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'Muna Madan,' a Literary Masterpiece
Nepal's best-selling poem about a man who finds wealth only to lose love
Bishnu K.C. (bishnuji)     Print Article 
Published 2006-01-27 11:47 (KST)   
"Bags of gold are like the dirt of your hands
What can be done with wealth?
Better to eat only nettles and greens
With happiness in your heart."
- Laxmi Prasad Devkota

Considered as the greatest achievement of Nepali literature, and great even by world standards, is the short epic narrative "Muna Madan," composed in folk rhythms by the poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota. The character Madan is described as a Chetri, someone from upper-class Nepali society.

Madan and Muna are a husband and wife who live in Kathmandu. Financially not well off, Madan finds it difficult to feed his wife and mother and thus plans to set out with his friends to find work in Tibet. After thousands of words of discouragement from his wife Muna, Madan sets out for Tibet, promising to be back home after only a few weeks in Lhasa, having earned enough to stave off poverty.

Once in Lhasa, Madan becomes entranced by the city's beauty. Suddenly, however, he suffers reservations and hurriedly starts for home. On the way back he falls sick. Left to struggle for himself by his own friends on the way, he fortunately is rescued by a Tibetan, who treats him and brings him back to life. In return for his services Madan offers him a purse of gold, which the Tibetan refuses, saying that gold is of no value in comparison to humanity.

Muna waits desperately for Madan but loses hope for his return. A rascally would-be suitor becomes entranced by Muna's beauty and tells her that her husband has perished.

When Madan does get back home he finds that his mother and wife have passed away. The bags of gold he brought from Tibet are of no use to him now that he cannot find his loved ones. He decides that he cannot endure without his loved ones and follows them.

With this as an epilogue Devkota concludes his sad little tale in the manner of a medieval devotional poet.

Devkota, born into a Brahmin family in 1909 and on an auspicious day of the goddess of wealth, Laxmi Puja, he was named Laxmi Prasad Devkota. Despite Laxmi Puja's blessings, he was blessed even more by the goddess Swaraswati (the deity of wisdom) and went on to become the great poet of Nepal.

Some of his best humorous poetry was written in the most tragic circumstances. Caste discrimination and the true color of wealth are clearly viewed in this tragic, dramatic poem.

Just before his death in 1959 he made his famous statement, "it would be all right if all my works were burned, except for 'Muna Madan.'" Muna Madan is the most successful Nepali book ever published from the commercial point of view.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Bishnu K.C.

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