Nepali literary Criticism in Sikkim/ Indra Bahadur Rai

There has to be a substantial body of literary works for criticism to grow up on. Sikkimese Nepali writing has in the last century, taking for the start Manbir Singh Rasaily’s ‘Vishwa Brahman Varnan’ of 1925, an unobstructed yet snail paced progress till 1940s. Uday Lahari (1877) of Swami Inandil Das and the other many a Lahari and Sawai by composers of the then ‘British Sikkim’, that was Darjeeling, of course, do not fill the bill as Sikkimese works nor do they fit the snail-ine description. The increasingly hectic Sikkimese decades from 1960 on coincided with a minor burst of publication of literary books and periodicals throwing up in its wake a conglomerative band of talented poets and writers. And, may it be recorded that a concerted early effort to wrest Sikkimese identity in the literary field was evidenced in the publication in 1950 of Indrakeel Puspanjali, a collection of poems from Sikkim. Oneness of Sikkim region and ancient Indrakeel was iterated. Sikkim has all along retained its distinct regionality which at the same time contributed its share to the over all development of Nepali literature and in particular of the Indian Nepali part of it.

Prominent amongst the Sikkimese poets and writers of then near sovereign kingdom were Agam Singh Tamang, Padam Singh Subba, tulsi Bahadur Chetri, Ramdatta Lal Thakur, Santabir Limboo, Chandra Bahadur Subedi, Kripa Shalyan Rai, Padam Lal Chalise, Purushottam Pradhan, Raghu Nanda Subedi, Chandra Narsinha Shakya, Sanoo Lama, Santosh Bardewa, B. S. Rai, Devi Prasad Kaushik, Kedar Gurung, Girmee Sherpa, Tulsiram Kashyap, Ganga Kaptan and a few more.

Sikkimese Nepali Literary criticism began to take shape in the prefaces and forewords of books, editorials of periodicals and critical articles which were scarce to come by. Chandra Das Rai’s accout published in 1949 of the founding of the Apatan Sahitya Parishad in Gangtok in 1947, its objectives and activities is an instant in point. Not before long, however, Sikkimese critics took upon themselves the three-fold task of appraising the works and assessing the achievement of Nepali writers, i.e., those who write in Nepali, of (a) Sikkim, (b) India and (c) Nepal too. They are wide awake to their responsibility to the writers of the state but are no less aware of their national and greater obligation. They have here-to-fore, no doubt, acquit themselves creditably. Not out-biddenby the critics but rather leading them to this purport is the fraternity of creative writers who have flung themselves open to the three influent.

Sanoo Bhai Sharma in an essay in Prakriya No. 20 of 1997 has in exercise of sound judgement discussed the validity or propriety of studying works as regional and / or national. He puts it in our mind not to lose sight of the need also to study Sikkimese works as Sikkimese per se. Sikkimese writers wrote in unison with Nepali writers mainly of Darjeeling and Nepal; in the mean while they have steadfastly remained faithful to the regional experiences and aspiration. Jiwan Theeng forthrightly rued the merger of Sikkim in India. Sikkimese critical writing soon came of age. The critics would not confine themselves to examining regional writings but enlarged their ambit to include all Nepali writers, both past and present.

1987 saw the publication of Pratiman, a collection of critical essay ably edited by Prof. Rajendra Bhandari. Well tolerant of all schools of modern criticism, its erudite editorial stress the preferableness of striking out a distinctly Nepali mode of criticism on our own. In the same year was published, Sikkimeli Katha Avalokan a collection of twenty four short stories exclusively by Sikkimese writers. The volume was painstakingly edited by Mohan Prakash Rai. It was a welcome publication in that it brought several able writers to the fore. Tulsiram Kashyap brought out Janmabhumi, the first epic from Sikkim, which was hailed as a major publication by Dr. Ishvar Baral, Prof. Taranath Sharma and Dr. Swamy Prapannacharya, all three of Nepal.

Kedar Gurung, editor of Srashta of 22 years’ standing his in his two lengthy articles surveyed the Sikkimese literary scenario. They in the main contain names of and introduction to the books and journals published from Sikkim up till 1978. they serve handy to any student and bibliographer of Sikkimese Literature.

The editors of Journals were equally intent on promoting Sikkimese literary criticism. Gopal Gaonle’s labour was conspicuous in the same vein. Prakriya (ed. Bir Bhadra Karkidholi) in its volume o13 of 1974 devoted itself entirely to publishing studies of poets who were living no more. It carried articles on Raghunath Subedi by Sanubhai Sharma, Chandra Bahadur Subedi by Kedar Gurung, Bhawani Shankar Sharma by Ram Apatan, Rabin Gurung by D. Kumar Pariyar and also Indra Kumar Sarit amongst others. The studies are in essence appreciative of the contents of their works. Chandra Das Rai wrote on Jiwan Theeng emphasizing on the adoption of correct politico-historical viewpoint while studying the poet.

One is forced to take note of the critics in Rajendra Bhandari and Radha Krishna Sharma even in the not too many prefaces and forewords they have penned, as Bhandari’s in Raj K. Shrestha’s poetry collection, Yatrakram and the latter’s in Sanoo Lama’s story collection Mrigatrishna. Sharma tends to be descriptive and Bhandari, analytic.

We cannot but treat here with attention Pawan Chamling ‘Kiran’, an important poet endowed with critical acumen. An ardent student of modern literature as he is, his prefaces and many speeches on literary occasions abound in learned and perceptive discernment. A study of Dr. Harka Bahadur Chetri’s poetic output which runs to three separate volumes deservedly finds a place in our book shelves.

Mahananda Poudyal’s Bicharan Apnai Chitijma (1997) makes an interesting and delightful reading. The essays deal with topics relating to Nepali language, literature and largely Nepali littérateurs. One is agreeably rewarded by the many information the author imparts and the many observations he makes that we come across during the course of reading the book.

Dr. Ghanashyam Nepal is one of the foremost Nepali critics. He has brought out so far four important treatises: Akhyanka Kura (1987) Nepali Sahityao Parichayatmak Itihas (1991), Sailivignan (1992) and Roop Ra Rekhaharu (1996). In the first he has analyzed the essential nature of modern fictions. The second is the case wherein he has endeavored to mark out a fresh perodisation of the historical development of Nepali literature. The thirds expounds the stylistical way of uncovering the linguistic devices of uncovering the linguistic devices of expressive value in liteary works. Nepal, however, stands for a judicious combining of the Linguistic and the classical procedures. He has directed his critical gaze on Sikkimese Arjun Niraula and Jiwan Theeng but Nepali writes of India and Nepal are very much within his ken.

Dr. Shanti Chettri’s first critical work (1988) revolved round the need to re-examine the female characters of Bhanubhakta’s Ramayana and this to bring about a gender – integritywise an evenly balanced society. Her second work (1992) dwells on the life and works of the renowned critic Ramakrishna Sharma. It is a compendium of the more just of the many opinions expressed about Sharma’s works and the many opinions expressed about Sharma’s works and the author’s summing up of these in estimation.

Dr. Shova Kanti Thegian published her ambitious doctoral thesis in 1992 that comprehensively surveyed the Nepali critical arena. Her grasp is masterly. She has, without resorting to vehemence, set aside many of the critical cob-webs. She pleads for a holistic approach in criticism, embracing both the western and eastern tenets too.

The turning years of the new century proved to be remarkably fruitful for the publication of two volumes by Sikkimese critics on two Sikkimese writers, T. B. Chandra Subba produced on the life and works of Kedar Gurung and Biju Prasaw published the other volume on Jiwan Theeng who had been daily bestowed the honorific of the ‘Poet of the Sikkimese Soil’. Chandra’s book did honour and justice long due to a prominent personality in the Sikkimese literary sphere. The indefatigable T. B. had just two years previously edited and published a beautiful volume on Aruna Lama, the Princess of Nepalese Melody.

Least we forget, let’s hasten up to insert somewhere above a line on Shiva Pradhan. He has some six bulky volumes to his credit, adding up the edited and the original written ones. He keeps a vigilant watch over the forward or onward movement of Nepali language and literature. And a line on Pempa Tamang too. With his conversance in literary theories, we believe, he is getting on for an outstanding practicing critic.

This short and not at any rate depth fathoming as this review is, I hope, bids fair to be a true account of a high Sikkimes task well begun to be carried on.