A paper presented in the Second China–South Asia Literature Forum on the theme of Trans-Himalayan Cultural Connectivity, held during October 15-20, 2019, at Nepal Academy, Kathmandu.
In the imagination of the people of Nepal, a land of mystery lies beyond the northern borders of the Himalaya – that is, beyond the natural border of the great snowy peaks. The passage being formidable and impenetrable, it cannot be crossed throughout the year. So the people cross it through some passes and enter it especially in summer and they traverse along these lands of Nepal or Tibet (China) for different purposes.
Since ancient time great scholars and seers visited these lands and enriched each others' civilizations. We have a record of the study that during the prehistoric period a Tibetan Scholar named Thunmi Sammot developed the present day Tibetan script out of the Bramhi script of ancient India. He also translated Panini's Grammar, Panchatantra, and the Ramayana into The Tibetan (see, Bhattarai 2008). Today one can find the oldest script used in the valley of ancient Kathmandu in the Great Wall of China. Recently a journalist visitor brought the evidence of this from China. In an article published in Nepali Times, Sewa Bhattarai writes: "Usnisa Vijaya Dharini Sutra is written in six languages at the Cloud Platform, including in Sanskrit. What is surprising is that the Sanskrit lines inside the arch are not in the usual Devanagari letters, but in the Ranjana script that originated in Kathmandu Valley. Ranjana is called ‘Landzha’ in Mandarin, and can be found in religious monuments across Tibet and China, having travelled with the spread of Mahayana Buddhism, whose main texts including the Pragya Paramita are written in Ranjana." ( see, Bhattarai A).
Nepalis travelled to China for trade and business. So they carry herbs, traditional medicines, food items, clothes and salt with the help of beasts of burden, whereas throughout most of the year the passages remain forbidden. Despite this, some great seers have crossed these adventurous borders and traversed through these mysterious lands and descended down the great plains of the South, went as far as India and brought Buddhism back to China. First Bhrikuti was brought to Tibet, later on Arniko travelled as far as the mainland of China and carried with him the message of great Nepali skill of art and architecture.
The relation of Nepal with Tibet or China is age-old which is fastened with spiritual ties first, and secondly there are economic and cultural exchanges dating back to unknown past. These have kept us together. Compared to these, political and economic routes keep on changing and are not much dependable.
I had an opportunity to present a paper in a 2015 seminar organized by the China Writers' Association in Yunnan in which we discussed the Silk Road connections in the past, in which Nepal used to offer two passages to the south.
Unlike this, the present paper is my effort to seek the visions of the Nepalese writers as depicted in their works through which they read and represent Tibet and China.
Plan of the study
In the present paper I take six literary publications---two epics, two novels and two travelogues all authored by Nepali writers within a span of a century. I draw data for my discussion from these creative works that I analyze from the perspectives proposed. In one of the epics the imaginary character's travel to Tibet is the theme of the story, in another epic a historical character's travel to the mainland of China and the erection of a lasting monument called White Dagoba in Peking makes a story. The third creation is a novel that discusses Nepali characters living in Tibet since time immemorial. In the fourth one, that is also a novel, a Nepali group of artists travel to mainland China and build a marvelous palace in Nepali pagoda style for the Mongol emperor who is known as the grandson of Genghis Khan. The palace is described as a piece of perfect art. The fifth and sixth creations are travelogues written by two famed writers of Nepal. They had spent a couple of days in Tibet.
For the people of Nepal, Tibet represents China in terms of geography, culture, history. In fact China is an epic unread and unknown in the minds of the Nepalese people. However, they have revered her as a high land domiciled by great people beyond the Himalayas.
The central theme of the paper is to show how history and geography offer a space for creative writers, and how literature preserves our civilization that is built on human experience and how it compares with imaginative creations.
The six literary creations that I have selected from Nepal are, chronologically, as follow
1. Muna Madan – a folk--epic by great poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1909—1959) created in 1936.
2. Sotala(a novel by Dor Bahadur Bista ( born 1924..) Written in with the locale of Lhasa, first published in 1976.
3. Tibbatmaa Das Din (Ten Days in Tibet)a travelogue of Lhasa, Tibet by Ganga Prasad Uprety (born 1947) first published in 2007.
4. Sansarko Chhanama Mahaakavi (The Great Poet on the Roof of the World) a travelogue written by Dr Tulasi Bhattarai ( born 1949) first published in 2008
5. Aranikokrit Sweta Chaitya (An epic on Arnico's White Dagoba) created by a centenarian scholar Satyamohan Joshi (born in 1919)published in 2015.
6. Yangsheela (a fictitious novel depicting the locales of Nepal to Beijing) written by Dr Hari Raj Bhattarai (born 1953),first published in 2017.
Now I would like to introduce each of the aforesaid works briefly.
Of the six works selected to represent Nepalese vision of the mysterious North, Muna Madan is a folk epic written by Laxmi Prasad Devkota, who is known as Mahakavi, that is, the great poet. Scholars hold the view that Mr. Devkota is the sole personality to represent Nepali literature at its best, worldwide. To his credit there are about 100 works including translations.
Devkota's Muna-Madan is the most popular Nepali folk epic and has been treated as an immortal creation in Nepali literature. That is why it has been rendered into eight versions of English so far and an equal number into other languages including the Tibetan. This is the story of a young couple, Madan and his consort Muna. Madan had to leave for Lhasa to earn money and fulfill the desires of his mother and wife. Muna worries and implores him not to leave. But instead Madan is determined to go and consoles her in these words
Dear Muna, a flower in the moon,
Don’t speak such words
Why do you forget that I shall return soon ?
Twenty days on the road and twenty on Lhasa ! ( Devkota, p. 170)
Muna had tried to follow him but he convinced her not to do so as his old mother would be all alone. She had to be left back at home. Then she expresses a most philosophical of opinions that Madan was choosing wealth at the cost of peace and happiness:
A trader in a wild country,
bearing hardships what will you gain ? Oh say,
by going to Lhasa and leaving her behind ?
Bags of gold are like dirt of hand ,
what shall we do with wealth ?
'tis better to live on greens and nettles , my love,
with peace of a happy mind
Love, with a contented mind. ( p. 60)
Muna's appeals were deep and touching but Madan expressed his irresistible desire to go to Lhasa and bring some wealth in the form of gold. There was a long tradition of traders and labourers going to Lhasa, just as Nepali youths rush to gulf countries at the cost of their lives today. Leaving one's own motherland forced by poverty was then a curable disease. But today nearly one fourth of Nepal's population are away from home. Muna--Madan is a prototype of Nepali life. Then Madan spoke in order to console her at the last moment:
Dear, your words touch my heart, but see, Muna,
Life depends on that wretched wealth,
I'd love to offer mother life-giving milk,
To fulfill her a wish to build a tap
And a shelter for the weary traveler,
And love to deck your wrists with bracelets of gold
To strengthen the foundation of this house
Weakened by debts. Such hopes rose in my hearts
And died in me. Now I am set to travel forth,
Drawn by desire. With God above
And courage, my friend, I shall overcome hurdles,
While doing good, should some misfortune strike,
Should I die on the way , ah, my love,
Once again beyond this earth, in heaven,
We'll meet again.( p. 70)
The poet Devkota had not travelled to Lhasa of Tibet. However, the picture of the road, its surroundings and of Lhasa proper are vivid and stunning. It compares well with the real descriptions of today. Having taken leave from the bereaved Muna, Madan left for the destination; the poet describes the long and arduous journey in these words:
Over the thorny paths and mountains,
Steep climbs and myriad hurdles,
The dirt-'n-rock road to Lhasa lies
All bare and deserted. The fog lies thick,
Snow fills the ground and poison flowers bloom.
It drizzles even as the icy winds blow.
Tombstones and monasteries of Lamas
Travelers with round shaven heads
Lying beside the road.
Cold foliage form makeshift beds
The teeth chatter with cold
And rice remains uncooked
Bearing many hardships on the way
Under the spell of his destination,
Madan has clear waking dreams of Lhasa
Imagination paints with enchantment
Scenes from far away; from the road he sees
Lhasa city shine with strange glow.
At last a big, golden roof gleamed lovely
in the evening . Beneath Potala
near the meadows, Lhasa smiled. Like hill,
that touches the sky was this huge palace
of Dalai lama made of gold-tinged copper
golden roof. Yak-tail curtains
When he goes to Lhasa he presents a vivid description of the highland and the exquisite beauty of nature. The journey is extremely difficult. Many years later, he returns to his homeland of Kathmandu from Lhasa. On the way he fell ill and lay on the death bed when a Bhote local treated him and showed kindness. The Bhote character stands as a symbol of humanity. Devkota has tried to show that not power and pelf but human heart is great. Not caste and creed but humanity is worshipped.
Madan returns home but unfortunately his beloved Muna was dead and mother was gone. He should not have left his homeland of Kathmandu, better he would have stayed and survived on frugal food. In fact he had gone to Tibet like this
Gold is merely the dirt of hand
What can you do with wealth
Better live on coarsest of meals
And pass your life happily.
The core message of this is what Lord Rama says in the Ramayana, Mother and motherland are greater than heaven. But since time immemorial, Nepalese youth have left their land and spent their youthful days in Tibet, Bhutan, Burma, Hong Kong. And now they have scattered in many parts of the world, mostly the Gulf and the UK, USA and Australia. Almost one fourth of the total population have been living in different diasporas or are ever migrating from country to country. Nepali is now known as most wandering, migratory race. Maybe because of poverty and ignorance, mostly because of oppression, deprivation, unrest and struggles in every decade have forced them to leave.
We have a traceable record of history that Songtsen Gampo (617-650) the great king of Tibet married Bhrikuti Devi the Lichhavi princess of Nepal. She took with her the seed of Buddhism, and later on Arniko the great artist went to China and built the white dagoba temple. These are great remarkable traces of history, now almost legendary.
Sotala is a Nepali novel written by Dor Bahadur Bista, former Ambassador to Tibet. The Sotala is a term of address in Tibetan used for males. Here, the chief character is addressed sometimes as Sotala. Its locale is Tibet and the characters are Nepali and Tibetan both. It was first published in 1976. It’s a wonderful combination of reality and fancy of a great anthropologist, historian and writer of Nepal.
In his Preface, the writer says, and these words draw the gist of the creation: It is since time immemorial that many Nepalese have crossed the Himalayan border and gone to the neighboring land and returned. For thousands of years this has continued. The Nepali princess Bhrikuti was married to the Tibetan King.
Sotala is a valuable piece of work which introduces the life and culture of Tibet and shows the ties of friendship and relations since time immemorial. In his Preface the writer says: Many Nepalese have travelled to and from the neighboring country that lies beyond the Himalayas. This tradition has lasted for thousands of years. The Nepali princess of the 7th century called Bhrikuti was given to the hands of the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo. Later on she was called Harit Tara, the green star, and her husband was called Awalokiteswara, his second wife Sweta Tara, the White Star. Later on people began worshipping them.
Since then the sculptors, craftsmen, traders, monks and scholars began to visit Tibet. During the Vedic period the region beyond the Himalayas was known as Tribistap was described as the treasure (mine) of gold during the puranic age. It is therefore that during the Mahabharata war (around eight thousand years ago) the Pandavas for shortage of treasure went to Tibet. Herodotus the Greek historian who started writing history 2,400 years ago has also mentioned that those who lived below and under the Himalayas used to cross it and go beyond to bring gold. Even the common people of Nepal still believe that there is a gold mine beyond the Himalayas.
(They refer to Lhasa for this purpose, and there is an age old famous Napoli proverb which provides evidence: There is gold in Lhasa but my ear is unadorned)
The hero of Muna-Madan, the folk epic written by Laxmi Prasad Devkota, goes to Lhasa and brings back a bag of gold. But we haven't heard from anyone how someone with sturdy feet and invincible courage could reach Lhasa, how they lived there and what did they to survive. Nobody has heard about such facts. I had started to put my pen on to paper with the purpose of bringing this mystery into light. And this gave me the shape of a novel. That’s all for today.
Sotala reveals the background of those days when Nepal—Tibet trade and business prospered. It shows the long tradition of Nepalese people living in Tibet in connection with their business. But life is horrible, especially those of women. Only males could travel up to three months to do business in Lhasa, and they mostly got married to Bhote women (Tibetan) there. Mostly Newars of Kathmandu chose business.
This tradition of Nepal-Tibet relations mainly based on trade and commerce must have begun since time immemorial. Sotala presents a vivid picture of socio-cultural ties and the lives of trader Nepalese in Lhasa, which covers a story of about two hundred years ending 1950s when Indian movement for freedom was in rise and Nepalese people influenced by the same were envisioning a freedom movement in Nepal. There is a glimpse of everything: the Dalai Lama period, the traditional society, and its cultural bondages in Tibet.
Sotala supports the oral narratives of Muna-Madan. At the heart of Nepalese traders in Kathmandu are the lumps of gold from Lhasa for which they have suffered a lot. The trade expands later on, and goods are imported all the way from Calcutta and passed through Kalimpong which is carried by porters on their backs or transported through beasts of burden —yaks, donkeys, horses and soon. But three months of travel is unimaginable.
One of the characters called Hira says, "In the past it took us three months to travel through the Kuti pass. How shall I describe the troubles of the way!"
A young character named Sanuman (Sonam) realizes, "Sanuman looked far away. The yellow rays of the sun was that had recently gone down were spreading in the sky. The gold roof of the Potala palace shone brilliantly in that light. Sanuman's eyes didn’t move. And looking at that stunning beauty, he spoke, "It is therefore people hardly take courage to visit Lhasa. They should be really courageous. Or they should be helpless to choose any alternatives, and risking one's own life, should take to Lhasa" ( page 9).
Sanuman is born of a Tibetan (Bhote) woman. So the Nepalese society ranks her lower than the girls of their own caste and culture. They are discriminated, and their children known as khacchar or khacheda (meaning mule, a hybrid) who are deprived of equal cultural/religious rights in the family. Thus the Nepal people traversed to Tibet risking many things.
The valley of Kathmandu exported chili, rice, molasses, spices. Sonam describes the great beauty of that region in these words:
The matchless beauty designed by nature. The singing falls sprinkling white drops. The steep rocks and cliffs of different nature lined up so exquisitely. Different species of trees that he (Sanuman) had never imagined. The buki flowers along the highlands. All these entered his mind and soul. He was extremely delighted to have an opportunity to travel to Lhasa. Moreover, his personality together with his inner heart were getting cleaner, purer, finer, and more perfect. And he grew more sensitive or romantic every day.(page 24).
Nepal-Tibet relation ties rested on religious grounds. Buddhists have contributed a lot and made these countries borderless. Sonam explored that Mahayana Buddhism entered Tibet from Nepal and India. Tibetan lamas spread Buddhism in the Khumbu region of Nepal. Not only this, but they have spread monasteries and Lamaism throughout the country. (p 47)
Sanuman developed himself into a rich businessman got married to a Bhote woman and bore a son who was later known as khachhar. This is quite a depressing story of Nepali people. The queen turned into an ordinary woman. The khacchar Nepali diaspora there have their own deities and traditions. The novel reveals that the poor live in filth and dirt, and shows many strange traditions of Tibetans.
There is an early dawn of democracy, but the novel ends around the 1950s. It is tragic and pitiable that the Nepali diaspora live like non entities there. Because of faulty traditions and lack of rules, their lives are still not improved.
Ten Days in Tibet (Tibbatmaa Das Din)
Ten Days in Tibet is a wonderful travel account. The writer Mr. Ganga Prasad Uprety is a famed travel essayist, and moreover, the present Chancellery of Nepal Academy. He had an opportunity to travel to different important places of Tibet with some distinguished scholars of Nepal. It was the story of October 2004.
Having landed at Gonggar airport, they took the highway to Lhasa. The writer describes the great moment in very captivating words: our guest Mr. Liu could speak simple English fluently. Our bus departed for Lhasa. The bus followed a fine, well-tended, clean road. They had preserved the beauty of the landscape and environment. One could observe the Chinese technology of protecting nature. There were stoppages along the way, and in some distance one could come across toilets and water facilities. There were rocks which showed paintings representing Chinese culture. One could see sparingly distributed human settlement on the way. After another hour and a quarter, we arrived at Lhasa. (page 10)
The purpose of the visit of the Nepali team was to study Tibet. The writer observes—Tibetan culture is one of the richest cultures of the world. Tibet is considered one of the components of China. Its history is studded with glories pages and it has a glorious tradition equally long. The Buddhist temples, graves of different kings in the past, their palaces and the evidences of the labor skill and artistic visions of the Tibetan artisans. These represent her material as well as spiritual beliefs since time immemorial. From these emanate the historicity of her cultural traditions, the originality of the people's belief systems, and their originality and the minute details of Tibetan life.
The travel accounts show that the team's itinerary consisted ten days travel starting from Lhasa and ending at Shigatse near Khasa, the nearest point from Nepal. Mainly their visit to Potala, Jokhang and Norbulinkha was the first priority as the places preserved the great history of art, culture and religion of that region. The writer had also an aim of demystifying the claim that Tibet has suffered a lot since the 1951 revolution. The Museum in Lhasa was a great achievement of knowledge, and precious items are treasured carefully.
They witnessed the changing scenario of Tibet and the still pitiable situation of the people from distant villages. One important point of great interest is the number of Nepali diaspora inhabiting Tibet since time immemorial. Different bilateral decisions were taken in the pages of history that inspired, compelled and forced a small number of Nepali populace to live in Tibet. However, their situation is pitiable as the writer perceives.
The team observed in passing the contemporary lives, fast changing perspectives, the government's efforts to preserve language and promote art and cultured. Finally they moved to Shigatse, another city of great importance, and crossed into Nepal from Khasa.
The writer's observations may be a useful guide for future travelers. He says:
Tibet is considered a the treasure house of historic facts, art and artifacts (page 15)
The Jokhang temple reveals a mixture of Nepali and Tibetan architecture. Some of the artifacts in the temple and monastery are related to Nepal as well. (page 22)
The meaning of Lhasa is pious land. During the 7th century Bhrikuti brought with her an image of the Buddha as dowry from Nepal. On the ground floor of that temple they have placed that image, and the whole city was named like this. ( page 230 )
The topics included in this travelogue are
1. We flew above the Himalayas leaving mount Everest below
2. Potala, Jokhang and Norbulinkha
3. The changing picture of the Tibetan families as reflected in Chheten Chhoma
4. Tibetan educational system as reflected in Tibet University
5. Nepalese people residing in Tibet
6. Tourism management in Tibet
7. New model of Tibetan development and attractive business system
8. Tibetan institutes in the preservation of literature, language and culture
9. The language policy of China: Regarding the development of Tibetan language
10. From Lhasa to Shigatse
11. Shigatse town that has a close familiarity with Nepal
12. Facing the Himalayan mountains in the south
13. The hospitality of the city of Khasa and our farewell at the Friendship Bridge
The Great Poet on the Roof of the World
This is a travelogue published in 2008 immediately after his visit of Tibet. He was the leader of a ten member team, each member representing some literary institution of Nepal. Dr Bhattarai was the Member Secretary of the then Royal Nepal Academy.
The main purpose of the visit was to inaugurate the statue of Laxmi Prasad Devkota in Lhasa. The same poet who composed the tragic semi-epic Muna-Madan whose hero(Madan) returns from Lhasa after six months. Misfortunes followed him and everything was lost when he returned home (Nepal).
Remembering the great poet, his statue was established in Lhasa and his Muna Madan rendered into Tibetan-Chinese. The writer reached Lhasa with the team by land route, though walking trails were no longer followed.
This is one of the best books presenting geographical, historical and cultural glimpses of this land. For the people of Nepal, Tibet has remained an unforgettable region and as neighbors they underwent different fortunes of prosperity and misery, friendship and enmity. But they are inseparable from each other. Unlike Muna Madan this book presents a vivid picture of Tibet under the following titles:
1. The great poet Devkota under the roof of Potala
2. Nepal Tibet Relations
3. Lhasa and Bhrikuti
5. Nepal Office in Lhasa
6. Nepali Institutions
7. The Kingdom of Tibet and the Dalai Lama
8. Communism and Religion
9. Strange Dinner in our Honor
10. Tibetan Tea
11. Unforgettable Moments
12. Mouth of the river Arun
13. Glossary of some Tibetan Words
The 100 page book presents things squarely and gives a glaring as well as critical picture of Tibet. Now I would like to quote some extracts from this writer and show how clear and vivid he is in describing the experience of Tibet trip:
Thus we reached Lhasa in the evening of the 8th. The following day we travelled to various places. Since childhood we have heard the story of Bhrikuti who was married to Sranchan Gampo the emperor of Tibet. We bowed our heads to her in the temple of Aryatara Devi situated at Bhakor area. This daughter of Nepal is the centre of reverence for us all.
Bhakor area is the old market of Lhasa where Nepali people settled. The whole area around Bhrikuti is known as Bhakor. People circle around this. We also encircled the holy temple Jhokham. We had a sweet feeling of cordiality. (page 12)
On that very day they had arranged a program of unveiling the statue of Devkota. Its chief guest was the Chhiring Samdu, the Vice Chair of the Tibetan autonomous Region. Rama Sharma, Member Secretary of Nepali Shiksha Parishad, and the Consul Shankar Pande unveiled the statue of Devokta in Lhasa.
It is an incomparable work that Mahakavi's statue has been established in Lhasa. It’s a new bridge set up between Nepal Tibet- China, a symbol of new relationship.
Nepal and China have had good friendly relation since time immemorial. It is based on peace, cordiality and friendship. Buddha, Bhrikuti and Arniko have fastened the cultural ties of these countries. Today, having set up the statue of Mahaakavi, this bilateral relation has been made stronger.
Devkota's Muna Madan has been translated into Tibetan language as well. On the basis of this, his statue has been set up here.
In this way, the reverence given to a writer has given us courage to strengthen the ties between two nations.
Yangsheela is a fictitious novel written by Dr Hari Raj Bhattarai. The locale of this novel begins from northern Nepal and goes to Lhasa and beyond, Beijing being the final destination. Its characters are Nepali and Chinese. The central theme is to reveal the power of art that Nepali sculptor of the thirteenth century Arniko possessed.
The writer has mixed fantasy with a very dim outline of historical facts. The central theme of this novel is the strengthening of Sino–Nepal relationship with help of the artists' extraordinary performance.
It is based on the journey of Panchasar, an artist(sculptor) from the valley of Kantipur (ancient name of the present Kathmandu). The female character is Melamchi, a Limbu (of Mongol origin) from eastern Nepal. They reach Tibet, build a palace and move beyond to Beijing. It was during the period of Genghis Khan's grandson.
There is a thin layer of history and some fragrance of myth and hearsay and folk belief combined together. The writer had not visited the land, but he has applied imagination and artistry in writing a very powerful fiction of the decade. This shows how a creative artist holds control over the truth and creates a replica of it. Imagery is the best word that befits here.
Yangsheela is an intellectual fiction. One of it themes is to show how artists and religious seers have kept Sino Nepal relation very strong. Another theme is man-woman relation, sex and love. This is a universal theme. Also, there is enough space to show how kings and monarchs and people in power exploited women by turning them into toys. Now the situation has changed.
The character describes China in such words: China is an unshakable store of great knowledge, and she is an impregnable archive or museum of knowledge. They built a Royal Place in Mahachin, the great Baizing of China, they built a pagoda style palace which embodied the great art and skill of Nepal. There is memory of home, conflict of culture, and coordination, Nepali people in old Chinese diaspora.
An epic on Arnico's White Dagoba (Arnicokrit Sweta Chaitya)
The writer Satyamohan Joshi has background on why and how he decided to compose an epic on the White Dagoba situated in Peking.
He says, "After 1951 dictatorial rule fell down in Nepal and different plans for the development of the nation were proposed. Among them was the establishment of a Buddhist Association called Dharmodaya Sabha.
The Sabha organized the fourth Buddhist conference in 1951, for which a 13-member Chinese delegation came to Nepal. After that they invited the Buddhist delegates from Nepal to China. Six years later we started for China under the leadership of Bhiksu Amritananda.
When we arrived in Peking the Buddhist association gave us a warm welcome at the Buddhist Mahabihar where Aranico's white Dagoba was situated. Since then my interest grew to study the great artist Arnico and the white dagoba he erected."
After his return, Mr. Joshi wrote an article titled Arnico and his Art. This aroused interest among the Nepali scholars.
After waiting for some years the writer got an opportunity to study Arnico and his contribution deeply. He was given the job of teaching Nepali language and culture to the students of Peking Broadcasting Institute since 1964.He was given quarters at Friendship Guest House in Peking.
During that period he completed two works Arnico's White Dagoba (Epic) and Nepali Architect Arnico. The book Arnico's White Dagoba was first written in the writer's mother tongue, then translated into Nepali and English.
Arnico had built the white dagoba in the ancient city of Peking with mortar and bricks during the 14th century. Now Satyamohan another great artist of Nepal built another White Dagoba in Nepal with the help of words, says Chhatrabahadur Kayastha in the Introduction.
The epic is subtitled Epic of Folk Style because it does not confirm to the classical definition of epic.
The importance of this new epic has been categorized in different ways. This epic qualifies all three characteristics expected in a classic epic:
(a) artistic narration of an important event of national or international importance,
(b) artistic narration of the life sketch of some great personality and his/time,
(c) artistic narration of some great achievement made by some nation state.
As a national event a great artist going to China and building a monument with Nepali art has been recognized as the symbol of unity in China, and internationally a bond of friendship and long lasting bilateral relation between Nepal and China. However, the purpose of the epic is not to give the account of bilateral relation but to bring the importance of art to light and introduce the great artist. It is artists who write the lasting book of history which is studied by all, quoted by all and remembered by all. It is not the question of how true it is, it is rather the spirit of the creator.
The White Dagoba has stood as a symbol of long lasting bilateral relations between China and Nepal. Should we ever carry out translations of Nepali literature into Chinese, this epic should be given the first priority and the remaining five books I have discussed above shall follow. This will give Chinese readers a glimpse of what our writers feel about China, especially through cultural perspectives. And these writers' voices and visions are the voices of Nepalese people too.
The China Daily of October 3, 1981 records the contribution made by Arnico as: Seven centuries ago, a 17 year old Nepalese artisan named Arnico climbed over the Himalayas, crossed the Yellow River and came to Beijing , then called Dadu (great capital). He went to work for Yuan Dynasty (1271-1360) and died in China.
Today's Beijing would be unrecognizable to Arnico; but he would see at least one familiar sight—the White Dagoba he designed in the city's western district, one of the oldest structures in the city. It remains a striking feature of Beijing's skyline despite 700 years of erosion by wind and rain.
Yuan dynasty records describe Arnico as an accomplished architect, painter, sculptor and mechanical engineer. He is among the few foreigners whose biography can be found in Chinese imperial history books. The white Dagoba was built under his supervision from 1271 to 1279. Renovated in 1980, it is now open to tourists.– HaiLan
Finally I would like to quote the Xinhua News Agency news Bulletin of July 2, 1980. It says:
"The white Dagoba is a symbol of national unity" said Wu Menglin, a young architect who worked on the restoration project.
"It is also a symbol of friendship between the Chinese and Nepalese people".(Both these excerpts quoted from Introduction to the Nepali version of the book)
It was a great work, the White Dagoba. But Arnico's contribution was boundless. Researchers bring the study reports to Nepal that many other works were accomplished during his life time. Recently a journalist, having visited China wrote an article titled Scripts of the scriptures and said "After Arniko constructed three stupas, nine great Buddhist temples, two Confucian shrines, one Daoist temple, he was made the ‘master of all classes of artisans’. Prof Jing Anning at Michigan State University writes that Arniko made ‘new symbols of the emperor’s sovereignty, based on designs from Indic culture such as the dharmacakra (Wheel of the Law) which was used to lead imperial processions, and the image of Garuda, the celestial bird that was displayed over the imperial throne".
Literature is the most reliable, most precious and lasting of human activities. I have briefly discussed the contents of six Nepali creations whose locale is Lhasa Tibet to Beijing China. These are created around three central themes of
(i) Buddhism -- the arrival of Bhrikuti in Tibet
(iii)Art--the journey of Arnico to that land and the monument he built.
(iii)Public level connection and trans-Himalayan connectivity.
The study of these books show, whether the writers have visited or not, they have portrayed vivid pictures of the northern plateaus and they have not forgotten to record the plights of the Nepali citizens. They have not forgotten to appreciate the long lasting relation.
Upreti, Gangaprasad (2007) Tibbatma Das in ( Ten Days In Tibet) Kathmandu: China Study
Bhattarai, Tulasi ( 2008) Biswako Chhanamaa Mahakavi(The Great Poet on the Roof of the
World) Kathmandu: J P Pratisthan
Bhattarai, Sewa " A" . The Life and Time of Arnico. In Nepali Times (May 15, 2018. Kathmandu)
……….." B" . The Script of the Scriptures. In Nepali Times (November 7, 2018 Kathmandu)
Bista, Dor Bahadur( 2011) Sotala. Lalitpur: Himal Kitab Prakashan. ( second edition)
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