by Vartika Upadhyay

Callijatra is the festival of calligraphy. Nepali calligraphy holds profound cultural and artistic significance. It is not merely a form of decorative writing but a reflection of the country’s rich heritage and traditions.

“Nepali calligraphy is rooted in ancient scripts like Ranjana and Devanagari which have historical and religious relevance. It plays a vital role in preserving and promoting the Nepali language and its diverse scripts. The UN identifies Nepal’s national script as the Ranjana script. This script is also known as one of the most beautiful scripts,” says Lalima Shrestha, a core member of Callijatra.

Callijatra was started in 2017 by a few young people with similar interests and passion to promote and learn Ranjana script. They joined the Nepali Lipi Guthi, an organisation that teaches the Ranjana script and Nepal Bhasa script (Prachalit script). While learning, they wanted to raise awareness and promote this craft among the youth; and thus started Callijatra.
Callijatra holds workshops among communities to promote the Ranjana script. A youth initiative, some notable members of this organisation are Sunita Dangol, Aanand Maharjan, Suyogya Ratna Tamrakar, Binay Shrestha, Rajani Shrestha, Bikash Shakya and Lumu (Lalima) Shrestha.

“Since I was young, I was curious to read the scripts of the temples and monasteries. I finally got the opportunity to learn it and I wanted others to know about it too. Awareness and learning play a vital role in preserving and promoting the Nepali language and its diverse scripts. It is an artistic expression often adorning religious texts, monuments and art pieces. Nepali calligraphy is a bridge between the past and the present, connecting people to their cultural roots while showcasing the beauty of the written word,” Lalima says.

Callijatra promotes and popularises Ranjana script and Nepal lipi through workshops and other communication forms like mobile apps, video tutorials, live calligraphy workshops, exhibits, etc. A team of calligraphers, artists, designers, developers and media professionals who love type, typography, and calligraphy carry the goal to teach and bring into use the script.
Callijatra is now also working on teaching the Nepal bhasa language. The members volunteer and go to different communities to teach people. These workshops are free of charge. Personalised classes are held to teach the Ranjana script for 45 days. The organisers say that the main challenge is when people are not aware of the difference between language and script.

“From the various workshops we have conducted across Nepal and internationally, we have found one thing recurring which is the joy on people’s faces in learning to write again. It is a meditative experience, and the very act takes you back in time. It becomes all the more meaningful because each stroke and letter connects you to your heritage. Learning how to write in the ancestral script is true moment of connection. Commercially, the possibilities of calligraphy especially for wedding invitations in the coming years is huge,” she shares. “These calligraphic designs often incorporate auspicious symbols and mantras, bestowing blessings and good fortune,” she adds.

The future plans for Callijatra is to continue with workshops and teachings. Lalima hopes to see more appreciation and adoption of various indigenous scripts and languages that are now endangered in Nepal. Callijatra has been an advocate of a dying and meaningful art and thanks to their efforts, government bodies have started to take an interest in its preservation and education. Lalima concludes, “We don’t know if Callijatra’s work is revolutionary, but it definitely has raised an interest in Ranjana – both as a script and as an art form.”

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