Bhairav Aryal forever changed the satirical genre in Nepal when he published his first collection of satirical essays, “Kaukuti”, in 1962. Aryal, who showed equal talent in poetry and journalism as in satire, skillfully wrote satirical essays aimed at universal human vices such as gluttony, greed and pride. His magnum opus, “Jaya Bhundi”, a collection of ten satirical essays, was published in 1965 and contained his classic essays such as “Mapain”, “Jaya Bhundi”, “Bhramha Ji ko Prayogshalabata”, among others. More than 46 years after Bhairav Aryal’s untimely death, his satirical essays are still considered the pinnacle of satire in Nepalese literature.
On September 30, 1989, the day of Bhairav Aryal’s 51st birthday, a celebratory event was held at Chamunda Library, Jorpati. The event, attended by famous poet Kedar Man Vyathit and famous painter and writer Ramesh Bikal, marked the debut of Bhairab Puraskar Guthi. During the event, donations were collected from attendees and a guthi was formed to manage funds to finance literary prizes for the satirical genre in Nepal.
Since its creation, the guthi has managed two literary prizes, the Bhairab Puraskar and the Bhairab Pratibha Puraskar. The Bhairab Puraskar is given to satirists who have contributed significantly to the field of satire for many years, while the Bhairab Pratibha Puraskar is given to emerging Nepali satirists who show potential in the literary field. In addition to presenting literary prizes, the guthi also operates a public library on its premises.
For ten years of its operation – from 1989 to 1999 – the guthi was able to present the two literary prizes every year, but from 2000 the two prizes were given every two years due to lack of funds. The guthi, which is primarily funded by donations and interest earned on donations, was eventually able to present the awards every year from 2020.
“No satirist like Aryal could come close to his wit and humor so far,” says Rochak Ghimire, 81, chairman of Bhairab Puraskar Guthi. Ghimire, who has been a close friend of Aryal for 17 years, is also the editor of ‘Rachana’, a bi-monthly Nepalese literary magazine. “The awards help preserve Aryal’s legacy, and they also encourage Nepalese satirists to continue in the satire business.”
Apart from the Bhairab Puraskar Guthi, there are other organizations which also focus on humorous satire and the field of satire in Nepal. The other notable organization is the Basudev-Bidadev Luitel Guthi, established in 1993, which awards prizes in three categories: drama, literature and cartoon. The Bhairab Puraskar Guthi himself was also featured along with the Basudev-Bidhadev Luitel Puraskar on September 8, 2018, for his contribution to the field of humorous satire in Nepalese literature.
Over the years, many renowned Nepali literary personalities like Madan Krishna Shrestha, Hari Bansha Acharya, Mohan Raj Sharma and Chuda Mani Regmi among others have been awarded the Bhairab Puraskar. This year, Naranath Luitel received the Bhairab Puraskar, while Bimal Bhaukajee received the Bhairab Pratibha Puraskar. The Bhairab Puraskar carries a scholarship of Rs 111,111, while the Bhairab Pratibha Puraskar has a scholarship of Rs 51,111.
Luitel, now 63, has been involved in the literary satirical scene for more than three decades. Born in Jhapa, Luitel credits the support of his teachers to his school Janta Middle School for stimulating his interest in literature. Initially writing short poems, Luitel quickly moved into the satirical genre due to his ability to make people laugh and think. Luitel has written 24 literary works so far – including collections of essays, reviews and short stories – eight of which are in the satirical genre. He is also the editor of ‘Fitkauli’, an online Nepali comedy magazine.
“To be honest, I did not expect to receive this award. But I am happy that my contributions have been recognized,” says Luitel. “Receiving an award established in honor of the great satirist Bhairav Aryal is the most great prestige that I received. Even some of my teachers who inspired me called me to congratulate me.
Phanindra Raj Niraula, an assistant professor at the Padma Kanya campus who teaches Nepali to graduate students, also says the Bhairab Puraskar is a prestigious award since it is associated with the greatest Nepali satirist.
“Literary prizes not only provide financial rewards to authors, but also confer prestige and honor on them. The Bhairab Puraskar definitely helps promote the satirical genre of Nepal,” says Niraula. “In Nepal, most satirical works are limited to essay format while we can explore satire in short story, anecdote, folk tale and other various literary forms. We need to encourage writers to also experiment with satire in different forms other than essays.
This year, the guthi also introduced a new award category, the Bhairab Wangmaya Puraskar, which carried a scholarship of Rs 101,111. It was given to Tejeshwor Babu Gwang, a culture scholar. This award aims to broaden the scope of guthi to promote other literary genres as well as art, music, journalism, etc., instead of just satire, says Basanta Rijal, secretary of Bhairab Puraskar Guthi.
“Even though Bhairav Aryal is primarily known for his satirical works, he was an equally talented journalist and poet,” says Rijal. “That’s why we [the guthi] thought that we should also broaden our scope.
A narrow, sloping pathway descends to Devkota Park from Sahid Smriti Park in Gokarneshwor, Jorpati. Near the base of the descent and midway between the two parks is an inconspicuous building belonging to Bhairab Puraskar Guthi. Painted in light blue and three stories high, the building houses various shops on the ground floor: a clothing store, a computer repair shop and a grocery store. Renovations to the building were completed just two months ago, which added a third floor to the building, containing a wide-open lobby.
“As it stands, we make a decent amount of money renting the ground floor, so we don’t have any issues funding regular awards anymore,” says Rijal. “We even plan to advertise manuscripts of satirical works from all over Nepal and help potential authors to publish their works.”
The guthi is the publisher of six books – collections of poems, memoirs, collections of essays, etc. Byangyasilpi’ and ‘Samjhana’.
Although there are still active Nepalese satirists who regularly produce satirical works, the popularity of the satirical genre in literature has declined in recent years, admits Ghimire.
“Satire is not just cheap humor. A satirical work should target the actions and vices of immoral people rather than the person themselves,” says Ghimire. “Over the years there have been many good satirical works, especially those targeting politicians, but those that have been satirized have shown no change in their behavior.”
In light of the need to promote the satirical genre, the guthi focuses on the education sector, from primary to doctoral level. Literary figures the Post spoke to said that satirical works in Nepal are slowly losing the humorous element and are just satire. They say it caused satirical works to lose their nuance and spirit.
“We plan to hold essay contests in schools to develop an affinity for literature in children. Aryal was fluent in Sanskrit, and I think fluency in the language can help you create high-quality satires,” Rijal says. “In our universities too, we plan to encourage doctoral students to pursue their doctorate in satire by offering them scholarship packages.”
The guthi is also trying to expand the reach of Aryal’s work internationally by translating the late satirist’s works into English, but the initiative has not proven easy. They have approached Nepal Academy and are moving forward with translations.
“It’s actually extremely difficult to translate a satirical work into another language,” admits Ghimire. “Similar to poetry, a satirical work contains a kind of non-transferable essence in its original language. Sayings, puns, puns, and workflow itself often don’t translate well.
While literary endeavors and authors generally lament the lack of government support, the Bhairab Puraskar Guthi has a completely opposite view. When the guthi was initially formed, it did not have its own dedicated office or space, and used to have meetings in the house of Devi Sharma, then treasurer. Support from local government and local representatives for the creation and sustainability of the guthi has been instrumental, says Rijal.
“Chakra Bahadur Thakuri, then chairman of Gokarna VDC, provided land for the guthi, while Gopal Baral, the president who succeeded Thakuri, provided us with additional funds to construct a three-room building for our guthi” , explains Rijal. “If local governments and government do their part in promoting and preserving literary works and personalities in Nepal, then we can excel in the literary sector. After all, there is no shortage of literary skills and talent in Nepal.