Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita, active at the Nāyaka Court in Madurai in
the early 17th century, was one of the most prolific poet-scholar of
the age. Born into the family of great scholars, he was a grandnephew and a
disciple of the great Appaya Dīkṣita. Among Nīlakaṇṭha many literary oeuvres,
is a delightful and amusing poem,Kaliviḍambana (A Mockery of the Kāli Age), that
catalogues the fallen characters of the present age. A keen student of the contemporary
society, Nīlakaṇṭha, at his wittiest best, pokes fun at people whose conduct he
thinks is corrupt and questionable.
Here is a selected excerpt from this short poem of 102 stanzas,
translated by the great Sanskrit scholar V.Raghavan in 1970.
Ministers and Academics
One should not be afraid, need
not understand, nor even listen to the opposite side’s words; one should reply
immediately if one desires to win in the assemblies.
Absence of flurry, setting no
store by modesty, scorn of the opponent, laughter, eulogy of the king (the
presiding person), these five are the means of victory.
If the judge is not learned, win
(your case) by shouting aloud; if he is learned, his line may be toed.
He who desires to know the truth
should practice for long in modesty; but he who desires to win should throw
away modesty and make a lot of noise.
Yogins and Sannyasins
If our intellect cannot apply
itself at all to any branch of knowledge, let us become practitioners of
mantras, yogins, or even sannyasins.
If the thing succeeds without
delay, the practitioners of mantras attain fame; if it takes time, many
accessory rites could be announced and thereby money earned.
They indeed are fortunate, the
Mantrikas, whose telling the happy ones that they will have happiness, and the
unhappy ones that they will have a hard lot, itself becomes their blessings to
Silence due to ignorance, quaint
conduct—all these would redound, in the case of the mantra-practitioner, to his
Astrologers should make enquiries
with messengers in the court and then predict results to the kings, for the
movement1 of planets is necessary for them
In questions regarding progeny,
the astrologer should tell the father that it will be a son and the mother, a
daughter; thereby he succeeds.
On queries about life,
astrologers should say 'long life'; if those who had consulted live on, they
will honour the astrologer; if they die, whom could they ask?
Those who read the destiny (of
people) should say that everything has two sides, everything is bound by good
and bad periods, and everything is a mixed bag.
By predicting wealth for the
poor, and more wealth for the rich, the astrologers, by all means, become
popular with the world.
Even the little affluence that
comes uncovers one's pride, sets thieves on one, and makes agnates busy.
The same rich people who mock at
the learned, become themselves objects of mockery when Dame Fortune turns away
even a little from them.
Believing flattery as true,
considering oneself as a god, taking men to be worms—these are the fruits of
Even as they are listening, the
rich men will ask; even if they see, they do not know; and if they are made fun
of, they consider all that as praise!
The possession by Spirits is
momentary; the intoxication of liquor is for a yama (three hours); but the
pride of wealth of the fools continues till death.
Wealth does its antics for a
month or a fortnight and goes away; but the changes it had given rise to,
persist (in a person) for ever, even as the smell of garlic.
The intoxication of Kodrava* is
throat-deep; that of pan goes up to the heart; but that of wealth pervades the
whole body and infects the mouths of the sons and wives of the rich.
Let there be intoxication where
wealth had once been or is now present; but like leprosy and epilepsy it
descends in the family!
Five or six pieces of coins in
one's hand embolden one to teach texts, look down upon (other) scholars and
make one forget one's class.
Loin-cloth, smearing oneself with
ash, sacred grass, rosary, silence, sitting all alone,—these six provide
livelihood for stupid fellows.
Those who desire to get money
should speak of their having stayed at sacred places, mention a well-known dead
scholar as their teacher and the endowments which kings had made for their
families to carry on teaching.
If somebody questions about
deficiency in Mantras in what you do, say that that is your tradition
(Sampradaya); if he asks about the deficiency in the proper form of the
sacrament, say that such is the practical Way of doing it (Prayoga); if he asks
about your lack of the prescribed conduct, say that that is the way of people
of your part of the country; these are the ready-made answers.
Always keeping the rosary and its
covering cloth in hand, closing eyes every now and then, uttering "everything
is Brahman"—these produce confidence immediately.
Staying on at the river-side till
noon, worshipping an image in public, always putting on the dress of purity, —this
is the secret of pretension.
Religious acts should be
prolonged only so long as there are onlookers; the moment there is none to
witness, everything is to be closed.
Tears of joy and horripilation, —if
these two are at one's beck and call, what other religious acts does one
require? Kings will become one’s servant.
And Nīlakaṇṭha’s parting shots are
wife's words are the scriptures,
where the only
Dharma is to gather wealth,
where just what
strike's one is the authority,
glorious Kali age be our obeisance!
(Note: For a more modern
translation, one can refer to Somadeva Vasudeva recent translation of
Kalividambana published by the Clay Sanskrit Library)