurabh’."
Conspicuously, the work they’d started back in 1982 is the result of "25 years of collaboration of Lewis with Tuladhar," as they minutely worked on the classic epic before rendering the final translation. The 25 years’ time they have taken in finalising the work could be comparable with Leo Tolstoy’s taking as many years in creating world famous ‘War and Peace.’
"Earlier, our English translation of Sugata Saurabh was brought out by Harvard University as in 2007 as part of the Harvard Oriental Series, but the present book from the Oxford Press can be viewed as an extended work that also contains an important part of detailed critical appreciation of the epic," said Tuladhar. "The organisation and contents of the present book could make it more useful also for students of arts and literature."
Prof. Lewis is all praise for the epic. In his email reply to this scribe he wrote, "What makes this epic of additional interest is Hridaya’s insertion, where
the classical sources are silent, of details on the Buddha’s life and socio-cultural context that are from Newar society and culture". "The effect is to humanise the founder and add the texture of real-life detail."
Chittadhar Hridaya, one of the maestros in Nepal Bhasha letters and its institutionalised development, is widely respected as the great poet of people’s hearts.
It is in recognition of his great work for the nation and society that Nepal Government in Nepal Sambat (Era) 1076 (2013BS) bestowed upon him the national title of Kavi Keshari.
Born to a merchant family of Drabyadhar Tuladhar at Tunchhen of Naradevi in downtown Kathmandu, Hridaya championed with self-studies and self-actualisation throughout his life to make a mammoth contribution to Newar letters, culture and art.
As the figurehead in institutionalising the movement of promoting Nepal Bhasha language at national and international levels by publishing books, textbooks and magazines in this Nepal’s aboriginal language, he formed Nepal Bhasha Parishad (council) at his own house, which he later donated to the Parishad itself.
In addition to "Sugata Saurabha," Hridaya had dozens of literary and art works including Babrubahana, Jhee Macha and Mi-manah-pau.
The Oxford University Press has printed the 412-page book in acid-free paper; it is available both in hard-cover and paper-back.
Prof. Lewis said this edition would make known to all the English-speaking Buddhist world one of the great Buddha-biography masterpieces and also introduce Chittadhar Hridaya from Nepal as one of the greatest masters ever of Buddhist devotional poetry.