Bhanu JayantiBy Nepali Patro (Sudan Bhattarai Upadhyaya) in National Days .
Bhanu Jayanti is the celebration of the birth anniversary of Bhanubhakta Acharya 1871 B.S on the 29 of the month of Ashad according to the Nepali calendar (Bikram Sambat). It is celebrated every year by the Government of Nepal, the Nepali community, and by the Nepalese people around the globe, along with Darjeeling in India for example. Bhanubhakta Acharya was born to father Dhananjaya Acharya and mother Dharmawati Devi in the year 1871 B.S. Bhanubhakta Acharya’s birth anniversary Bhanu Jayanti is observed as a cultural festival, which is prevalent among the Nepalese around the world in remembrance of him and his famous literary works. Bhanu Jayanti is generally celebrated and observed on the 13th of July or the 29 of the Nepali month, Ashadh in Tanahu district of Nepal in a village called Ramgha ( Chundi Ramgh), where Bhanubhakta Acharya was born. He was born into a high-class Brahmin family and received education at home from his grandfather, Shri Krishna Acharya. Later on, his father sent him to Banaras/ Varanasi/ Benares to get proper education of Sanskrit language which was the language of that time. Bhanubhakta Acharya died in Ashwin, 1925 B.S i.e. July 1868 A.D. Bhanu Jayanti.
Bhanubhakta Acharya – His Life and His Contribution
Bhanubhakta Acharya was born into a high-class brahmin family, with his father Dhananjaya Acharya working as a Governor of Palpa, for General Amar Singh Thapa in the western part of Nepal. Bhanubhakta received his initial education from his grandfather, Shri Krishna Acharya, and later pursued his education in Banaras, north India. At that time, all the poets used to write in the Sanskrit language as during those times Sanskrit was the language in use and it was the Language of the learned people. But, in reality, most of the normal lay people did not know the Sanskrit language in spoken or written form. In addition to that, the language also was and still is a very tough one to master. Thus, as most of the texts in that time were in Sanskrit, for a normal person or a layperson it was almost impossible to be able to read or understand them.
Therefore, the works and texts of poets, authors were limited only to a small mass of well-educated people, who have the knowledge of Sanskrit. But, Bhanubhakta Acharya started the change, changing the meta he started writing in the Nepali language so that people not having Sanskrit knowledge too can read his works. Bhanu Bhakta was also the first writer to translate the great epic of Ramayan to Nepali from Sanskrit thus, popularizing the Nepali language and Nepali literature as a whole. Not only that, but he was a huge devotee of Lord Ram.
During that time period also there were other contemporary poets in Nepal, as Laxmi Pd. Devkota, Lekhnath Paudyal, Motiram Bhatta, etc but, Bhanu Bhakta is revered and honored with the title of Adikabi/ Adikavi i.e. “The First Poet” of the Nepali language. Poet Bhanu Bhakta Acharya is also the first person who wrote the first poem in the Nepali language, the mother tongue. Although there were several Nepali poets and writers in Nepal as Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Moti Ram Bhatta, etc in existence who were also contributing to Literature before Bhanu Bhakta, he was the first poet who became popular among the Nepali people at that time interval. Bhanubhakta Acharya is revered and honored with the title of Adikavi, the first poet for the Nepali people of Nepal. He earned fame in the Nepali literature namely with the translation of the Balmiki’s/ Valmiki’s Ramayan popularly known as “Bhanubhaktey Ramayan”. With lots of other short poems and literature under his pocket, Bhanu Bhakta’s works that are worth mentioning are “Ramgeeta”, “Badhusiksha”, “Prashnottar”, “Bhaktamala”.
By the translation of epic Ramayan into the Nepali Language from Sanskrit, Bhanu Bhakta popularized the Nepali language and literature as well and the main reason for doing it was because he wanted Ramayan to be read by all common people who did not get any kind of opportunity to learn Sanskrit at that time. By this work, he gained the favor of the then Rana family also. With the passing of time and the popularity of Bhanubhaktey Ramayan, people started keeping it in their houses and singing the text, Therefore, to honor the poet, Bhanu Bhakta was given the title of ‘Aadi Kabi’, meaning the first poet of Nepal. He was not familiar with foreign literature because he did not receive western education but this part helped him to keep up with his original work and his experiential journey was exceptionally native to the vernacular literary system which brought a strong Nepali flavor to his writings. Bhanu Bhaktas’ key features of writings were always very simple yet very strong with a sense of religion, a sense of simplicity, and the warmth for his country.
Bhanu Bhakta and the Ghasi (Grass-Cutter)
Bhanu Bhakta belonged to a wealthy family, because of this he never had any financial trouble and had a good, remarkable life until one day he met a grass cutter who wanted to give something back to the society so that he also would be remembered by the generation to come after his death. The grasscutters’ words inspired him to do something that would leave a mark in society.
One day, he came across a Ghasi ( a person earning his livelihood by selling grass for the domesticated animals as cows and so on) a poor man, and In due course of time, their acquaintance turned to a good friendship. The Ghasi used to work the whole day to earn a normal meal for his family and himself. He was a poor and downtrodden fellow whereas Bhanu Bhakta was from a well to do family background. One fine day, Bhanu Bhakta found the Ghasi digging by the roadside early in the morning while Bhanu Bhakta was on a morning stroll for some fresh air. Seeing this, Bhanu Bhakta asked him why he was wasting time digging when he has difficulty for bread and butter, making both ends meet. The poor but wise Ghasi replied, life comes only once, we will be dead tomorrow, so I want people to remember me even after I am gone from this world. That is why I am digging a well here as there is a scarcity of water in this area because of which the villagers have to travel long distances to fetch water. The people from the neighboring villages also have to pass through here with thirst and exhaustion. Therefore, I want to serve the people and at the same time stay alive in peoples’ hearts even after I am dead and gone.
Bhanu Bhakta was inspired by these words of a poor but humble Ghasi. And he thought to himself:-
भर् जन्म घाँस तिर मन् दिई धन कमायो
नाम क्यै रहोस् पछि भनेर कुवा खनायो
घाँसी दरिद्र घरको तर बुद्धि कस्तो
म भानुभक्त धनी भैकन किन यस्तो
मेरा ईनार न त सत्तल पाटिकै छन्
जे धन चीजहरु छन् घर भित्रनै छन्
त्यस घाँसीले कसरी आज दिए छ अर्ति:
धिक्कार हो म कन बस्नु न राखि किर्ति
All his life he earns his little living by cutting the grass.
And constructs a well for his name even after his vitality will pass.
Indigent grass cutter but how high thinking is this.
Being Bhanubhakta but why did I myself miss it?
I have neither wells nor rest houses, every riches I have is only within my house.
This grass cutter has opened my eyes today.
Worthless is the life whose memories of existence just fades away.
There is no denying that the Ghasi, the grass cutter inspired Bhanu Bhakta to serve the public with good deeds. Legends have it that Bhanu Bhakta met a grass cutter who was saving money he used to earn by selling the grass for the purpose of constructing a drinking water well which will serve the general public. When he heard this poor person’s words and his steadfast determination, he began to realize that he has not done anything for the public in spite of having wealth.
The Ghasi’s word and his aspiration to do something good for the people and stay eternal in people’s minds and hearts tickled Bhanubhakta’s neurons too. After that day he started thinking for several days and later he decided that if someone as poor as the Ghasi can do something for the people then why can not he also do something? Ghasi had become the source of inspiration for him and eventually, he decided to use his knowledge of Sanskrit to do something. And with this inspiration, he had received from Ghasi he ended up translating Sanskrit Balmiki’s/ Valmiki’s Ramayan to Nepali. He wrote the full epic in an easy to understand and easy to enjoy the form and the poetic story of Lord Ram and Sita became very popular among Nepalese people. But, nobody knew about Bhanu Bhakta’s Nepali version Ramayan in the beginning, it was Motiram Bhatta, another poet who made it popular by promoting the Bhanubhaktey Ramayan sometime after the death of the creator. Nepali translation of Ramayan by Bhanu Bhakta is considered to be the initial phase of development of the Nepali Language and is also the first major work in Nepali Literature. Bhanu Bhakta started translating the Ramayan in 1905 BS and is highly honored for translating the epic, Balmiki’s/ Valmiki’s Ramayan, in the local dialect almost about 150 years ago.
Bhanu Bhakta wrote two masterpieces in his life among which, one is the Bhanubhakteya Ramayan and the latter is a Letter he wrote in a verse form to the Prime Minister, Jung Bhd Rana while he was in prison. He was sent to prison and imprisoned in the Kumarichowk jail due to some misunderstanding in signing the papers, he was made a scapegoat in the case. While living In the prison, his health deteriorated and he was given false hopes that he would be set free soon. But, his case was not even heard by the concerned authority, therefore, he wrote a petition to then Prime Minister Jung Bhd Rana requesting for his freedom, which later on became one of his great writings. And, Bhanubhakta completed the translation of Ramayan during his prison term.
Bhanubhakta Acharya died in 1868 AD (1925 BS) but he has never been forgotten. While alive, his works were being overshadowed by other great writers and poets. He died without getting any credits for his works but he got famous and got the due recognition after poet Moti Ram Bhatta found his manuscripts. Moti Ram Bhatta published the work of Bhanu Bhakta. Almost everyone who went to school as a child knows the poem, which was the inspiration from the Ghasi which has been mentioned above.
It was Motiram Bhatta, who first referred Bhanu Bhakta as Adikavi while writing Acharya’s biography. He had clarified that Acharya is called Adikavi / Adikabi because he was the first poet in Nepal and he deserved the title as he was the first poet who used to write with an understanding of the marma (inner essence) of poetry and literacy. Bhanu Bhakta did not live to see in person how popular his book and his poems etc became or how popular he himself also became. Though he is no longer among us, he will always be remembered as the poet who introduced Nepali Ramayan into our lives and started the voyage of rich Nepali literature.
Since (1978 A.D) 2034 B.S, Bhanu Jayanti is celebrated every year on the 13th of July or the 29 of Ashadh as a grand event with literary seminars, and programs amid an outstanding presence of Nepalese writers, Poets, Novelists, other literary figures plus literary enthusiasts. Different kinds of people from different ages, professions, etc visit and garland his figure in the premises of Durbar High School opposite Rani Pokhari during Bhanu Jayanti. Different cultural programs as poems recital, play on the life of Bhanu Bhakta, etc are organized to mark this day in schools and colleges across the country. During the program, poets, as well as other literary figures, recite the poems of Bhanubhakta Acharya to honor and remember him on his birth anniversary, Bhanu Jayanti. A huge photo of Bhanu Bhakta is placed on a chariot and its procession goes around the capital city of Kathmandu as well as other places of the country with flocks of distinguished literary figures as well as common people. As part of the celebrations, a morning procession takes place with his photo in different places wherein, various dignitaries pay floral tributes to the most-respected poet of the country. This day is observed and celebrated in Nepal and different parts of India as well, with various other countries where Nepalese people are settled. Bhanu Jayanti.