Bold, Brahmin and Banned: Recovering History’s Unsung Rhetoric of a Revolutionary Woman of Nepal
At a time when Nepal was ruled by the Ranas and peoples’ rights were next to nonexistent, one woman from Eastern part of the country was bold enough to lead a coalition with people from various castes to urge the rulers to establish a nation based on equality. Her name was Yogmaya Neupane, who in her life-time of protest (from 1900-1941) and struggle, communicated with three Rana Prime Ministers, demanding the abolitions of Sati Pratha (self-immolation by widows); establishment of dharma-rajya (nation ruled by truth and justice); right to inter-caste marriage; right for widows to remarry; end of child-marriage. It was indeed revolutionary for a Nepali woman to stand against the Rana rulers and demand such points. Yogmaya defied all the odds of the conservative Nepal and revolted against the patriarchal norms. In the process, she created critical utterances dubbed Hazurbani that not only educated the people about the prevalent caste, gender and class-based prejudices, but also engendered courage in them to rebel against the system.
Despite these, Yogmaya is not mentioned in the grand-narratives of the country, nor is she considered as a rhetorician. As a final form of protest, Yogmaya along with her other sixty-eight followers plunged into Arun river and perished on 14 July 1941 A.D. And her name was completely banned and silenced in the country’s historical narrative. By situating this research paper within the historiographic rhetoric and comparative rhetoric framework, I would argue that Yogmaya’s exodus stands as a powerful rhetorical act in itself, not a failure to convince the rulers. The paper will also showcase how Yogmaya utterances (hazubanini) were powerful rhetorical tool to persuade people from both high and low castes to join her in the cause as well as to join her in a mass suicide. The paper will also discuss why Yogmaya’s actions and utterances were considered to being so dangerous for the Rana Prime Ministers that they prohibited any mention of her and her hazurbani in the country and its history. Keywords: Yogmaya, Hazurbani, Rana Rulers, Historiography, History, Rhetoric, Nepal, Revolt.