Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Mahakavi Laxmi In about three months, Devkota completed Shakuntala, his first epic poem and the first “Mahakavya” (epic poem) written in Nepali. Shakuntala, a massive work in 24 cantos based on Klidsa’s classic Sanskrit play Abhijnakuntalam, was published in 1945. Devkota’s command of Sanskrit meter and diction, which he significantly assimilated although composing largely in Nepali, is demonstrated in Shakuntala. Shakuntala is one of David Rubin’s greatest achievements, according to the late scholar and Devkota translator.
The Sanskrit masterwork Abhijnanasakuntalam by Kalidasa, based on the Mahabharata’s Shakuntala narrative, was written over 1,500 years ago. In 1789, it was translated into English for the first time, and then into 12 other European languages. But, among the various translations into South Asian languages, Laxmi Prasad Devkota’s adaption into Nepali, whose 110th birthday is on Sunday, October 27th, stands out.Shkuntal Mahkvya (1945) by Devkota is the most faithful to the original shrigara ras traditional poetic form in Nepali. According to experts, Devkota’s Shkuntal is a ‘transcreation,’ not a translation or adaptation.
Devkota’s Shakuntal is one of three versions he worked on, the other two being Dushyanta Shakuntala Bhet and an English Shakuntala. It’s remarkable that a poet can make three different versions of the same piece in two different languages. Devkota, who died in 1959, is also the only poet to produce an English Shakuntala with a distinct poetry structure and style than Kalidasa’s dramatic form.The epic has been translated into Persian, Arabic, classical Tamil, and modern Urdu poetry and prose, as well as other Indian regional languages. Aside from Devkota’s three versions, there are eight other translations of Abhijnanasakuntalam in Nepali.
Reading Devkota’s Shakuntal Mahakavya creates the impression of two-way contact between two great poets from two independent but connected cultural and poetic traditions separated by centuries.When Devkota and Kalidasa discuss the meaning of Shakuntala’s “recognition” (abhijnana), they engage in a spiritual and poetic discussion. Kalidasa’s mystical symbolism and lyrical rhythms are only discernible through suggestion (dhvani), which Devkota’s writing catches quietly yet well.Shakuntala was born as the abandoned daughter of the sage Vishwamitra and the celestial singer Menaka, according to Kalidasa’s epic. The king of Hastinapur meets her in the forest and gives her his ring, which she will receive when she arrives at his palace. Vishwamitra is forced to forget about Shakuntala’s pregnancy, and she misplaces the ring on the way to the palace.The first words of Devkota’s Shakuntal bring the reader closer to Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam, where the erotic tension between Shiva and Parvati is the source of world creation and celebration.Kalidasa’s text has various Shaivism symbols, which Devkota not only translated into Nepali but also filled with the original epic’s meaning. The final lines of Devkota’s version bring the idea of ‘kalyan’ as Shakuntala’s bliss full circle.
Even if Devkota does not duplicate the dramatic form, his invocation to the Shiva/Shakti principle that produces the cosmos keeps the original’s sense and aim. Devkota’s Shakuntala, like Kalidasa’s, ceases to be a person or a character and instead becomes the embodiment of Shakti, whose happiness is the fulfillment of the universe.Devkota’s Shakuntal Mahakavya is loaded with the shringara style’s force, with its different elements colliding in creative explosions. The long and detailed account of Menaka seducing Vishwamitra is lyrically astounding in its use of sexual imagery, both visual and aural.
While the story of the seduction is implicitly mentioned or assumed to be comprehended in all other Kalidasa translations, only Devkota concentrates on both the poetic and symbolic implications of the scene. Shakuntala’s birth is regarded as a unique cosmic occurrence since it is the result of the Vishwamitra’s unfinished tapas. Shakuntala’s anguish was described by Rabindranath Tagore as her own struggle to achieve complete understanding of love by continuing her father’s interrupted meditation.
The meditation reaches its pinnacle when the male tapasvi gives way to the female tapasvi. While Vishwamitra was lured by the fact that he was unaware of Indra’s plot, Shakuntala’s anguish stems from her ignorance about Durvasa’s visit to the ashram. Dushyanta abandons his child (in the womb) and briefly leaves Shakuntala, while Menaka abandons her child and leaves Vishwamaitra. This sense of continuity and poetic harmony is only apparent in Devkota’s Nepali translation.Devkota’s brilliance rests in his meticulous delineation of many chhandas for each part, which has more diversity and intricacy than Kalidasa’s original.
In the beginning, Devkota claims that his goal is to elevate Nepali mahakavya to a higher degree of quality, and he achieves. The English Shakuntala by Devkota is a long poem divided into nine cantos, each with a different theme, ranging from ‘Vishwamitra: the Terror of Heaven’ to ‘Strife and Unity.’ In this piece, Devkota maintains his focus on Shakuntala in the Romantic tradition of heroism and self-discovery.Devkota is a famous South Asian poet for a variety of reasons, but his interpretation of Shakuntala is particularly noteworthy.
Shakuntal Mahakavya is a modern-day classic due to his use of comprehensive meters, both classical and folk, the detailed refinement of shringara rasa, stunning descriptions of events, and delicate use of symbolism.