Feminism in Nepali Literature 

Nepali literature has played a significant role in highlighting the struggles and triumphs of women. Historical novels by various authors have brought to life the stories of female protagonists who fought against societal norms and injustices. This article explores some notable works that shed light on the women’s rights movement in Nepal, their narratives rooted in historical and mythological contexts.

Yogmaya by Neelam Karki Niharika

“Yogmaya,” a historical novel by Neelam Karki Niharika, published on February 17, 2018, by Sangri-La Books, is based on the life of Yogmaya Neupane (1860-1941). Yogmaya was a religious leader and women’s rights activist born in Bhojpur, Nepal. She fought against the oppressive Rana regime and founded the first organization of Nepali women, Nari Samiti, in 1918. Her activism led to the abolition of the practice of Sati in Nepal in 1920. Despite severe persecution, Yogmaya remained in Nepal and eventually committed mass suicide with 67 of her followers in 1941 to protest against the autocratic government.

Nathiya by Saraswati Pratikshya

“Nathiya,” a 2018 novel by Saraswati Pratikshya, published by Book-Hill Publication, portrays the sufferings of Badi women in the Sudurpaschim region of Nepal. The novel, which was shortlisted for the Madan Puraskar, focuses on the lives of women from the Badi community from 1980 to 1990. These women, facing severe discrimination and labeled as ‘untouchables,’ were forced into prostitution to support their families after the fall of the Rana regime. The story of Samali Badi and other characters sheds light on their struggles and resilience.

Cheerharan by Neelam Karki Niharika

“Cheerharan,” another novel by Neelam Karki Niharika, published in 2016, is a retelling of the Mahabharata from a female perspective. The book focuses on Draupadi’s humiliation during the infamous game of dice and highlights the suffering of women in the epic’s political and social context. By presenting the views of various female characters, Karki mirrors the ongoing struggles women face in society, drawing parallels between ancient and modern times.

Radha by Krishna Dharabasi

“Radha,” a novel by Krishna Dharabasi published in 2005, reimagines the character of Radha from the Mahabharata. Inspired by Jacques Derrida’s Theory of Deconstruction, Dharabasi presents Radha as a brave and revolutionary figure, challenging the traditional portrayal of women as mere possessions. The novel offers a feminist perspective, emphasizing women’s autonomy and strength.

Shirish Ko Phool by Parijat

“Shirish Ko Phool,” written by Bishnu Kumari Waiba, popularly known as Parijat, was published in 1964 and won the Madan Puraskar in 1965. This novel, a pioneering work in Nepali feminist literature, tells the story of Saakambari, a woman who defies societal norms and seeks her identity. Saakambari’s rebellion against traditional expectations and her quest for self-determination inspire readers to question patriarchal constructs and embrace individuality.

These historical novels provide a profound understanding of the women’s rights movement in Nepal. Through the lives and struggles of their protagonists, authors like Neelam Karki Niharika, Saraswati Pratikshya, Krishna Dharabasi, and Parijat have shed light on the enduring issues of gender inequality and oppression. Their works continue to inspire and empower women to fight for their rights and challenge societal norms.

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