BOOK REVIEWS: Buddha in modern Nepali epic

Kathmandu:

The Taliban destroyed the ancient Buddha statues in Afganishtan and here is Bhusan Humagain, who has recreated the life of Buddha in a modern-day epic, Tathagat.

The epic, which has 1,979 verses, starts with the description of the natural beauty and varied geography of Nepal. The tale begins much before Buddha was born.

A dejected prince wandering through the jungles meets a sage, Kapil and with his blessing establishes a small town in the southern part of Nepal, naming it Kapilvastu in honour of the great sage. He was, according to the poet, the founder of the Shakya dynasty and the ancestor of the King Suddhodhan, the father of Gautam Buddha.

Tathagat, the story of prince Siddhartha Gautam, the son of King Suddhodhan of Kapilavastu in Nepal, is a journey of a prince in search of the roots of sufferings in human life.

The Buddha, lovingly called Tathagat by his disciples, left the comforts and luxuries of his princely home, even his beautiful wife and son, to travel through unknown and often inhospitable terrains in search of the ultimate truth in life. After going through penance and a long soul-searching, he attained enlightenment and became the Buddha, the conscious one.

Humagain, with his free-wheeling spirit and spontaneity follows in the footsteps of Mahakabi Laxmi Prasad Devkota, the pioneer of romanticism in Nepali literature.

Using the historical backdrop of the Tathagat’s story and time, Humagain gives a free reign to his imagination to capture and recreate the magic and moods of the time. More interested as a poet must be in reincarnating the shades and shadows with the help of his imagination rather than telling history, Humagain does justice to a tradition set by Mahakabi Devkota.

The Buddha Gita, as the poet calls it, in the true spirit of a romantic epic, is more expressive and epiphanic in nature, than being philosophical. Responding to the outburst of his creative impulse, the poet has often taken liberty with language and grammar, willingly sacrificing the austere purity of language.

According to Dr Narendra Chapagain, who has written the prologue for the book, Humagain only pays scanty respect to the classical rules of epic. As an attempt to sing the song of the most famous son of Nepal in Nepali, the poet deserves all our appreciation.

Book: Tathagat

Author: Bhusan Sharma Humagain

Publisher: Medani Dangal

Pages: 398, Price: Rs 250