Winds of Change, Nepal's New National Anthem

Features Issue 86 Jul, 2010
Text by Pratik Vaidya / Photo: ECS Media

Hundreds of flower bouquets, we are one garland of Nepalis
Sovereign, spread from Mechi to Mahakali.
Nature’s treasures spread out, uncountable
The blood of heroes have made us independent, immovable.
The land of knowledge, land of peace— Tarai, Pahad, Himal
Indivisible, beloved, our motherland Nepal.
The grandeur of many ethnicity, language, faith, culture
Our progressive nation, long live, long live Nepal.

-English translation by Sushma Joshi

Nepal’s new national anthem represents the entire nation and all that is proud and glorious in it. A national anthem usually speaks of the history of the country, its traditions and the struggles of its people. Hence, it is only just that the national anthem of a country celebrates the diversity and unity of the people who follow the nation with pride and confidence.

With the dawn of a new era in our nation’s rich and colorful history, we have come to accept our new national anthem; one that attempts to gather us as a people, putting aside our differences and accepting the fact that we are what makes our country special. The cultural and ethnic diversity in Nepal is unsurpassed. The mesmerizing natural beauty that surrounds us, a generous gift from Nature to us, only helps in creating a unique and exhilarating experience. Our new national anthem addresses both those factors that contribute to make Nepal truly one of a kind.

The present national anthem of Nepal was officially declared on August 3, 2007. It was chosen from 1,272 submissions made from across the country, from poets of various backgrounds. The choosing was based on which poem best celebrates Nepal’s unique traits. The contribution of poet Pradeep Kumar Rai, alias Byakul Maila, was selected. The poem is two stanzas long and each stanza has four lines. There are altogether 47 words in the anthem. Musicians Ambar Gurung and Nhyu Bajracharya then composed the music.

Poet Maila was born in the Hilepani village of Okhaldhunga District in eastern Nepal 34 years ago. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and a Masters in Public Administration, and has been contributing to Nepali literature for the last one and a half decades. He has written dozens of songs, poems and haikus and is also the editor of Nepali Geet Sangraha (a collection of Nepali songs) and literary magazines like Barbhanjyang. According to Mr. Rai, “The song is not my song. It’s an expression of the feelings of the human sea that arose during Jana Andolan II” – the second People’s Movement The simple yet elegant prose that signifies all of Rai’s songs have also given ‘Sayaun Thunga’ its own unique charm. The song is an excerpt from a longer work of his.

“I think the time had come for a new national anthem,” says Ravi Malla, a shopkeeper, “The people were revolting for a change and they got the change. Also, I think that the new national anthem better suits our country because it is our people and places that make our country unique. It was time that this was appreciated and respected. I don’t know the words properly though, but I do know a few lines. My favorite one is the first line. It’s a good start to our national anthem; addressing our unity in diversity.”

The anthem begins with a simple “Sayau thuga phulka hami, eutai mala Nepali,” literally: “We are hundreds of flowers, the one garland – Nepali”. This one line expressed the feeling that we come from different backgrounds, each with different and vibrant cultures, ethos and beliefs, but we share the one common thing in us; we are all Nepali, and proud of who we are. This is the one thing that unites us and this is the one fact that makes us stronger.

The song also illustrates Nepal’s diversity; the seventh line best describes this: “Bahul jati, bhasa, dharma, sanskrti chan bisal”, meaning “The diverse races, languages, faiths, and cultures are so extensive.” It shows how flexible the Nepalese are. These lines also show the world that Nepal is a center of multi-ethnic tolerance and something of our participation in globalization and the unity in humanity. It shows the Democratic way of thinking of the people and their belief in pluralism.

The lines “Prakritika koti-koti sampada ko achal” – “Amassing Nature’s millions of resources” – does it’s best to describe the natural splendor of Nepal. Our country is recognized in the world as the home of Mount Everest, one of the many natural wonders to behold in Nepal. Those few lines describe what makes Nepal the tourist hub of South Asia: the beauty of Nature around us.

There are contradictory views about the national anthem, however. On one hand, the some people like the old one better, mostly because they are familiar to it. On the other hand, people prefer the new one because it is more about the people and not about one person and one dynasty. “The new national anthem, I think, doesn’t have much of a patriotic feel to it. It just talks and talks about the geography and the people and of different things, but not much of the sacrifice of our ancestors and the history that our country witnessed throughout the years,” says Samsara Shrestha, a student. “The tune is also more like a folk song than a national anthem. You need to feel a national anthem. It should have a serious and motivating tone. You just don’t feel like standing up to hear this one.”

“We used to sing the old national anthem everyday in morning assembly,” says Sita Rimal, aged 14. Sita studies in Grade Eight in Sitapaila Secondary School. “We love the new national anthem. It has a nice tune to it. Also, my friends and I like the words. They have a nice rhyme and are not so difficult to remember, as well,” she concludes.

I personally remember singing “Shreeman Gambheer” for practically all my life, every morning, chest out, proud of our nation’s monarchy and singing praises for its long life and prosperity. Many of us will remember our childhood days when our national anthem was a symbol of our unilateral support for our king. “The national anthem was changed when I was doing my A-Levels,” says Subir Man Tamrakar, who is currently doing his bachelor studies at the Kathmandu College of Management. “I liked the old one better because I grew up with it. I haven’t actually bothered to remember the new one. The old one will always have a place in my heart; perhaps not because of the theme of the old one, but because we do have a bit of history attached to it and we should respect that too.”

Ashish Mool, a student at WLC College, says “Actually, both national anthems are fine. The previous one was fine because it speaks of the monarchy. It was okay because we had a monarchy at the time and were proud of it. With things changing, the focus has gone to the people now. The new national anthem is also fine, because now the people have the power and it is good that it addresses this fact. The new national anthem, however, has not been publicized and marketed very well to the masses,” he says. “When I was small, we used to hear the national anthem every day in school, and it also came on the television every night. The new one – I haven’t heard it so much. People are not aware of what this stands for. The national anthem should be known by everyone. I don’t think that has happened.”

The new national anthem is sung across the nation in schools, is belted out from speakers in cars and tempos, and we can sense the air of change affecting us all. We have come to appreciate that we collectively make Nepal and we are the life-blood of this nation. It also addresses the sacrifice that our ancestors have made in order to make this country what it is today, as well as the natural beauty of our country, which truly makes us unique. We should be proud of our nation and our national anthem, and we should be proud that it addresses all that make Nepal what it is.