Exploration of the Dynamics of Creative Sensibility in Folklore and Modern Poetry
Second International Folklore Congress, Kathmandu 2003


Since its establishment in 1995, Nepali Folklore Society (NFS) has made a significant contribution towards the promotion of folklore and folklife studies in the country. During this span of time, the Society has made contacts with several institutions and scholars working in the area of folklore and folklife both within the country and abroad. In the process of establishing a wider forum for the study and dissemination of folklore, the Society has organized the first and second international folklore congresses in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Out of these two events, the proceedings of the First International Folklore Congress held in 2001 have already been reported in the earlier issue of the Newsletter. Now, we are reporting the proceedings of the Second International Folklore Congress organized on May 30-June 1, 2003 in Kathmandu.


NFS had got support from some institutions/ agencies for making the congress successful. In this connection, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture became the pivot for the congress, while Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) had taken up the role of promoter. The main venue of the 3-day events was NTB hall. Other institutions including Royal Nepal Academy, Tribhuvan University, and Nepal-India B.P. Koirala Foundation were the sponsors. Moreover, Sanskritic Samsthan, NCCF, Nepal Chamber of Commerce, Hotel Association of Nepal, Nepal Association of Travel Agents, Sajha Prakashan, Mandala Book Point, Ratna Pustak Bhandar, ACROSS magazine and Shashi’s Holiday had also supported the event in a number of ways.

The Participants

There were registered participants from foreign countries as well as from Nepal. Some special invitees had also attended some sessions. Besides, there were students, volunteers, media representatives and other interested persons. In total, more than 125 participants from around 15 countries including Nepal had attended the three-day events of the congress; and about 65 working papers were presented on the occasion.


The congress had focused the exploration of the dynamics of creative sensibility reflected in the modern poetry through the use of symbolism, structuralism and metaphorical and metonymic forms of folklore. The Congress had aimed at bringing the creative dimensions of folklore to the foreground and providing insights into the creative elements in cultural studies. In all the congress sessions, poets had recited poems and scholars had presented their papers which reflected on modern creative sensibility. “Exploration of the Dynamics of Creative Sensibility in Folklore and Modern Poetry” was the broad theme of the congress; and it was divided into these sub-themes:

1) Folklore, modernism and poetic expression,
2) Folklore, literature and performing arts,
3) Oral poetry, epics and ballads,
4) Oral and written traditions,
5) Folklore, gender and power,
6) Folklore, cultural studies and folk practices,
7) Nepali folklore, and
8) Folklore, multiculturalism and expression of identity.

These sub-themes became the focus of the eight ‘congress sessions’, which were additional to the ‘inaugural’ and ‘valedictory’ sessions, as described below.

The Inaugural Session

The Inaugural Session was held at the Birendra International Convention Centre on May 30, 2003, from 9 to 11 A.M. The function was chaired by Mr. Mohan Koirala, the Vice Chancellor of Royal Nepal Academy. Giving a welcome speech to the attendants, Prof. Abhi Subedi highlighted the aims of organizing the congress, and said that the event could create awareness among the Nepali scholars and thus work as the source of creative strength. He pointed out that the Mantra of the congress was folklore and poetry, in which folklorists and poets of international arena were invited. He further explained how the culture of orality and literacy gives the power of expression.

The Chief Guest of the session Rt. Honourable Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand inaugurated the congress by lighting the lamp. In the inaugural address, Mr. Chand remarked that the event was taking place at a time when Nepalese scholars were trying to open up more avenues of research on folklore along with the scholars of other countries. He congratulated NFS for organizing the congress, and expressed the confidence that the programme would successfully provide the participants with the opportunity for sharing each other’s cultural and academic experiences on folklore and its reflection on literature. Mr. Chand also pointed out the need to take the congress as an important occasion to come up with certain concrete ideas about giving folklore studies a new dynamism. He further mentioned that folklore studies could be given an important place in the university programme, since it touches upon many areas of academic concern including culture, practices, beliefs etc. and reflects our common perspectives to look at the world. Mr. Chand, who is also a literary figure of Nepal, also recited his poem entitled “Faith”.

Mr. Kuber Prasad Sharma, Honourable Minister of Culture, Civil Aviation and Tourism, was a Special Guest on the occasion. Addressing the audience, Minister Sharma wished the success of the congress; and he stressed the fact that in Nepalese context folklore as a literature of experience is very popular and powerful phenomenon in the social process. On the occasion, Prof. Dr. Govinda Prasad Sharma, Vice Chancellor of Tribhuvan University, had also delivered his speech as the Guest of Honour. He had stressed that, from the folk songs that he said he enjoyed most to the serious studies about the subject, every domain of folklore needs serious attention from scholars working both inside and outside the university.

Delivering the presidential address, NFS President Prof. Tulasi Diwasa expressed his happiness to meet again some of his old friends as the congress participants. He mentioned that the love for folklore and desire to work with the scholars from different parts of the world had encouraged NFS to organize the congress with the co-operation of scholars, government leaders, social institutions and individuals. Prof. Diwasa also said that folklore has always been the energy of creative writings and creative modes of expression. He particularly stressed on the diversity of Nepali folk culture in the multilingual and multicultural national context, and pointed out the need for promoting a systematic study of folk traditions for the purpose of enhancing the unity among people and fostering a healthy sense of nationalism. He also expressed the hope that the congress would be helpful to make the native scholars aware of the theoretical and methodological issues related to the promotion and preservation of folklore in the context of a multilingual country like Nepal.

NFS General Secretary Prof. C.M. Bandhu, delivering the Vote of Thanks, expressed a heart-felt gratitude to the distinguished guests including the Prime Minister, Minister and other dignitaries, the promoter, sponsors, supporters, and the native and foreign participants including Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana and other scholars, for giving their valuable time to attend the congress. He also emphasized the importance of the oral modes of folklore and the need to introduce Nepalese folklore to the outer world.

Congress Sessions

After the inaugural session, the second session began at the Birendra International Convention Centre seminar hall. The theme of the session was Folklore, Modernism and Poetic Expression; and the Keynote Speaker Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana (India) chaired the session. Delivering her keynote presentation entitled “Theoretical and Methodological Issues in the Studies of Folklore and Creative Imagination”, Dr. Vatsyayana said that the essence of folklore studies should be sought in the tangible and culturally powerful metaphors like Kailash, Mansarovar or the Himalayan heights, which reflect the nature of the terrains of culture and folklore that people in this region have traversed over millennia. In the session, Prof. Dr. Abhi Subedi (Nepal) presented the paper entitled “Folk in Modern Nepali Poetry: A Matrix of Creative Experience”. Similarly, Dr. Germain Droogenboodt (Spain) presented on “Elements of Nature in Modern International Poetry”, while Dr. Giribala Mohanty (India) delivered the presentation on “Use of Folklore in Contemporary Oriya Poetry”. Dr. Gunadasa S. Amarasekhara (a poet and critic from Sri Lanka) read out his paper on “Use of Folk Poetry in Expressing Modern Sensibility”. Continuing the keynote address, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana stressed on the need to look at any mode of study from the point of view of critical discourse theory. She said that the main feature of the folk and classical domains of study is the fluidity of the subject. Speaking about the plurality of identities in society, she said that this characteristic has been the main source of energy for folklore studies in the South Asian region including Nepal. The session ended with poem recitation by Dr. Sonja Servoma (Finland), Dr. Germain Droogenboodt (Spain), Prof. Tulasi Diwasa and Prof. Abhi Subedi (both from Nepal).

The third session, bearing the theme Folklore, Literature and Performing Arts, started at the auditorium of Nepal Tourism Board; and it was chaired by Dr. Dulal Chaudhari (India). Six speakers had delivered their presentations in the session. Dr. Arun Gupto (Nepal) presented the paper entitled “River as Stage: Perception of Folk in Poetry”, in which he showed the link between textuality, performance and the power of space in folklore symbolism. Dr. Ram Dayal Rakesh (Nepal) presented his paper on “The Morphology of Maithili Folktales”; Mr. Shiva Rijal (Nepal) spoke on “Folk as Performative Power in Theatre”; and Prof. Dr. B.M. Dahal (Nepal) delivered his presentation on “Study of Nepali Proverbs”. Dr. Sanjib Sarcar and Dr. Srabani Chakraborty (India) jointly presented their paper on “Creative Expression of People in Folksongs and Music”; while Mr. Raj Kumar Gandharva (Nepal) presented the paper entitled “Singing of the Karkha”. In the end of the session, poems were recited by Prof. Dr. Ganga Prasad Vimal and Dr. Giribala Mohanty (both from India).

The fourth session had the theme Oral Poetry, Epics and Ballads. Prof. Dr. Kamal Prakash Malla (Nepal) had chaired the session, in which Prof. Dr. Tej Ratna Kansakar (Nepal) delivered his presentation entitled “Strategies of Narrative Discourse in Newari Folk Poetry”; Dr. Kailash Pattanaik (India) presented on “Ballad Singing Tradition of Orrisa”; and Mr. Gopal Thakur (Nepal) talked about “Shobha Nayak Banjara: A Bhojpuri Oral Poetry of Love”. After these presentations, poems were recited by Dr. Gunadasa S. Amarasekhara (Sri Lanka) and Bairagi Kaila (Nepal).

The theme of the fifth session was Oral and Written Traditions, which started at 9.30 A.M. on the second day; and it was chaired by Dr. Gunadasa S. Amarasekhara from Sri Lanka. Delivering the presentation entitled “When Folk Culture Meets Print Culture: some thoughts on the commercialisation, transformation and propagation of traditional genres in Nepal”, Dr. Rhoderick Chalmers (U.K.) explained how the Nepali writers in the late 19th and 20th centuries had accomplished the task of transforming the folk culture into the print culture, citing several examples based on his research findings. Other presentations in the session were: “The Study of Lokabharan in Modern South Asian Poetry” by Prof. Dr. Biplab Chakraborty (India), “The Conserving of Folk Memory through Ethnographic Translation” by Dr. Govinda Raj Bhattarai (Nepal), “Folk Aspects in Tara Shankar Bandhyopadhyaya’s Novel and Poetry” by Dr. Nishit Mukherjee (India), “Yeti in Nepali Folklore” by Mr. Keshar Lal (Nepal), “Folk Legends and Festivals in the Context of Matsyendranath” by Mr. Satya Mohan Joshi (Nepal), and “Folklore and Literature with Special Reference to Asarko Pandhra” by Dr. Manfred Treu (Germany). The session ended with a poem recitation by Dr. Germain Droogenboodt (Spain) and Dr. Manorama B. Mahapatra (India).

Dr. Sonja Servoma (Finland) had chaired the sixth session with the theme Folklore, Gender and Power. The speakers delivering their presentations in the session were: Dr. Rohini Paranawithana (Sri Lanka) who spoke on “Sinhalese Literature and Folklore”, Prof. Dr. Madhav P. Pokharel (Nepal) on “Women in Nepali Folk Songs”, Dr. Sangita Raymajhi (Nepal) on “Exclusive Poetry of Pain and Hope: Women’s Teej Songs”, Ms. Ratna Rashid (India) on “KUP: A Unique Folk Art form of Bengali Muslim Women Domain of South Eastern Asia”, Dr. Gajab Kumari Timilsina (Nepal) on “The Hobalo Songs of Western Nepal”, and Dr. Manorama B. Mahapatra (India) on “Feminism in Orissan Folk Literature and Folk Songs”. The focus of the last two papers was to show how women have created their own niche in the cultural texture of society. In the end, there was a poetry performance by Dr. Gunadasa S. Amarasekhara (Sri Lanka) and Mr. Shashi Bhandari (Nepal).

The seventh session, held at Royal Nepal Academy, was chaired by Dr. Germain Droogenboodt (Spain). The theme was Folklore, Cultural Studies and Folk Practices; and the session started after a brief welcome speech by Dr. Tulasi Bhattarai, Member Secretary of Royal Nepal Academy. In the session, Prof. Dr. Gundrun Buhneman (USA) spoke on “Tantrik Forms of Ganesh in Hindu Iconography”. Similarly, Ms. Mariana Kropf (Switzerland) presented on “Poetry as Action: A Study into Hymns to the Navagraha in Local Ritual Traditions”, Dr. Dulal Chaudhari (India) on “Virgin Worship in Bengal and Nepal”, Dr. Mohammad Hazi Salleh (Malaysia) on “The Pantun: A Folk Form for All and All Seasons”, Prof. Dr. Prem Khatry (Nepal) on “The Death Rituals of the Danuwars”, and Mr. Min Bahadur Shakya (Nepal) on “Swayambhu Legends: Source of Buddhist Culture and Oral Tradition”. The session ended with poetry performance by Prof. Dr. Ganga Prasad Vimal (India) and Mr. Madhav Ghimire (Nepal).

The eighth session was on Nepali Folklore; and it was chaired by Mr. Satya Mohan Joshi (the eminent Nepali folk culture expert). In the session, the octogenarian Nepali poet Madhav Ghimire was present as a Special Guest. All the papers presented in the session were in Nepali medium. The papers were entitled “The Legend of Dipa Rajawar” by Mr. Badri Prasad Sharma (Kanchanpur), “On the Poetic Forms of Nepali Proverbs” by Mr. Shiva Prasad Paudyal (Nawalparasi), “Teej Songs” by Mr. Kusumakar Neupane (Parbat), “The Pheri System and Mantra” by Mr. Krishna Neupane (Syangja), “Limbu Folk Deities” by Mr. Bairagi Kaila (Jhapa), “Oral Epic Bharat” by Mr. Ram Sharan Darnal (Kathmandu), “Masta Worship” by Mr. Jaya Raj Panta (Doti), “Sabai: A Form of Nepali Oral Narrative” by Dr. Motilal Parajuli (Kaski), “Folk Elements and Images in Modern Nepali Poetry” by Mr. Bhagawat Acharya (Kapilvastu), “Female Participation in Nepali Folk Song Performances” by Mr. Pashupati N. Timilsina (Lamjung), and “Poetic Form of Nepali Folk Riddles” by Mr. Kapil Lamichhane (Rupandehi). These papers cover a wide range of the living dimensions of Nepali folklore. Their strength lay in the fact that they were the sorts of field-based studies carried out by the scholars. In their presentations, it seemed the scholars created an ambience of the living folk traditions of diverse nature found in the different parts of the country.

Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana released the book entitled Three Plays written by Prof. Abhi Subedi and translated into English by Dr. Sangita Rayamajhi amidst a colourful function at Dwarika’s Hotel in the evening. Releasing the book, Dr. Vatsyayana said that she was in the home of very nice hosts and was drawn by her association with Nepali experts and the warm invitation and insistence of NFS president Prof. Diwasa in particular. Speaking on the subject matter discussed in the papers presented in the congress, she said doors are not closed for men and women to enter into each other’s world of feelings and ideologies; and thus a mutual respect is possible, which alone is the thrust of the new critical feminist discourses. On the occasion, several speakers spoke about the plays and their contexts. The programme was jointly organized by Mandala Book Point, Ratna Pustak, and Across magazine, as part of the Congress and in the honour of the participants. Prof. Tulasi Diwasa, NFS President, shed light on how the performance of a play like Fire in the Monastery by Prof. Subedi had employed strong folk elements. He thanked the organizers for hosting a dinner and the book release programme in honour of the Folklore Congress Participants. On the occasion, speaking about the context of the plays, Prof. Subedi said that the writing was about the common experience of pain and hope. Dr. Rayamajhi said that she had taken up the work of translation after she saw women’s picture dramatized in the book in an effective way. Mr. Madhav Lal Maharjan of Mandala Book Point had also spoken on the occasion on behalf of the organizers. Mr. Ram Krishna Duwal’s group had presented traditional Newar songs in the end, and Salil Subedi had played the Australian aborigine’s wooden musical horn didgeridoo. Several persons including theatre artists, scholars, publishers, journalists, and literary writers were also present on the occasion.

The third day of the congress started with the ninth session, which had the theme Folklore, Multiculturalism and Expression of Identity. Dr. Gundrun Buhneman (from USA) had chaired the session. The paper presenters were: Dr. Sonja Servoma (Finland) who spoke on “Sounds of Nature in Poetics: A Transcultural Approach”, Prof. Dr. Ranjeet S. Bajwa (India) on “Semiotics of Architecture: Ethno-Poetry as Anthropological Self Description of the Human Mind”, Dr. S.K. Makbul Islam (India) on “Cultural Identity and Integration: A Theoretical Appreciation”, Mr. Tejeshwar Babu Gwanga (Nepal) on “Newari Folk Culture: Interpretation of Forms and Symbols”, Mr. Abdur Rashid Chowdhary (India) on “Folk Elements in Poetry”, Mr. Bhim Narayan Regmi (Nepal) on “Hair in Nepalese Society, Language and Literature” and Mr. Amrit Yonjan (Nepal) on “Tamba Kaiten: A Popular Traditional Genre in Tamang”. The session ended with poem recitation by Dr. Mohammad Hazi Salleh (Malaysia) and Prof. Tulasi Diwasa (Nepal).

Valedictory Session

Marking the end of the congress, the valedictory session was held under the chairmanship of NFS President Prof. Tulasi Diwasa on June 1, 2003. The participants from various countries presented their views and remarks on the occasion. Those expressing their views were: Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana (India), Dr. Sonja Servoma (Finland), Prof. Dr. Gundrun Buhneman (USA), Dr. Germain Droogenboodt (Spain), Dr. Abed Rahman Ysuf (Malaysia), Dr. Gunadasa S. Amarasekhara (Sri Lanka), Dr. Ranjit Shah and Dr. Ranjit Singh Bajwa (India), and Mr. Satya Mohan Joshi (Nepal). Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana praised the Nepalese cultural heritage as well as the people working in the field of folklore and folk culture in the country. She remarked that her pilgrimage to the country was highly fruitful. Dr. Ranjit Shah from Sahitya Akedemi (India) handed some materials published from the academy over to NFS president.

Stressing the need to consider culture as a part of national development, Mrs. Riddhi Baba Pradhan, Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Civil Aviation and Tourism, appreciated the Society for successfully organizing the event. She mentioned that Nepal had already planned for the preservation and promotion of the tangible and intangible culture as part of its endeavour for national development. Prof. Abhi Subedi, as the master of ceremony, expressed gratefulness to all those involved in making the event successful. Prof. C.M. Bandhu added that the congress became a successful event after the participation of eminent scholars and delegates from different countries including India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, UK, USA, Spain, Finland, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. He also thanked the promoter, sponsors and supporters for their contribution in making the congress a success.

The congress ended with the remarks of the chairman of the session Prof. Diwasa, who spoke on the concept of folklore and briefly presented the new trends and theories emerged in folklore studies. He emphasized the need to focus on the pragmatic aspect of folklore studies as well, in order to make them effective and to arouse the people’s motivation towards it. He also thanked all the participants, hoping to meet at the next congress.

Folk Songs/ Dance Performances and Visits

Sanskritik Samsthan (a cultural institution under the Ministry of Culture) had organized the performances of some selected items of Nepali folk dances and songs. Members of Gandharva Art and Culture Organization had performed auspicious songs during the inaugural session. Besides, visits of temples and important places were also arranged for the foreign guest participants.


The congress was successful in bringing several eminent scholars and poets, from within and outside the country, together to discuss the important topics in the domain of folklore studies. The participation of experts particularly from India, Finland, USA, UK, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Malaysia and Sri Lanka was very much inspiring. After the success of the congress, Nepalese scholars have been encouraged further to explore new avenues of study; and they have acquired new insights in the study of folklore. Besides, the congress has also successfully given a glimpse of Nepal’s rich cultural heritage to the foreign guests, and has provided opportunities to the Nepalese scholars for having a direct discourse with the eminent international folklore scholars and literary figures. It has also opened new possibilities of collaboration to promote and facilitate folklore studies at the national, regional and international levels. The congress also repeated and strongly recommended the proposal of the First International Folklore Congress (2001) that South Asian Centre for Folklore Studies should be established in Nepal.

Comments and Observations

The participants have appreciated the event for its success in providing a great opportunity for them to share on several dimensions of folklife and its reflection in literature. It became a wonderful opportunity for Nepalese experts to learn from foreign scholars. In the same way, after their participation in the congress, the foreign participants have expressed their happiness for having the opportunity to be acquainted with the Nepali scholarship on folklore, folklife and literature.

The Kathmandu Post, a leading daily newspaper published in Nepal, has called the congress events as ‘august gathering’, which attempted to “communicate, preserve and evaluate the impacts of folklore on contemporary art, literature and lifestyles.”

In her response after participating in the congress, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana has reported – “The conference was exciting and I enjoyed listening to the presentation of the young scholars, particularly the Nepalese scholars. I learnt a great deal…… I was greatly impressed with the level of scholarship of many delegates, especially from the Nepali Folklore Society. The President and Vice-President of the Society have indeed trained a generation of young scholars who displayed a very incisive mind.”

The participants benefited a lot from Dr. Vatsyayana’s ideas on folklore in particular. As Shiva Rijal has commented, the ideas presented by the ‘remarkable scholar’ Dr Vatsyayana were highly impressive; and the congress was successful to develop new insights in the area of folklore. Following the remarks of Prof. Abhi Subedi, the congress succeeded in bringing the ‘creative power’ found in the folk culture into the foreground by means of the various papers presented and discussed during the congress. In the words of Bishnu Pratap Shah, the congress was really “an event of international dimension and scholastic importance”; which contributed a lot towards international, intercultural and inter-religious understanding; and it was well organized and well attended “both in terms of number and quality of participants.” He has congratulated Prof. Tulasi Diwasa and his energetic colleagues of NFS for organizing the congress in the right time when the world is passing through the process of globalization which will not be stable without cultural understanding and social tolerance; and only the interactions of the kind that took place in the congress can promote such qualities among people living in different parts of the world.