Maithili Novelist Manipadma and National Consciousness

by November 2, 2018 0 comments

Maithili Novelist Renowned Maithili writer Manipadma’s works revolved around the theme of national consciousness, which was already present in India before the arrival of colonial rule.

Braj Kishore Verma, popularly known by his pen name, Manipadma, is indisputably one of the most productive novelists of Maithili language. He is a prolific writer in the true sense of the term and has published more than a dozen of novels based on a variety of issues ranging from folktales to slavery, from beggary to spying and so on. The prestigious Maithili magazine, MithilaMihir, which is indeed responsible for the making of many successful creative writers in Maithili, published some parts of his first, incomplete novel, Analpatha. It was, perhaps, never completely written as nobody has any clue or access to the entire novel.

Four years later, a historical novel titled, Vidyapati, was published. Vidyapati is the fountain head of Maithili literature even though Manipadma  wrote as many as 11 texts in Sanskrit before he turned to Maithili language for his poetic endeavours. And Manipadma presents different dimensions of Vidyapati’s personality in an extremely persuasive manner with a backdrop of the Oinwar dynasty, which he served particularly during the reign of king Shiva Singh. The novel traces the trajectory of the genesis and the growth of the great poet and also brings to the fore some of the trials and tribulations faced by the queen, Lakhima Devi. Vidyapati appears to be the first complete, notable novel which gave Manipadma distinctive visibility in the domain of literature.

During the period of 1967 and 1968, his novel, Ardhanarishwar, was serialised in Mithila-Mihir. It came out in a book form much later in 1981. The idea of Ardhanarishwar is invoked in this novel to suggest that all human beings, regardless of their gender, have both masculine and feminine characteristics embedded in their disposition. The novel is specifically important for its effective articulation of those ideas which were gathered from philosophical traditions prevalent in the ancient Indian social networks for the assertion of the fact that the common folks share a deep solidarity and have tremendous respect for the country. Trying to establish a harmonious confluence amongst Saiva, Shakta and Buddhist philosophies, he does, in fact, make enormous contribution to the reawakening of our nationalist mindset.

With a certain degree of poise and poignance, Manipadma played a significant role in shaping and even strengthening our national consciousness in almost all of his novels, such as Raja Salhesh, Lorik Vijay, Kobragarl, Naika Banjara, Lavahari Kushahari, Rai Rampal, Phutpath, Bharatika Bilari, Dulara Dayal  and Nagbhumi, sometimes quite explicitly and at other times implicitly. Raja Salhesh is centered around the cultural narratives of a lower caste in Mithila. Salhesh is an extraordinary Dalit character capable of performing certain spectacularly heroic activities and, thus, defeating the nefarious designs of Chuharmalla, who has been portrayed as an archetypal villain in this novel.

Similarly, Lorik-Vijay draws upon the folklore associated with the Ahir community of our country. Equipped with a remarkably strong body and an immensely sound mind, Lorik emerges as a popular leader. He exhibits an indefatigable will and indomitable spirit which drive him to indulge in all kinds of romance and adventure. His indulgence makes him to lose sight of the love and affection of his wife, Manjari. And he finds himself quiet unable to resist the temptation of the glamour and charm of Chanaina. Despite his indulgence and susceptibility, he decisively defeats his rivals representing evil and finally succeeds in attaining a kind of ultimate peace and happiness with the assistance of his beautiful and unbelievably helpful wife.

Naika Banjara, which brought the Sahitya Academy Award for Manipadma following the year of its publication, explores a Buddhist folktale in a creative way. Its exploration in the novel ends up highlighting the utmost importance of not just knowledge, insight and wisdom, but also economic health and military prowess for the development of a nation. Weaving together different stories of Kanakmanjari, sea-trader Ratansen and the Buddhist monk, Devapadma, with a view to foreground the significance of Banjara narratives, Manipadma provides an effective framework of defining human relationships which value the fulfillment of national interest more than individual accomplishments. It is very much evident in the text that Buddhist way of looking at human life and the growth of a nation is as fruitful and inseparable as any other mainstream philosophical traditions.

From their primary preoccupation with the cultural narratives of supposedly lower and backward castes, these three novels very categorically demolish the false accusation put forward by either ignorant or arrogant minds who prefer to associate Maithili literature exclusively with upper castes and the representations of their socio-political and cultural accounts.

Manipadma also experimented with the genre of detective fiction when he chose to write Kobragarl in which an extremely brave, young lady does not mind at all to put her own life at stake for the sake of the nation. She willingly chooses to perform the task of spying and goes on to expose the Chinese conspiracy against the new emergent nation state. An ardent desire to even sacrifice one’s own life at the altar of nationalist cause is so succinctly expressed in this enormously exciting piece of literary work.

His Lavahari Kushhari, Rai Ranpal and Dulara Dayal revolve around those folktales which reflect the existence of highly moving ancient Indian cultural networks. The first engages with the Sitaram katha from the point of view of their children. Sita is seen as a valiant warrior from Mithila, who does not fall apart even when abandoned by her husband while she is pregnant. She takes care of herself and raises her two sons like a strong and self-sufficient single parent. The novel tells us an interesting story of Ram being defeated by his own sons. Clearly, it has been written with a perspective to put Ram in place before Sita disappears, in fact motivates herself to merge with the all encompassing mother Earth.

The second, Rai Ranpal gives us a detailed account of the historical deeds of the central protagonist who happens to be the last king of the Pal dynasty. The heroic way Ranpal faces the challenges, which circumstances have thrown his way, draws lessons for us that we should confront difficulties of our lives and never ever try to run away from the sorry state of affairs surrounding the world we live in. A group of folk dancers, who are known as Pamariyas, prefer to sing the touching tales of Ranpal, specifically to celebrate the birth of a child in Mithila region of the nation. The third, Dulara Dayal deals with the devotion of the hero towards the river, Kamla. His undying admiration for the goddess indicates the relevance of the river for the well-being of the region and in turn the nation. He is believed to possess the kind of divine skills that enable him to dance in inimitable ways with an apparent objective to bring good fortune to the people of that region.

Most of the distinguished Maithili writers have not cared to write literature for children. But Manipadma proves to be different. He wrote Bharatika Bilari which is a an extremely entertaining story of an adventurous journey of a very funny child along with a miraculous cat. This novel represents those imaginative tendencies which constitute the cosmos of children’s literature. It basically fulfills the creative responsibilities of a sensitive author who thinks that the availability of quality literature for children is indispensable for the formation of healthy regional or national ethos.

Manipadma’s consistent engagement with the ideas and issues that underline the primacy given to the national interest is particularly praiseworthy in view of the fact that his last published novel, Nagabhumi, unequivocally promotes national unity and its territorial integrity in the face of seemingly insurmountable insurgency which erupted in Nagaland. He considers the violent rebellion as an act of treason, highlights the role of foreign vested interests in aggravating the turmoil and turbulence and finally exhorts us all to show our unequivocal solidarity with the idea of India in order to foil the attempts of the destabilising forces hell-bent for the disintegration of the nation in one pretext or the other.

Borrowing a phrase from the historian, Partha Chatterrjee, who has discussed a great deal about of the idea of nation and nationalism, I wish to state that Manipadma talks about the nation and its fragments in the above-mentioned novels in a pretty complex and nuanced manner. His artistic preoccupation with the reinforcement of the national consciousness, citing numerous examples from folktales alongside those from contemporary realities entirely demolishes the claim that the sense of the nation began to develop in our country with the colonial intervention. Exploding the myth of the genesis of our nation in colonial encounter, Manipadma establishes himself as a nationalist writer who effortlessly drew upon the cultural reservoir so easily available in  ancient Indian social networks.

Writer:  Sachida Nand Jha

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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