Notable Collector Of Historical Periodicals

- Harsha Man Maharjan | 2021-09-24

Harsha Man Maharjan

Bhagawati Prasad Shrestha! who is he? Many readers might wonder. Well, he was one of early scholars who wrote two books on Nepali media. Why did he pen on media? What are there in his books? Let us try to know the answers to these questions.

Getting information about his life is not easy. A book, Mhasika Dhala (Who’s Who in Nepal Bhasha), published in Nepal Bhasha by Nepal Bhasha Academy provides some clues. He was born in Bhotahiti, Kathmandu in 1984 BS. We do not know much about his study. He had joined civil service and often stayed out of the town.

He was a collector of newspapers and periodicals. His main hobby was to collect the first and special issues of periodicals. By October 1979, he had exhibited periodicals for three times. In the first exhibition organised in February 1961 for a week on the occasion of the Nepal visit by Queen Elizabeth II, the first issues of about 500 titles of periodicals published from abroad and Nepal were exhibited in Kathmandu. In the second exhibition organised in March 1967 for four days, 700 periodicals were exhibited in Jhapa. In the last exhibition organised in October 1979 for five days in Kathmandu, he exhibited 72 periodicals published in Nepal Bhasha, 55 periodicals having the content in Nepal Bhasha and other languages, 45 handwritten books, and some books on journalism.

He wrote four books: Dugha, Nepal Bhashaya Samanya Gyan, Patra-Patrikako Janma ra Teska Gatibidhi, and Nepal Bhasha Patrapatrikaya Jata. Among them, the first one is a collection of poems, whereas the second one is a book on general knowledge. The remaining books are mainly about history of periodicals.

He was a founder member of Nepal Bhasha Bikas Mandal, which also published a handwritten periodical, Jhi in 2010 BS. He edited this periodical for a year in 2011 BS.

His interest in periodicals must have grown from the intimacy he had with periodicals. We do not know how many articles he wrote about periodicals and journalism. Neither do we know how many of his articles are yet to be collected in books. We will know this better if we go through the bibliographies on writings published in Nepal Bhasha periodicals prepared by others.

However, we have Nepali Media Bibliography published by Martin Chautari, which contains three entries in his name: one article and two books. The article on Prime Minister Dev Shumsher and Gorkhapatra was published in a supplement published by Gorkhaptra Corporation on 75th anniversary of Gorkhapatra in 2033 BS. Two books are Patra-Patrikako Janma ra Teska Gatibidhi and Nepal Bhasha Patrapatrikaya Jata.

The first book is the history of newspapers and periodicals in Nepal, having an article of 24 pages and 6 appendices. These appendices include names of periodicals from Nepal, names of bulletins of Nepal, names of Nepali periodicals published by different foreign offices, names of government periodicals, names of periodicals published in more than one language, and statistics of periodicals. This book was published on occasion of the exhibition of periodicals organised in 2017 BS.

The second book seems to be the first book on the history of periodicals published in Nepal Bhasha, but its nature is different from the Nepali one. This book contains three articles: the first one, published in Jhi magazine, was about the first journalist in Nepal Bhasha, Dharmaditya Dharmachaya who published Budhhadharma in 1045 Nepal Sambat. The second, published in Nepal magazine on a half century of journalism in Nepal Bhasha; and the third article on the role of editors, was not published elsewhere before. This book also includes six appendices: list of periodicals published in Nepal Bhasha, periodicals in Nepali which also have contents in Nepal Bhasha, handwritten periodicals in Nepal Bhasha, handwritten periodicals having Nepal Bhasha, Nepali, Hindi, and English; bulletins in Nepal Bhasha; and bulletins in Nepali and Nepal Bhasha. The third exhibition might have made easy for him to prepare these lists.

Both of the books show that he gave an emphasis to lists. He wrote the main text of the first book and the second article of the second book on the basis of such lists. Scholars need to prepare lists to create different categories. He differentiated the types of periodicals in terms of characteristics such as periodicity, use of languages, and geography. Focusing on periodicity, he divided Nepali periodicals into yearly, half yearly, quarterly, tri-monthly, bi-monthly, monthly, fortnightly, weekly, bi-weekly, tri-weekly, and daily. He also separated periodicals published from Nepal and abroad.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to credit him for using such lists for the first time to understand Nepali periodicals. Few of these sorts of lists were included in the report of Press Commission published in 1958. The report also contained lists such as periodicals published from Nepal and India. Such lists appeared in revised form in Grishma Bahadur Devkota’s magnum opus, Nepalko Chhapakhana ra Patra-Patrikako Itihas, published in 1967. In fact, this book has mentioned Bhagawati Prasad Shrestha’s Nepali book as one of books, which became helpful to him while writing the book.

Bhagawati Prasad Shrestha was one of early researchers who not only wrote books on history of periodicals in Nepal, but also collected periodicals and exhibited them. He would not have been able to make sense of Nepali periodical world without his own collection. There is still scope for other scholars to study his contribution in the field of studies on media by analysing his books, articles and by comparing his writings with other scholars.

(Maharjan is a senior researcher at an academic NGO Martin Chautari and writes on issues related to media and technology.)


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