Satire In Bhanubhakta’s Poem

Pradipna Raj Panta

These days we all are savvy enough to understand satire. Since many of us are used to watching television shows such as Bhadragol, Golmaal, Harke Haldar, Meri Bassai, and Sakkigoni, we have had a steady stream of satire. I have also witnessed politicians and bureaucrats using satire to lessen the humiliation of their wrongdoing and sometimes, as an author, I have also used satire in my writing to poke fun at human faults and foolishness to correct human behaviours. Satire is very common and satirical laughter is a source of both catharsis and redemption.

Master Satirist
Bhanubhakta was the foremost satirist in the Nepali language and one of the greatest masters of that form even today. Bhanubhakta used satire to examine and criticize individuals and society. He ridiculed the pretensions of his time in brilliant and sarcastic verse. His satire was topical and it is important to know the background that influenced the Bhanubhakta to become a satirist.
Once he was embroiled in a corruption scandal. His father was a government employee and had already come under investigation in charge of corruption. His father had failed to keep the official accounts. As a result, he was made the culprit after his father died and was ordered to restore the money unsettled by his father. Under Hindu law, a son is under a moral obligation to discharge his father’s arrears either personal or government out of his ancestral property even he had not benefitted by the arrears or the money obtained from the corruption or any other means. And Bhanubhakta was not able to pay the money as the amount was huge, so the then rulers imprisoned him in jail. He spent nine months in Kumarichowk jail and during his period in jail, he wrote outstanding satirical poems, full of puns and comical illusion. The following satire is taken from his memory of prison during that period.
Daily I view your footmark; I need not worry at all
(Instead) happy to see the rhythmic movement all night without spending money and I am blessed.
Mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs are my friends; I am akin to them
Mosquitoes sing, bed bug dance; I look at them with pleasure
Bhanubhakta had used poetry to shape rulers perceptions. Once Bhanubhakta entangled in a legal dispute with Giridhari Bhat over land. The then Nyan Manch (justice forum) in the village including Panch was against Bhanubhakta and the case goes in Giridhari’s favour. But Bhanubhakta was not happy with the decision of Nyay Manch and went to the high court of Kathmandu for appeal. But this matter lingered for many years. So he made fun of the custom of his society at that time and wrote some beautiful verses addressed to a Ditthha Bichari (clerk) at the court.
How much should I implore, the clerk (Dittha and Bichari) remains silent
They even talk but like jest and (finally) say for the next day (tomorrow, tomorrow)
Say that I can’t, otherwise finish the work, why they say tomorrow
Their tomorrow (postponement) has put my whole world in danger; take everything and finish me off (Bakshiyosh Jhholi)
Bhanubhakta had many friends, including Tarapati. Tarapati was his close friend. Bhanubhakta often visits his house. Tarapati was also literate. Bhanubhakta was also friends with Gajadhar Soti; however, this friendship didn’t last.
One night Bhanubhakta went to become a guest of Gajadhar Soti. But he was not in the house and his mistress misbehaved with him. She also showed strong antipathy toward him and Bhanubhakta captured the situation and turned them into a poem full of satire reproach and confusion. He wrote
Gajadhar Soti’s mistress is ill-omen and now ready to say goodbye to hell.
In addition to the poem, he also made some unsavoury remarks about Gajadhar’s mistress.
Bhanubhakta’s other famous poem Badhu Siksha was also written in the same manner. He wrote it after hearing a heated argument between a mother and daughter in law while being a guest in their house.

Good or Bad
Some critics believed Bhanubhakta was a good poet as well as a person but some believe that Bhanubhakta was average or bad. As a result, some people treated him like a god and some treated him like a monster. But it is dangerous to believe that some poets are innately good while others are inherently bad. Poets are poets. According to psychology, human nature is infinitely more complex and people can be a combination of good and bad qualities.
Good means the absence of self-centeredness. This means the ability to empathize with other people and to put their needs before your own. Bad people are unable to empathize with others and their own needs and desires are most important.
Bhanubhakta is also a combination of good and evil. While writing a poem like Gajadhar Soti, he was unable to empathize with Gajadhar’s mistress. He was not able to sense her emotions and suffering. As a Psychologist, I believe Soti’s mistress is just an object to him and not able to see the women perspectives, and so have no sense of her rights. So he wrote derogatory words like ominous, bad, ill-omen and ready to go to hell.

Poet of Common Man
Bhanubhakta was a poet of the common man. To a great extent, proof of this can be found only by reading his translated work Ramayan. Also in Prasnottari, Badhu Siksha, Bhaktamala and Ramgeeta, he tries to represent himself as a poet of common ordinary Nepali. It seems to me from his poem that he is just a common man speaking to common ordinary men. His subjects have been taken from incidents and situations of common life.
I had loved poetry since my childhood. I vividly remember that sometimes my parents asked me to read aloud from Ramayana. I didn’t understand a lot of what I read –but it fascinated me. It was like hearing a new language. “Ek din Narad Satyalok pugigaya lok ko garun hit bhani, Brahma tahi thiya parya charanama khusi garaya pani”. In English
One day, Narad (ascetic) reached heaven with a desire to do something for the welfare of the world. Brahma (the creator) was there; Narad fell upon his feet and satisfied him.
At that time, I knew nothing about Bhanubhakta even if I had; writing and criticizing him and his poetry hardly existed. Nevertheless, one aspect of his Ramayan seemed remarkable to me. His Ramayan was read and re-read by all the people of the village at that time. His verses were simple and easy to understand. And he was a common man with the same spirit, aspiration and ambition as other ordinary Nepali people.

Versatile Poet
The content of the poetry could be found elsewhere and everywhere. . The poetic imaginations were important. Bhanubhakta poetic imagination confirmed not only in writing satire and translation, he was versatile and also wrote poems on nature. His elegant poem on Balaju fascinated me since childhood.
He wrote “Yeti din pachhi maile aaj Balaju dekhayan, Prithvital bharima sworg ho jani lekhyan “in English
“After such a long time, I saw Balaju today and knew, it was heaven on earth”
Bhanubhakta was born on 29 Ashadh 1871 BS (July 13, 1814) .Many of our famous poets were also born in the month of Ashadh. We couldn’t possibly name and celebrate every one but Bhanubhakta lives is one we will be celebrating with great pride and enthusiasm. And Ashadh 29 is a day of great celebration for Nepali.
A half-size statue of him has been erected in front of Durbar high school in his honour. The erstwhile Durbar high school is now renamed Bhanubhakta Memorial High School. There are many statues of Bhanubhakta in Nepal and India and villages and schools in many cities are named after him. He is a true poet of all Nepali races and has been declared the first Nepali poet (Aadikavi) of Nepal.