The lengthy and ‘joyous’ highway to restore Nepal’s historic taboo scripts | Arts and Tradition

Kathmandu, Nepal – Wearing an orange kurta (let fall collarless tunic) and a homogeneous Nepali dhaka waistcoat, Lalima Shrestha pulls a brown plastic chair nearer to a makeshift desk constituted of a desk tennis board. Above, there’s a banner for “Nepal Lipi Guthi” (Institute of Nepal Epigraphy) in a calligraphic script referred to as Ranjana Lipi, and a poster of the Ranjana alphabet.

Shrestha is right here on the open-air Narayani Sq. in Dhulikhel, a municipality 30km (18 miles) southwest of Nepal’s capital town, Kathmandu, to show the traditional artwork of Ranjana calligraphy. She is a member of Callijatra, certainly one of two native organisations running to saving and advertise historic scripts of Nepal – earlier than they’re forgotten.

It’s a heat morning in February and the crowded sq. is abuzz with the chimes of temple bells and raucous chatter of masses of scholars and adults, most commonly wearing haku patasi (a standard four-piece dull and pink ensemble). They’ve come to take part in the once a year dhimay jatra – a competition celebrating the dhimay, an ethnic drum of the Newar family, certainly one of Nepal’s Indigenous peoples, with performances and competitions. Deep rhythmic sounds reverberate all over the place.

Lalima Shrestha (left) and Suyogya Ratna Tamrakar (beside Lalima) on the are living calligraphy consultation in Dhulikhel [Ridhi Agrawal/Al Jazeera]

“Jwojalapa (welcome),” says Shrestha, 30, in Nepalbhasa, the language of the Newar family, to the few accumulation competition attendees who’ve accumulated on the sales space.

Ranjana, because of this “delightful” in Sanskrit, “is a joyous script”, Shrestha says, her mouth widening into a smile. She dips her chosa, a bamboo pen, into the earthy brown ink and prepares to put in writing in Ranjana Lipi.

Shrestha can pay cautious consideration to the peak, curvature and smoothness of each and every letter. “The strokes should be evenly placed and match in size,” she says. Writing in Ranjana Lipi is healing, “like meditation”, she provides, “that offers peace of mind”.

First, Jayendra Rajbhandari, 62, a member of Nepal Lipi Guthi, writes my identify in pink ink. Inside of mins, he finishes probably the most inventive rendering of my identify I’ve ever distinguishable.

Amongst the ones staring at the demo is Rashmi Chhusyabaga, a Newa (from the Newar family) who is keen to look her society’s identify within the Ranjana script. “I lack knowledge about Ranjana,” the 22-year-old scholar says.

Maximum citizens are usual with the script that abounds in Kathmandu – it seems that on indicators in folk squares, stupas (Buddhist shrines), mahaviharas (Buddhist learn about centres and apartments) and temples – however admit not to figuring out methods to learn and scribble it.

Ranjana Lipi isn’t taught in colleges, and lots of crowd are unfamiliar with the script. Callijatra is operating to switch that.

Rashmi Chhusyabaga-gets names of her family-members written in-Ranjana lipi
Rashmi Chhusyabaga, 22, who’s a member of the Newar family, has the names of her society participants written in Ranjana Lipi on the demonstration [Ridhi Agrawal/Al Jazeera]

A good reaction

Callijatra used to be began with the function of holding two of the 9 Nepal scripts: Ranjana Lipi and Nepal Lipi (Prachalit).

The seeds of the organisation had been planted in 2017, upcoming font clothier Ananda Ok Maharjan noticed a put up on Fb and registered for a 45-day route on Indigenous scripts at Nepal Lipi Guthi, which teaches and promotes Ranjana Lipi and Nepal Lipi.

“Being a Newar, I also wanted to learn and write it,” Maharjan explains. He had searched the web and libraries for to be had assets when creation out his progress with Ranjana, however stumbled on them “not sufficient”.

Next taking the route, he used to be hooked.

Pushed by means of a new-found want to assemble extra visibility of Ranjana, Maharjan and 3 alternative magnificence attendees – Suyogya Ratna Tamrakar, Bikash Shakya and Sunita Dangol – later organised a calligraphy workshop and demonstration on the Itum Bahal competition, in Kathmandu.

The reaction, Maharjan says, “was very positive”, with over 50 individuals. Greater than 200 names had been written in are living calligraphy. No person had performed a are living demonstration of an Indigenous Nepal script in this scale earlier than, he explains.

Next the demo, the gang won a couple of shouts and requests to behavior workshops. “Old language experts and Lipi experts were happy and assured that now this script will not die and young people are continuing what they were doing,” Maharjan says.

In 2017, Callijatra used to be born, with Maharjan as founder and Dangol because the co-founder. The academics at Nepal Lipi Guthi later “approached Callijatra to join hands”, Maharjan says.

Those organisations now paintings in combination to construction studying fabrics, and design classes for workshops and coaching programmes, continuously engaging in over 50 workshops yearly. One module can also be taught to 100 crowd directly, says Anil Sthapit, the president of Nepal Lipi Guthi, situated in Kathmandu’s Asan neighbourhood.

Sthapit, who additionally teaches on the institute, issues to a colour-coded Ranjana alphabet sheet: “We compare the scripts to the human body,” labelling the alphabet elements – chhyan (head), nhipyan (tail), lhaa (hand) and mha (spine). Letters in pink dearth a head; inexperienced signifies a downward stroke; and blue is “hands up” or upward stroke.

Anil Sthapit explains the Ranjana alphabet
Anil Sthapit, the president of Nepal Lipi Guthi, explains the Ranjana alphabet, pronouncing ‘We compare the scripts to the human body’ [Ridhi Agrawal/Al Jazeera]

When Callijatra started participating with Nepal Lipi Guthi, the ultimate organisation used to be a number of a long time aged. In 1974, a gaggle of scholars who had realized Nepal Lipi started instructing Indigenous scripts to saving historic wisdom. In 1980, Nepal Lipi Guthi used to be created to saving and advertise Nepal scripts, literature, tradition and artwork.

Later in 1981, a member introduced a manuscript written in Ranjana script to the gang. They realized it below the tutelage of Lipi professional Shankar Guy Rajbanshi, and started instructing it to extra scholars, serving to to unfold the data across the town.

Sunita Dangol explains Ranjana alphabets at a workshop
Sunita Dangol, a member of Callijatra, explains the Ranjana alphabet at a workshop [Courtesy of Callijatra]

Lessen of Nepal scripts

The “Nepal scripts” had been worn to precise other languages: Nepalbhasa, Sanskrit, Maithili, Bhojpuri and Nepali, explains Sarad Kasa, a Nepalbhasa coach at Tribhuvan College in Kathmandu. Their foundation isn’t recognized, however Kasa says they are going to have come from the Brahmi script, an historic Indian writing device, including that examples of Ranjana Lipi in Tibet exist from the seventh century.

The oldest Ranjana manuscript on the Asa Archives is “a palm leaf from the 14th century”, with a Buddhist sutra (principle or aphorism), Kasa provides.

Books and manuscripts at Kathmandu’s Asa Archives and Nationwide Archives of Nepal display that many alternative historic scripts – corresponding to Licchavi Lipi, Khema Lipi and Brahmi Lipi – had been pervasive within the Licchavi (350-750 AD) and Malla (1200-1769) sessions. Then again, their virtue got into abatement throughout the Rana dynasty (1846–1951), which embraced a “one nation-one language” coverage supposed to advertise a robust nationwide id – one who suppressed languages corresponding to Nepalbhasa and alternative regional dialects like Hindi and Maithili.

“Learning and writing were banned during the Rana era,” explains Sthapit. Worth of Nepal scripts declined when the Rana regime got here into energy, and had been changed by means of the Devanagari script, which remains to be worn lately.

In the 14th-century palm leaf a sutra from Buddhism is written in Ranjana Lipi
A 14th-century instance of Ranjana Lipi: a sutra from Buddhism written on a palm leaf [Courtesy of Sarad Kasa, Asa Archives, Kathmandu]

“A fine of Nepali rupees 100 ($0.75) was imposed” if crowd had been stumbled on studying, Sthapit provides, noting “Their property was confiscated by the state.” This instilled worry within the crowd, “and the tradition of education was lost”, he says.

To ban books from being seized or burned, many households saved their historic texts unrevealed in dhukus (grain attic boxes) and puja (devotion) rooms the place access used to be limited to family participants and clergymen. Nepali students was at Republic of India and revealed books in hiding “to ensure that the knowledge of writing and learning ancient scripts was not completely lost”, Sthapit explains.

These days, scholars in Kathmandu’s executive colleges are studying modest Ranjana Lipi, and there are plans to incorporate the script and Nepalbhasa in curricula outdoor of Kathmandu, Maharjan says.

Signboards showing neighborhood names in Ranjana Lipi in Kathmandu
Indicators in Kathmandu establish neighbourhood names in Ranjana Lipi [Ridhi Agrawal/Al Jazeera]

Examples all over the place

Next the are living demonstration on the Callijatra sales space in Dhulikhel, Maharjan meets me at the farmland ground of Nepal Lipi Guthi. We progress forward into the sea-green lecture room the place he first realized Ranjana Lipi and Nepal Lipi — and the place Sthapit used to be his lecturer. The room, which has roughly 25 desks, is stuffed with charts, chalk, chosas and deserted ink bottles. The table chairs are lined in layers of chalk mud.

Later Maharjan provides a excursion of the captivating old-world Thahiti neighbourhood, no longer a long way from the Nepal Lipi Guthi construction, wandering ailing slim alleys that go by means of conventional picket constructions, on the lookout for indicators of the traditional scripts.

At one level he gestures to lettering at the copper-coloured devotion wheels inside of a stupa. “The top and the bottom script is Ranjana Lipi,” he explains in a cushy expression slightly audible amidst honking automobiles on the street.

Throughout from the stupa, Maharjan spots letters on a temple’s unique yellowish brass pole. “This is a mantra written in Kutakshar [a vertical monogram form of Ranjana script, written vertically from top to bottom],” he explains. Kutakshar used to be worn to put in writing undisclosed mantras and messages, understood best by means of the editor, he provides.

Examples of Ranjana Lipi have additionally been present in museum artefacts and heritage websites outdoor Nepal. “A mantra related to wellbeing is inscribed on the Great Wall of China [Juyongguan section],” explains Sthapit, and in Tibet the script is written on govern of front gates of homes. A ceremonial helmet from the mid-18th century, displayed at Fresh York’s Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, options the Buddhist mantra “om mani padme hum” engraved in Ranjana Lipi (Lantsa characters).

Anand Maharjan shows prayers wheels around Kathmandu that have Ranjana Lipi
On a excursion across the Thahiti neighbourhood, Ananda Maharjan, founding father of Callijatra, issues to copper-coloured devotion wheels inside of a stupa, explaining ‘The top and the bottom script is Ranjana Lipi’ [Ridhi Agrawal/Al Jazeera]

Coaching latest rookies

Each Nepal Lipi Guthi and Callijatra paintings in combination to show Nepal’s Indigenous scripts by means of masses of are living demonstrations, workshops and displays.

This yr, Callijatra used to be recognised by means of the Endangered Alphabets Venture on International Endangered Writing Moment (January 23) for his or her revival efforts in coaching academics, architects, priests and artists, and growing educational movies to lend a hand rookies.

“The benefit of training people is to create new art and designs,” Maharjan says quietly, with pleasure in his expression. In this day and age the script is being worn extra in marriage ceremony invites, posters, pottery, jewelry, products and artwork and extra. He credit the revival efforts of Callijatra and Nepal Lipi Guthi in addition to “youth involvement”.

Sthapit provides that social media has helped advertise the scripts international now that “people can produce texts in Ranjana Lipi in their homes.”

There’s additionally an IOS app known as “Nepal Lipi-Ranjana Lipi”, created by means of Suyogya Ratna Tamrakar, one of the vital settingup Callijatra participants, who incessantly provides are living demonstrations of Ranjana Lipi.

“I was attracted to Nepal’s traditions and cultures from my childhood,” says Tamrakar, who’s now additionally taken with virtual promotion of historic scripts. Shyly, and with quite trembling fingers, the 30-year-old varieties “Dhulikhel” in Devanagari script within the app and receives a translation in each Nepal Lipi and Ranjana Lipi. The app, which has greater than 100,000 downloads to hour, additionally options tutorial movies and blogs.

Suyogya Tamrakar assists Ranjana Lipi learners
Suyogya Ratna Tamrakar, an untouched member of Callijatra, assists latest scholars in Ranjana Lipi. Tamrakar additionally designed the ‘Nepal Lipi-Ranjana Lipi’ IOS app [Courtesy of Callijatra]

Highway forward

Ranjana Lipi could also be gaining prominence throughout Nepal’s borders, because of artists and alternative passionate promoters of the script.

In February, paintings by means of Nepali calligrapher Ratan Anand Karna used to be a prevailing enchantment on the Jaipur World Artwork and Calligraphy Competition in Hyderabad, Republic of India. “Ranjana script is powerful. When you write it, the script draws attention,” Karna says.

In treks throughout Nepal, he additionally writes mantras on stones and parks them close shrines and stupas. This, he says, “gets noticed by locals who want me to write mantras in Tibetan or Ranjana Lipi”, which might be thought to be sacred and reliable. In April, Karna performed a week-long route on Ranjana Lipi and Devanagari Lipi for a gaggle of United States scholars.

Just lately, a donation from US-based entrepreneur Murali Ok Prahalad helped Callijatra to collaborate with Ek Sort, a font design studio founded in Republic of India, to drop Nithya Ranjana, a typeface in response to Ranjana script.

“All fonts have their limitations, but the Nithya Ranjana font has more conjuncts and compound letters”, which makes it extra technically complex, Maharjan explains.

Callijatra could also be having a look to show backup scripts – Bhujimol Lipi, Kirat Lipi, Khema Lipi, Tirhuta [Maithili Lipi] and Licchavi Lipi – by means of animated classes, video games and puzzles for kids.

“Research is ongoing,” says Maharjan. In the meantime, he plans to proceed instructing scholars of the “beautiful” scripts, “to teach others in [an] easy and simplified way”.

The author gets her name and her nieces name in Ranjana lipi
The creator’s identify and that of her niece written in Ranjana Lipi [Ridhi Agrawal/Al Jazeera]

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