Connecting the Dots
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
It was one of my routine visit to the Asha Safukuthi while in Kathmandu last June when our friend Sarad Kasa: handed over an invitation card and asked me to be there on Saturday the 8th June 2013 (Nepal Samvat 1133 Bachhalaga: Amai / Bikram Samvat 2070 Jeth 25) at Kulan Bhulu Raktakali Kathmandu and the occasion was the Lukha-chayekagu or inauguration of the Chwasapasa by our living legend Satya Mohan Joshi, the tallest figure amongst us all. It was also him to have laid the foundation stone of this building dismantling the old one on the land that once belonged to the legendary story-writer late Purna Das Shrestha of Dhaanko Bala-fame on Saturday the 30th April 2011 (NS 1131 Chaulaga: 13 / B.S. 2068 Baishakh 17). Toyota Foundation of Japan have been supporting the efforts while of late it was the generous grant out of the Constituency Development Programme for the Kathmandu Development Committee by MP Buddha Sayami of the Nepal Rashtriya Party and a host of other donors as per list made available during the function. It was an opportunity to see some of our leading personalities like Durga Lal Shrestha, Padma Ratna Tuladhar, Prof. Narmadeshwar Pradhan, Bhushan Prasad Shrestha, Nareshbir Shakya, Suresh Manandhar and many others.
It was here that Shashikala Manandhar gave me a copy of the Chicago Newa to introduce me to the Newa American Dabu dedicated to the cause and preservation and promotion of the Newah culture, tradition, language and heritage far away from the motherland but kept close to their heart. It is for the love, devotion and dedication of our people scattered the world over that the Newah language, art, culture, tradition and heritage is in the safe hands (though threatened) of the organizations like World Newa Organization with Pasa Puchah Guthi UK, Guthi Australia, Newah Organization of America, Newa American Dabu and many others. Otherwise, our language would meet the same fate like here in Sikkim. Establishing our credentials in a foreign soil with hostile atmosphere, we have sacrificed our mother tongue to the altar of identity that we achieved all these years as the able, loyal and trustworthy race to the envy of the rest.
Ever since I visited there first looking for the then Library-in-Charge Raja Shakya in December 2000 being referred and directed to him as the more able and right person for the job by none other than the another gem of our world Janakavi Durga Lal Shrestha when approached along with our relative Dipak Prasad Shrestha of the Hetauda Wapau for advice on our premier work Newa: Varna, Lipi ra Bhasha Parichaya, Asha Safukuthi has been a sort of pilgrimage for the Asa: Archives have a vast treasure of rare ancient documents, manuscripts, etc. Next day on Sunday the 9th June 2013 we had honoured Raja Shakya with Jai Smarak Samman under the auspices of Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi for the support we received all these years. He had just retired from there voluntarily. As his health did not permit us for an elaborate function somewhere else nevertheless it did not lack anything less. We decided for a simple function with some of our friends from the Bakhan Dabu and Prem-Mohan Sirpa Samiti gathered at his residence in Tapinta on Pushpalal Amatya Road. It was but natural for us to invite the educationist and litterateur Laxman Rajbanshi to grace the occasion as our chief guest since he was in Sikkim during the Indrajatra celebrations 2011 with his Bakhan Daboo team that included besides Raja Shakya, Prof. Narmadeshwar Pradhan, Dr. Sarvottam Shrestha, Shashikala Manandhar, and many others. Our friends Maheswor Shrestha known since NESOCA days and Ganesh Ram Lachhi known for his long time association with cultural activities here in Sikkim were among others present.
I had the privilege of translating it into Nepali and published in the Smarika, a souvenir brought out on the auspicious occasion of the Sahasrachandradarshanam/Maharatharohan/ Jankwa of Jai Shanker Lall Shresta and Indira Devi, the founder/father of our Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi in May 2000. This Jankwa is remembered for being held for the first time in recent memory and so also the Lakhey Natch and Dhimay Baja performed during the ceremony by our cultural troupe in the Newa attire from the Newar Language and Culture Institute at Namthang South Sikkim. It would not be an exaggeration and out of context to mention here that this function was the mother of all cultural functions in Sikkim in recent years that took the shape of the Indrajatra soon thereafter.
Prior to this, the Nepal Bhasha Manka Khala: visited here invited to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of India’s Independence with a cultural troupe led by the Human Rights veteran Padma Ratna Tuladhar and Naresh Bir Shakya that performed on December 13 and 14 of 1997 that gave the taste of rich and abundant Newa culture with bright colourful attires, captivating songs and enchanting music added by brilliant dance performances. People who braved the inclement winter weather from different corners of Sikkim and its neighbourhood would never forget this lifetime experience such was the joy and fervour.
Even before this, Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan, who along with his brother Durga Shamsher Pradhan established the world-famous Chandra Nursery (estd.1910), had started the Chandra Dramatic Club at Rhenock in 1930s in memory of his father Taksari Chandra Bir Newar. Understanding well their role in binding our people together, Chandrabir had constructed Sri 3 Dhaneshwar Mahadev Shivalaya Mandir and started a Guthi with Bhajan Mandali gathered every evening there. Guthi exists there till this date. Those days even Lakhey Natch and various Jatras were performed while Gai Jatra is still in practice here – the only place outside the Kathmandu valley. Besides these, his contributions to Sikkim are far and many that needs to study and research in depth but sad no one remembers him today. An account of such pages from the history along with some pictures and works of Dr. Bal Gopal Shrestha and others are included in my Newar Haami Yastai Chhaun (ISBN: 978-81-89602-01-7) that was released on the occasion of the 9th General Meeting and Convention of the Newah Organization of America on May 30, 2010. I had the rare opportunity to be invited there and speak on the Sikkim Newars.
It is worthwhile to mention here that Rai Saheb’s contribution to the cause of education and upliftment of the woman folk when he started around the same time in the fond memory of his late mother Bhima Devi Memorial School near the Chandra Nursery. My mother Indira Devi fondly remembers of having studied there as a child along with Ankit Lepcha and many others before she was sent to St. Joseph’s Convent at Kalimpong where late Shankha Gurung, wife of Sri B. B. Gooroong former Chief Minister of Sikkim, was her classmate among others.
With the change in the management, the Sikkim Newar Guthi was brought back to the capital Gangtok and thus came here the Indrajatra since 2010 when people from all over the State, neighbouring Kalimpong and Darjeeling and also from Kathmandu Nepal join as a mark of solidarity to make it a much awaited annual event. Even the Government of Sikkim has declared the day as the public holiday.
I remember of meeting Anil Sthapit at the Sahitya Kuthi run by the Chwasapasa that has brought out under the Joint ‘Know Our Neighbours’ Translation-Publication project of the Toyota Foundation and The Foundation for Literature founded in 1984 (1990?), many classic works of international fame like J. Kawakita’s Nepal Himalayaka Janjatiharu, Hirushu Ishii’s Nepali Sanskriti: Chhapulu and Nepali Sanskriti: Ek Pakshya, Shigeru Iijima and Yoshikazu Takaya’s Thakali ra Nepalko Khetipati, R. K. Narayan’s Guide, Bhishma Sahani’s Tamas (Khiun), Bharatya Nhu Bakhan Muna (The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Short Stories), Taslima Nasrin’s Franseli Premi, Contemporary Writing in Nepal Bhasha, An Anthology of Short Stories of Nepal, etc. translated into or from Nepal Bhasha. It makes a separate Publication Catalogue that enlists all the books published till 1998.
Chwasapasa is the third literary body after Nepal Bhasha Sahitya Mandal and Dharmodaya Sabha, a Buddhist religious body after being ousted of Nepal in 1944, at Sarnath.
This visit also saw me attending the award ceremony held at the Nepal Bhasha Mankah Khala: Yala organized by the Maan Bhaye Pucha: at Lalitpur to honour the journo Basant Man Maharjan with the Dharmaditya Dharmacharya Sirpa and Ganesh Ram Lachhi with the Dharmaditya Dharmacharya Hana to commemorate the 112th Birth Anniversary of the first journalist and Buddhist scholar Dharmaditya Dharmacharya (1902-1963), who is known for having started the first ever Newa: literary body under the name and style of Nepal Bhasha Sahitya Mandal at Calcutta in 1926 at a time when all such activities were banned in Nepal.
It also made me get my Sharad Chhetri Smritigranth printed by The Commoner Press at Nardevi that was released at a solemn function amidst a host of literary luminaries in the Sudhapa Hall of the Nepali Sahitya Sammelan, Darjeeling chaired by its head Gopi Chandra Pradhan when elderly litterateur and spiritual Krishna Singh Moktan was the Chief Guest, Prem Pradhan, the Convenor of the Sahitya Akademi, Delhi Co-ordination Committee for the Nepali language as the Guest of Honour and Smt. Shobha Chettri wife of late Sharad Chettri the Special Guest. News-clip “KarunaGuthiSikkim’s ‘Sharad Chettri Smritigranth’ launch at Darjeeling” covering the function by Darjeeling TV is also available on YouTube. Earlier, we had got printed there the Newah Bhaye Learner with CD-Support by Daya Ratna Shakya that was released at the Shankhdhar Sirpa Award Ceremony held at Thimi by none other than our Padma Ratna Tuladhar on New Year’s Day 2011. Shankhdhar Sirpa Samiti had honoured Swa: Sinha: Khala: and Nepalmandal.com for their outstanding contributions to the Newah cause.
I must mention medical care I have been receiving from the Chettrapati Nishulk Chikitsalaya that has come up well with facilities at par of European standards as learnt from their recent advertisement. I could get quick dental care and treatment from Dr. Tina Shrestha there during this visit.
Lest we forget, we in Sikkim are grateful to Dr. Bal Gopal Shrestha for having come here in 2004 to be amidst us to study for the first time ever, research and write ‘Ritual and Identity in the Diaspora : The Newars of Sikkim’ that was published by the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology in their Bulletin of the Tibetology May 2005.
The author is a Sikkim based ex-bureaucrat who works for www.karunaguthi.com launched worldwide in August 2010 during a Skype-conference of the World Newah Organization and can be contacted at email@example.com