Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Buddha Dharma Wa Nepal Bhasa" and Dharmaditya Dharmacharya

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya
President, Newah American Buddhist Association.

What is the name of the first publication in Nepal Bhasa and who was  its editor? The answer is: A monthly magazine "Buddha Dharma" was the first printed publication in Nepal Bhasa and it was brought out in 1925 by Dharmaditya Dharmacharya which was nome de plume of Jagat Man Vaidya (1902-1963).
In fact, "Buddha Dharma" was the outcome of the lofty ideals of some enthusiastic Newars in Calcutta, India like Dharmacharya to create a platform for reviving Theravada Buddhism and for promoting Nepal Bhasa as language of the Newars.
It may be a coincidence or  a planned event, but the first issue of the publication "Buddha Dharma" was brought out on the day of Buddha Purnima.
It was in 1927 that the name of the publication "Buddha Dharma" was morphed  into "Buddha Dharma Wa Nepal Bhasa" (Buddhism and Newari language) thereby becoming an effective platform that accomodated interests of Theravada Buddhists and advocates of Nepal Bhasa.
So, what was the raison d' etre of "Buddha Dharma" being published from Calcutta, British India? Press freedom and freedom of expression  were the words that very few Nepalese elites could understand during the Rana regime. What, palpably, made the Rana regime decide not to permit the people to participate in the linguistic, journalistic and social activities was the specter that in due course of time, it would politicize and polarize the people to such an extent that a serious threat to their monopolistic rule might be posed.
Hence, the Nepalese people were not only deprived of press freedom and freedom of expression, but all those means of mass information that might make them politically conscious of their legitimate rights were also prohibited to function during the entire Rana autocracy.
The rituals, ceremonies and traditions of Bajrayana Buddhism practiced by the Shakyas and Bajracharyas of the Kathmandu Valley were allowed unhindered during the Rana regime. But the Ranas did not tolerate the activities of the Buddhist monks bolstering the Theravada Buddhism. As a result, a number of Nepalese Buddhist monks were banished from the country.
Given the fact that even the first and pioneering publication in the Nepali language (which has always been the official and national language of Nepal during the entire Rana and Shah rule) "Gorkha Bharat Jeevan" was printed and published in Banaras, British India in 1888, it is not surprising to note that the first publication in Nepal Bhasa  was also launched not from Nepal but from Calcutta, British India.
Quintessentially, "Buddha Dharma" was a magazine devoted to the issues of Theravada Buddhism and Nepal Bhasa. That is why there is no doubt "Buddha Dharma" was an effective voice that was instrumental in disseminating  and enhancing the ideas of Nepal Bhasa and Buddhism. It was able to inculcate values of language and to give a voice for the freedom of religion.
So, it looks like despite the repression of the ethnic languages  of Nepal by the Rana regime and its prejudiced policy of unilateral promotion of the Nepali language, the history of Nepal Bhasa journalism had not been all doom and gloom comparing to that of other  ethnic languages of Nepal.
Therefore, Nepal Bhasa journalism will always be indebted to Dharmaditya Dharmacharya for championing the august cause of commencing the first publication  in Nepal Bhasa.

*I value your opinion. Please provide your feedback by posting a comment below.
**Shakya is also State Education Director, NRNA-USA Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.

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