Laxmi Prasad Devkota (November 12, 1909 – September 14, 1959) is one of the most renowned names in Nepali Literature. Devkota has written several poems and articles, amongst which the poem Muna Madan is considered as the best poem in the Nepalese literature history. Devkota was born on the night of Laxmi Puja (worshipping the goddess of wealth). Seeing this as an omen, the parents of Devkota (Pandit Til Madhav and Amar Rajya Laxmi Devi) named him after the goddess. However, Laxmi Prasad Devkota except being the omen of Goodess Laxmi, he has become the omen of Goddess Sharaswati (the goddess of education and wisdom). Till the life of Laxmi Prasad Devkota, he has not been wealthy by money or physical resources however he is well renouned by the wealth of his creation.
At the birth time of Devkota, the country was ruled by Rana Oligarchy. The Rana administration was not much keen about educating the masses. Devkota’s father suffered from lots of hurdle to take admission for Laxmi Prasad at the only school of the time – The Durbar School. Devkota wrote his first poems at school. He is said to be a quiet student who preferred reading and writing. He proved to be one of the best student of the time and was married at the age of fifteen while at school.
After graduating from school, Devkota enrolled in the science program at Tri Chandra College in 1925. After completing the intermediate level studies, he joined the study of Humanities where Devkota began to read English poetry. In 1931, Devkota went back to Patna on scholarship hoping to study English for his Master’s degree. But seats were not available as expected, so he enrolled for the Bachelor of Law degree instead. After he received the degree, he returned back home and started to live the family life. Despite taking tuition classes to supplement his earning, sometimes for fourteen hours a day, financial problems never left him. Muna Madan was among the creations of this time. The book challenged Sanskrit scholars who dominated the Nepalese literary scene. Muna Madan was based on the jhaurey folk tune. The book received recognition from the Ranas and a significant purse of Rs. 100.
The mid-thirties were a terrible time for Devkota: his mother, father, and a two-month old daughter died within two years. Devkota was never a smoker at school or college, but when he learned to smoke, he became a chain smoker. He was exceedingly nervous and began to complain that everything hurt him. His brothers were worried enough to put him in a mental hospital in Ranchi, India, for five months in 1939.
In 1943 Devkota was selected to represent writers in the Nepal Bhasanuwad Parishad, a state organization that acted as a censorship board. He wrote a lot during this time and tutored for long hours. He complained that people asked him for a thirty-two hour day. He wrote his first epic, Shakuntala, in three months. It is said that Puskar Shumshere Rana challenged him to write another epic in thirty days and Devkota responded by handing him the manuscript of his second epic, Sulochana, in ten days. Both epics are considered among the best works of Nepalese literature. Most of his work was unconventional. He had a habit of inventing new words to suit his poetic requirements. At times his more conservative colleagues resented his taking so many liberties with the language. Devkota became a professor at Tri-Chandra College in 1946. He left Nepal without any obvious reason and worked in exile in Benaras, India. He was editor of Yugbani, an opposition paper. He also wrote Pahadi Pukar, a book that addressed people’s poverty in Nepal. The book was banned in Nepal.
The Ranas invited him back to the country. After the democratic movement was successful, he helped publish Indreni, a bilingual journal, and was a part of the influential Royal Nepal Academy. Financial troubles followed him throughout these years. Part of the problem was his generous nature. He gave money to people who came to him with hard luck stories. One cold winter day he gave the coat he was wearing to a beggar shivering at the roadside.
Even as he was having financial worries, he was getting high appreciation and by 1957, he had become minister of education though he was an active politician. At this time he suffered from what doctors at first thought was gastric ulcer. By 1958, cancer was diagnosed and since Devkota did not have enough money (his salary was held back by the Royal Nepal Academy for visiting the former USSR as a representative of writers without informing the king), King Mahendra gave him Rs. 5,000 after complaints in the local papers and the Indian Embassy provided air transportation for him to go to India for treatment. Three inches of cancerous color was removed.
Devkota knew before his death that the end was approaching and stayed up late into the night to continue his writing. He wrote to a friend while he was in Santa Bhawan Hospital, “Death stands before me. I search for constellations in the sky but can find none. I cannot give peace to myself. If I could rise, I would kill myself and my children.”
There was much pain towards the end of his life and perhaps this explains his bitterness. So that was how, even though everyone appreciated him, Devkota died in 1959 in sorrow, thinking that he achieved nothing. He asked that Muna Madan be preserved even if all his other works faded away. Muna Madan is the most popular of Nepalese works today and though Devkota felt himself a beggar towards the end of his life, he is revered by his country people as a god of Nepalese literature.