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Lekhnath Paudyal (1885-1966) Lekhnath Paudyal was the (bunding lather of twentieth-century Nepali poetry, hut his most important contribution was to the enrichment and refinement of its language rather than to its philosophical breadth. His poems possessed a formal dignity that had been lacking in most earlier works in Nepali; many of them conformed in their outlook with the philosophy of orthodox Vedanta, although others were essentiallyoriginal in their tone and inspiration. The best of Lekhnath's poems adhered to the old-fashioned conventions of Sanskrit poetics (kdvya) but also hinted at a more spontaneous and emotional spirit. Although often regarded as the first modern Nepali poet, Lekhnath is probably more accurately described as a traditionalist who perfected a classical style of Nepali verse. Note, however, that his poems occasionally made reference to contemporary social and political issues; these were the first glimmerings of the poetic spirit that was to come after him. Lekhnath was born into a Brahman family in western Nepal in 1885 and received his first lessons from his father. Around the turn of the century, he was sent to the capital to attend a Sanskrit school and thence to the holy city of Bariaras, as was customary, to continue his higher education. During his stay in India, his young wife died, and he met with little academic success. Penniless, he embarked on a search for his father's olcf estate in the Nepalese lowlands, which was ultimately fruitless , and he therefore spent the next few years of his life seeking work in India. In 1909 he returned to Kathmandu, where he entered the employ of Bhlm Shamsher, an important member of the ruling Rana family, as priest and tutor. He retained this post for twenty-five years. As an educated Brahman, Lekhnath was well acquainted with the 99 I.EKMNATH PAUDYAl. 23 classics of Sanskrit literature, from which he drew great inspiration. From an early age, he composed pedantic "riddle-solving" (samasyd-purti) verses, a popular genre adapted from an earlier Sanskrit tradition, and his first published poems appeared in 1904. Two poems published in an Indian Nepali journal, Sundari, in 1906 greatly impressed Ram Mani Acharya Dlkshit, the editor of the journal Mddhavl, who became the first chair of the Gorkha Bhasha Prakashim Samiti (Gorkha Language Publication Committee) in 1913 and did much to help Lekhnath to establish his reputation as a poet. His first major composition was "Reflections on the Rains" (Varshd Vichdra) and it was first published in Madhavim 1909. This poem was later expanded and incorporated into Reflections on the Seasons (Ritu Vichdra), completed in 1916 but not published until 1934. More of his early poems also appeared in a collection published in Bombay in 1912. One of Lekhnalh's most popular poems, "A Parrot in a Gage" (Pinjarako Sugd) is usually interpreted as an allegory with a dual meaning: on one level of interpretation, it describes the condition of the soul trapped in the body, a common theme in Hindu devotional verse, but it also bewails the poet's lot as an employee of Bhlm Sharnsher. Here the parrot, which has to make profound utterances according to its master's whim, is actually the poet himself. This particular poem is extremely famous in Nepal because it. is one of the earliest examples of a writercriticizing the Rana families who ruled the country at the time. In terms of literary merit, however, it does not rank especially highly in comparison with Lekhnath's other verse because it suffers from excessive length and frequent repetition. Indeed, some critics regard it as a poem originally written for children. Lekhnath produced one of his most important contributionsto Nepali poetry at quite an early stage of his career: his first khanda-kdvya (episodic poem), Reflections on the Seasons,demonstrated a maturity that was without precedent in Nepali poetry. Indeed, it is largely to Lekhnath Paudyal that this genre owes its prestige in Nepali literature. The primary inspiration for this work was probably The Chain of theSeasons (Ritu-Samhdra) by the great fifth-century Sanskrit poet Kalldasa. Each of the six "episodes " of Lekhnath's poem comprises one hundred couplets in the classical anushtup meter and describes one of the six seasons of the Indian year. Most of the metaphors and similes employed in the poem were borrowed directly from Sanskrit conventions for the description of nature (prakriti-varnana), but a few were unusual for their apparent reference to contemporary political issues: In the forest depths...


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