SOAS University of London

Hutt Wins Award for Promoting Nepali Literature to the World

6 June 2011
Michael Hutt Receiving Nai Derukha International Award

Professor of Nepali and Himalayan Studies Michael Hutt has been honoured with an international award ‘for his continuous dedication to promoting the study of Nepali literature in the international arena’.  

The Chancellor of the Nepal Academy presented Hutt with the Nai Derukha International Award at a ceremony held at the Nepal government’s Department of Information in Kathmandu on 28 April. The award is given each year by Nai Prakashan, a Nepali publishing house.

The ceremony was covered by most of Nepal’s newspapers, and Professor Hutt’s acceptance speech (delivered in Nepali) has been posted to YouTube.  

In the speech, he explained how he first came to learn Nepali and concluded with some remarks on the importance of literature.

‘Without literature no society is alive," he said. "The literature composed in Nepali and the other languages of Nepal is the inner heart of Nepali society, a kind of internal conversation.  Without this it would be difficult for this society to see, hear and understand itself.

"Without reading its literature, non-Nepalis who take an interest in Nepal can only understand the reality of this country, the dreams of this country, the fears of this country, in a superficial manner," he added. "It seems that Nai Prakashan has understood this, and so I am very happy and grateful to receive a prize from such an institution.’  

During his visit to Nepal, Professor Hutt also gave a public lecture at the invitation of the Social Science Baha, a non-profit research organisation based in Kathmandu. His topic was 'The Iconisation of Yogmaya Neupane.’

According to a popular tradition, on 14 July 1941 an elderly female religious ascetic named Yogmaya Neupane committed suicide by hurling herself into the raging Arun River in Bhojpur district of eastern Nepal. Sixty-seven other people followed her example, and none of their bodies was ever found.  

This event was never mentioned in any published history of Nepal, but on 8 March 2011, to mark International Women’s Day, a statue of Yogmaya Neupane was unveiled in the district headquarters town of Bhojpur.

In his lecture, Hutt outlined the facts of Yogmaya’s life, presented and discussed a selection of verses attributed to her in a text called Sarvartha Yogabani and then analysed the attempts that have been made by various activists and scholars to portray her as, variously, a feminist rebel, a social reformer and a progressive poet.  The lecture attracted an audience of more than two hundred people and received a great deal of media coverage in Nepal.

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