In addition to being one of the foremost scholars of folk culture in Nepal, Dr. Ram Dayal Rakesh has accomplished a great achievement in the comparative study of literature. While engaged in research and teaching at Tribhuvan University, Nepal's preeminent educational institution, he has confronted the problems facing Nepalese society through the field research, and actively worked to improve them.
Dr. Rakesh's birthplace is the Mithila region, which lies between central Nepal and the Indian state of Bihar. This region is viewed in two different ways. On the one hand, Mithila is viewed by the Nepalese state, centered in the Kathmandu Basin, as a peripheral area, despite its long and brilliant history. On the other hand, it is a spiritual center when viewed from the perspective of the Hinduism in South Asia. Dr. Rakesh's own educational background reflects the dual nature of his birthplace, as he also studied English at Bihar University in India and was awarded a master's degree for his study of Hindi literature at Tribhuvan University. Later, he was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Delhi in India for his comparative study of contemporary Hindi and Nepalese poetry. Thus, he has established an identity as a literary scholar while moving across contemporary national boundaries and fields of specialty. He also has assiduously conducted research into folk literature, and is a pioneer in this field in Nepal.
Janakpur, the central city of the Mithila area, was the birthplace of Sita, wife of Rama, in the epic poem "The Ramayana". While traditional Brahman rituals remain strongly rooted there, the region's unique Maithili-language literature and the folk art that is handed down from mother to daughter through successive generations are still a part of daily life.
Dr. Rakesh has studied the rich folk culture of this area from its literature, folk tales and songs, and essentials of daily life, including food, clothing, and shelter, to its annual festivals and events, ceremonies, and rituals, and explained them to the world through his books. Many have learned about Nepalese culture and visited Nepal because of these works.
At first, Mithila art was known only for its unique style and creations, but it was largely through Dr. Rakesh's work that people have understood the underlying culture and society that gave birth to the unique art. During that process, he became intensely aware of the severity of the problems faced by the women of the region, who are the people responsible for transmitting this artistic culture. The Mithila region has a particularly strong bias against women, even for the male-centered Hindu society as a whole. In 1999, he was recommended for membership in the Royal Nepal Academy, and also founded the Maithili Women Empowerment Centre, an NGO whose objective is to promote the economic and social independence of the women of Mithila.
In addition to his noteworthy achievements in folk culture study, the region's literary and cultural legacy, he has focused on contemporary problems and worked as an active intellectual to deal with them. For these activities, Dr. Rakesh is unquestionably worthy of the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.