‘The Iconisation of Yogmaya Neupane’
Prof. Michael Hutt,
School of Oriental and African Studies South Asia Institute, University of London, UK.
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 the Bhojpur district of eastern Nepal. 67 other people followed her example, and none of their bodies was ever found. On 8 March 2011, to mark International Women’s Day, a statue of Yogmaya Neupane was unveiled in the district headquarters town of Bhojpur. This was the latest development in an iconisation process that constructs and promotes Yogmaya as Nepal’s first female revolutionary. In this lecture Prof. Hutt will attempt to establish the facts of Yogmaya’s life, so far as this is possible, present and discuss a selection of verses from Sarvartha Yogabani, the text that is held to preserve her utterances, and then analyse the attempts that have been made by various activists and scholars to construct her as, variously, a feminist rebel, a social reformer, and a progressive poet.
Prof. Michael Hutt holds a BA in South Asian Studies (Hindi) and a Ph.D. on the history of the Nepali language and its literature, both from SOAS, University of London. He has been engaged in teaching and research relating to Nepal and the Himalaya at SOAS since 1987 and has served as Head of the South Asia Department and Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Cultures. He has also published on Nepali and Bhutanese politics, the Nepali diaspora in India, Nepali art and architecture, and the Bhutanese refugee issue. His most recent books are The Life of Bhupi Sherchan: Poetry and Politics in Post-Rana Nepal (2010) and Eloquent Hills: Essays on Nepali Literature (2013).