Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala

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Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala : biography

September 8, 1914 – July 21, 1982

As a politician, Koirala struggled throughout his life for the establishment of a multi-party democracy in his country. Traditional forces, still strong to resist such effort, made it very hard for "B. P." to accomplish his political mission. As a social democrat, Koirala differed with communists; as he often said man cannot live by bread alone. He also differed with the capitalists as he thought that unbridled consumerism was immoral, and that the appalling exploitation of the world’s resources was short-sighted and unrealistic. He believed that only socialism could guarantee political freedom and equal economic opportunities to the people. He said, "socialism is the wave of the future."

Koirala had studied economics, logic, literature, and law. He was a voracious reader of English, German, French, Russian, American, Hindi, Bengali and Nepali literature. His educational background and artistic genius combined in his own works to present a view of life in an artistic, logical and compelling manner. He would thus shake the conscience of Nepali readers by questioning their unreflective acceptance of the traditional value systems.

Koirala’s short stories were first published in the 1930s in Hindi and Nepali literary magazines. Koirala first came to notice in Nepali literature because often his characters seemed to have been treated with an understanding of Freudian psychoanalysis. Even when a short story or novel of Koirala was not Freudian in its approach, it was still noteworthy to Nepali readers because he presented an unconventional approach to life.

Modiain (The Grocer’s wife) is probably his shortest novel. In Modiain Koirala looks at the Mahabharata war from the point of view of a young woman who loses her husband to the war. This woman was not alone. There were hundreds of thousands of young women who were widowed by the war. Thus, Koirala presents a passionate plea against the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, which assumes that the world is but an illusion and thus makes life and death a meaningless phenomena and that the observance of one’s own duty is the ultimate priority. Koirala was against war, and by looking at the Vedanta philosophy and the issue of war from a war widow’s point of view, he once again shakes the conscience of the Nepali readers who generally tend to accept the philosophy of Vedanta especially its idea of karma (fate). Characteristically, Koirala presents one more instance in which he analyzes the mind of a woman, as he did in most of his short stories and novels.

Early life

Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala was born in Varanasi to father Krishna Prasad Koirala, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. When asked how he became interested in politics, Koirala said, "There was politics in the blood of my family. My father had to leave Nepal when I was three years old. Everyone in the family had a warrant of arrest against him; our entire property was confiscated. We were in exile in India for twelve years [1917–1929] so I had my schooling in India, and thereafter I joined my college there."

The British Raj charged him and his brother, Matrika Prasad Koirala, for having contacts with terrorists in 1930. They were arrested and set free after three months. Due to this, Bishweshwar began to study in Calcutta at Scottish Church College per his father’s wishes. Towards the end of 1930, he left the college and returned to Banaras. In 1932, he completed his intermediate level of studies. His father again insisted that his son join Scottish Church College in Calcutta. So for the second time, he joined the college, but left it soon after. In 1934, he completed his bachelor’s degree in economics and politics from Banaras Hindu University.

After earning his degree at the Banaras Hindu University, he later took a degree in law at the University of Calcutta in 1937 and practiced law for several years in Darjeeling. While still a student he became involved in the Indian nationalist movement, and in 1934 he joined the Indian National Congress. During World War II he was interned by the British in Dhanbad for two years (1942–1944).