The hill town of Darjeeling in West Bengal, which is in the news for a separate Gorkhaland agitation, was one of the points of origin of the Nepali publishing industry in the 19th century in addition to Kolkata and Varanasi, according to a researcher.
"First Nepali language book was published in 1820 in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and print era in Nepal started in 1851 with the arrival of the first printing press," said Deepak Aryal, a researcher with Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya (MPP), at a just-concluded symposium organised by the British Library and Jadavpur University.
Kolkata, Varanasi and Darjeeling in India were the major hubs of Nepali publishing and currently Sikkim is a major player, Aryal said.
On the Gorkhaland movement that started off as a Nepali language movement, and if it could disrupt any publishing activity, Aryal told IANS that the ongoing agitation would likely not impact the publishing sphere.
MPP library manages two of Nepal's most prestigious literary prizes, the Madan Puraskar and the Jagadamba Shree.
Tracing the genesis of Nepali publishing industry, Aryal said as many as 1,520 books were published between 1820 and 1950 in the language.
Of them, majority (29.5 per cent) revolved around poetry and songs while 11 per cent of the publications had a religious tenor.
"By the first decade of the 20th century, Nepali publishing showed signs of going commercial with the arrival of a few more printing presses and emergence of some private publishers," Aryal said.
He highlighted the transformatory role of regulation in Nepali publishing.
It happened in 1913, when Gorkhabhasa Prakasini Samiti -- a government authority to promote the Nepali language and regulate print and publishing in the country -- was formed.
"In the next 20 years, the Samiti would publish around 35 titles by itself and approve publication of 25 titles from private publishers. In a country where not more than 200 books had been published in the first 60 years of the print history, the book publication rate after the Samiti was not different than before its existence. In effect, the Samiti did more regulation than publication," Aryal said in a paper presented at the seminar.
He argued that it was "regulatory work of the Samiti that stymied the nascent publishing sphere inside Nepal".
"The Nepali publishing sphere which had its roots in Kolkata, Darjeeling, Banaras and Kathmandu, then shifted almost entirely to Banaras (now Varanasi) which had already emerged as one of the largest publishing hubs in the Indian subcontinent," he said.
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