My mother Revolutionary Leader Heera Devi Yami

Heera Devi ( wife of Dharma Ratna Yami ) freedom fighter and the great mother: 

This is the sad yet courageous story of a brave woman Heera Devi whose contribution to the Nepalese democracy cannot be forgotten. Heera Devi was one of the founders of the First Women's Association of Nepal who fought for the democracy in Nepal and civil rights of the women in Nepal. 

 Those days, elderly persons in the society used to discourage growing up girls from getting educated: even basic literacy was not possible. The elderly would say “Bhotaan Nawai" in Newari – the language for communication in the Newari community. The phrase would translate in English as the "paper will speak" and " girl will learn to write to lover and will elope." Learning to read books by girls used to be considered a big social "taboo." During a famous ceremony called “Kumari Jatra” (city tour for the Living goddess Kumari. Ranas of Nepal :: used to move around sprinkling coins especially around the places where they saw girls. At night they used to depute their people to collect those girls.

In the photograph, Heera Devi is standing on the right side (second row) holding her first child in her arms (Now DR. Dharma Devi Yami). The children in the front row were the students of Heera Devi. She used to teach English language at Budhi Bikas School behind Hanuman Mandir, Hanuman Dhokha, Kathmandu where she often had to take school children into hidings while teaching because of being surrounded by secret police agencies. The guardians used to give her food grains in return to support herself. She used to give away those food grains to sick underground activists and the family members of the freedom fighters languishing in the Ranas’ jail system.

During Heera Devi’s first pregnancy in 1946, her husband Dharma Ratna Yami left her at Gandhi Mahila Ashram in Bihar (India), a shelter for women in need of support, while he and his team were busy with underground movement to overthrow Rana regime. Heera Devi had very hard time during her pregnancy. Even the basic staple diet of “chapattis” (Wheat bread) was unavailable due to the limited supply of food to the inmates of the women-shelter. Due to her pregnancy, she could not make her way through the crowd of struggling hungry crowd to reach the distributors of chapattis (wheat bread). Dharma Ratna was shocked to see her skinny body during his next visit to the Ashram, and had to rush her to a nearby restaurant to feed her.

Heera Devi led a protest procession against Rana regime and chaired the program at Maru Tole (Kasthamandap), a historical central place in Kathmandu (Nepal), even when her child was just one month old. She, along with her one month old child, was thrown into jail. Inside the jail, she was placed in a cell filled with male inmates comprising of criminals and political activists without any other female prisoner. The prison-cell was full of bugs without any privacy suitable for female prisoners; the only facility the prison-cell had was a open sky public toilet. The jail inmates could not sleep during the nights due to biting-bugs and mosquitos, unbearable foul smell from the only open toilet, and night-long crying of a hungry one month baby. The situation quickly became unbearable for the inmates, and they went on hunger strike on the thirteenth day of Heera Devi’s arrest. 

Heera Devi did not have a single penny to feed her children. She used to enter butchers’ shops and ask them to hand over the throw away bones of buffalo-meat into the shops’ corners meant for feeding stray dogs. She would pick up the bones and tell the butchers that she was taking the bones to feed her dogs. She would dry the bones in the sun and store them in the big earthen vessel (Tepa in Newari language). She used to collect Sishnu ( Nettle ) plant, a leafy vegetable plant, in the neighboring places, and cooked them with dried bones because she didn't have any money to pay for rice or staple grains. This used to be the regular diet even during her pregnancy and delivery period too. The underground activists hiding in different localities also used this food often through her.

During the delivery of her second child in the year 1948, Heera Devi again got arrested. She was taken inside the prison-cell with her newborn baby while she was still bleeding after the recent delivery with blood stains on her clothes. She was forced to stand for eight hours every day for a month in the freezing winter during the month of December in this precarious health condition. Her newborn child suffered from hunger and malnutrition, and soon fell seriously ill due to the extreme weather condition and improper care. All the jail inmates decided to name the baby boy as “Vidhan” to symbolize the struggle for the demand of the first democratic “Constitution of Nepal.”

“Tamnani” is used to carry people especially brides in Nepal, and were carried by butchers those days. During the year 1948, Heera Devi and her newborn were carried in Tamnani for the interrogation by Ranas. She used to bleed in Tamnani due to the recent delivery. She had no spare saree to change. Local resident ChhalKumari Mali , her neighbor and wife of Shiva Lal Mali, used to see her bleeding. Local residents were dead scared of tyrannical Ranas’ police, and avoided going near Heera Devi. Chhal Kumari secretly used to lend her saree, and washed her saree soaked with blood. 

Dharma Ratna came secretly one night disguised as a poor peasant pretending to deliver harvest. The condition of both mother and her newborn son was “touch and go”: either could die any moment. Dharma Ratna could stay for only for a short duration to avoid getting arrested. He had to leave behind helplessly his Heera Devi who was playing such an important role during the revolution in dangerous times of Rana regime. Laxmi Tuladhar, the maternal aunt of Heera Devi, decided to rescue baby Vidhan by shifting him to her residence. Baby Vidhan survived and recovered slowly due to the good nursing provided by Mrs. Tuladhar.

Dharma Ratna Yami, her husband, fell ill with tuberculosis at Nakhu jail because of malnutrition and physical torture. Heera Devi used to walk for six hours(two way) to reach the prison (Nakhu jail) to feed her ailing husband and help other political activists with serious ailments. At the same time, she used to teach farmers’ children. There was no one to look after her two small, desolate and crying children while she was away. She used to lock behind her two small, desolate and terrified children due to the fear of Rana’s police-men who used to terrorize her children. The desolate children would eat, do toilet, sleep and cry the whole dayin the same room. People around never gave helping hand because of the fear of getting tortured by police constables. 

In summary, Heera Devi and her children had to pay great personal price in the freedom struggle of Nepal against the Ranas of Nepal. Yet, they managed to live, contribute to the freedom struggle, and survived to tell the tale of hardships during the period of Ranas’ tyranny.

Six daughters and one son

                                                      Whole family

Heera DEvi after treatment from Calcutta and Kalingpong

               Heera Devi before treatment of tuberculosis

Gate of Jana Bahal, Kel Tole, Machhendra Nath, Kathmandu opposite HHeera DEvi's house Bnansa Chhen

Heera Devi first one from the right side after her first tuberculosis treatment from Calcutta.

son of Jagat Lal Master ( )

The tuberculosis patient Heera Devi Kansakar , daughter of Heera Kaji Kansakar and Heera Maya Kansakar in her house Bhansa Chhen, Kel Tole, Kathmandu Nepal.

The Family

Laxmi Krishna was a Kasa, or Kansakar, who followed the traditional handicraft of making copper and brass pots. He lived in a lane called Masangalli off the main street of Kel Tol in central Kathmandu . He had four sons – Laxmi Bir Singh, Heera Kaji, Ratna Man Singh and Moti Kaji. When the oldest son, Laxmi Bir Singh, grew up, he was sent to work at the kothi or shop of his maternal uncle in Lhasa , where he had the usual experience of a banja – great hardship.

Later, Laxmi Bir left his uncle’s shop and began to trade on his own with money borrowed from some other people. He bought and sold nabu cloth in the streets and gradually over the years, he made good.

By the time the second son, Heera Kaji, had a son, born at Talabi, the particular section at Masangalli where he lived, the family was able to buy a part of a house called Bhansachhen in the main street in the name of one-year-old Dhana Kaji. The house was reputedly haunted but an astrologer said it would be all right if it was bought in the name of the child.

Bhansachhen is an old building, the only example of Newar architecture with red bricks, ornamental windows and sloping red tile roof in the locality. It boasted a history of its own as the customhouse, for that is what Bhansachhen meant.

In 1918 when a great fire raged at Kel Tol, Laxmi Krishna and his oldest son, Laxmi Bir took the sleeping baby, Dhana Kaji, in their arms to their newly bought Bhansachhen and placed him in a corner on the ground floor in the hope that the fire would spare the property, as the astrologer had told them.

The fire turned to the north and burnt a whole lane called Suchikagalli. Bhansachhen across the street to the east was saved. Later, Laxmi Krishna bought the remaining portion of the house- and the whole courtyard became his. The old house at Talabi was sold - and the family moved to Bhansachhen.

In Lhasa , the oldest son who later became famous as Lama Sahu had established his own kothi in a building belonging to Chusimsyapala, one of the ten guthis or associations of the Newar merchants in the city. His brothers Heera Kaji and Ratna Man went to Lhasa by turn. The youngest of the brothers, Moti Kaji, managed their shop at home, where he sold clothes to Tibetans from Keyrung and the border areas who came to Kathmandu during winter, bringing with them goats, sheep and blankets for sale in Kathmandu . For several months, these people were lodged in the ground flour of Bhansachhen.

The grandson, Dhana Kaji, at the age of 20 went to Lhasa and stayed a year. There were five banjas in the kothi – Bijuliman Kansakar, Gajaratna Tuladhar, Dan Man, Dhirendra Bajracharya and Gyan Ratna Bajracharya.

Ratna Man Singh was attacked by a gang of people while travelling (one month) back from Lhasa in the jungle, robbed, thrown in a jute bag. A team of three Newar merchants while travelling back on the way discovered the bag with light movement. When they opened the bag they discovered Ratna Man Singh. Luckily one of the three knew minor treatment and tried his best to save him. The three took turn to carry this diseased body by foot, traveled back walking for two days and came across a Tibetan monastery. They handed over the body to the monks and the three returned back the Kathmandu. Ratna Man Singh returned back to Kathmandu after he covered from his illness.

The family had become quite rich by the time Heera Kaji had a daughter, Heera Devi, in c 1924.

During 1934 earthquake of 8.4 RS the Kathmandu valley was physically badly damaged ( . earthquake No resources were available to save people who got crushed due to building and infrastructure damages. Cries were heard every where with limited support from government. Heera Devi's family (joint family) was performing well in business in Lhasa (Tibet) during that period. Her family had contributed a lot in relief operation of the disaster of those days. These houses were rebuilt after 1934 earthquake. The people around Jana Baha had well established livelihood and had financial capability to rebuild the damaged building with seismic proof structure using traditional knowledge. The status of these old buildings after April 25th 2015 Earthquake should be analyzed by the experts regarding the knowledge of old expert builders in those days.

Years later, Lama Sahu’s wife, Lani Maya, made a golden image of the Bodhisattwa Maitri at a cost of Rs.60,000/- for a monastery at Swayambhu Hill in Kathmandu .bi

the name of the monastery on Swoyambhu hill is " श्रि सुमति मैत्रि शासन महाबिहार" in short "मैत्रि गुम्बा". It is just below the vehicle parking at Swoyambhu. This Gomba was consecrated on 1954 AD, २०१४ B.S.

The founder and chief of the Maitri Gomba is भिक्षु सुमति शिल ( ज्ञानमानसिं तुलाधर, ङत). Other founding monks are भिक्षु सुमति सासन (देबकुलसिं तुलाधर, ङत), भिक्षु मुनि भद्र (महाचन्द्र शाक्य), भिक्षु मुनि सासन ( न्हुक्षे शाक्य), भिक्षु सुमति धर्मबृद्धि ( केश रत्न तुलाधर), भिक्षु .....(ज्ञानेन्द्र श्रेष्ठ), भिक्षु .....(गजानन्द शाक्य) ।

Late Gyan Maya Kansakar is the wife of Late Bhauju Ratna Kansakar. He ( ) is a renowned Industrialist & Businessman of Nepal, Social Worker, Proponent of Newari Language and Buddha Dharma, Committed follower of Buddha, Vipassana Mediator, Dhamma Worker .Gyan Maya looked after Heera Devi Yami (Kansakar) at Calcutta while undergoing treatment of Tuberclosis. In the year 1970 January before Hera Devi died she told her children how Dev Maya took care of her when she was critically ill due to Tuberculosis at such tender age.

Heera Devi went through extreme suffering running around with four years old Dharma Devi, two years old Vidhan and Timila in the stomach serving under ground political activists, prisoners and educating general people to understand issues on the rights of citizens taking all the high risks while police was hunting everywhere to bring dead body of Dharma Ratna Yami in B S 2007 just before people succeeded to overthrow Rana regim ), Dasha Rath Chand ( ) , Dharma Bhakta Mathema ( ) and Shukra Raj Shastri ( ) were executed publicly in B, S. 1997 ( ) . During a demonstration organized at Indra Chok, Kathmandu by the Citizens' Rights Committee, he spoke out strongly against the Rana regime and demanded the people's rights. For this act, he was arrested and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. He was subsequently sentenced to death, and on 24 January 1941, he was hanged from a tree on the side of the road at Pachali, Teku, Kathmandu.

Ten people were given life imprisonment with property confiscation. Dharma Ratna Tuladhar, who later changed his last name to “YAMI” meaning a man born from Kathmandu, and three others were imprisoned for eighteen years with property confiscation; remaining persons were imprisoned for varying terms from five years to twelve years.

All jail inmates went through immense hardship and brutal beatings during the imprisonment years. Physical torture was a routine, he and his friends were regularly beaten up brutally in cold winter-nights. The dead body of tormented political prisoners rotted, and family members were not allowed to pick-up the body and perform the last rights. Many of the freedom fighters never returned to their homes after they entered the prison-cells. The families of imprisoned freedom fighters were left to suffer in squalor. All of the inmates were packed in a small prison-cell with no facility.

Heera devi used to teach English to children and was collecting food grains like Chiura, Makai, Bhatmas inorders to feed the jail inmates and theit family members taking great risks, She used to wear peasants dress at night and pass on secret information of underground activists.

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