Three Satires

By Nīlakaṇṭha, Kṣemendra, and Bhallaṭa
Translated by Somadeva Vasudeva
Foreword by Mani Shankar Aiyar (To be published in the second edition)

Three Satires

Written over a period of nearly a thousand years, these works show three very different approaches to satire.

Nila·kantha gets straight to the point: swindlers prey on stupidity.

When asked about the length of life, the astrologer will predict longevity. Those who survive will be in awe of him. Who will the dead complain to?

The artistry that beguiles Ksheméndra is as varied as human nature and just as fallible. We are off to a gentle start with Sanctimoniousness – really no more than a warm-up among vices – but soon graduate to Greed and Lust. From there it’s downhill all the way, as Unfaithfulness leads to Fraud, and Drunkenness to Depravity; Deception and Quackery bring up the rear. What’s this at the very end? Virtue? A late arrival, pale and unconvincing. Bhállata the disgruntled court poet speaks of a setting sun (his former king and patron Avánti·varma) being replaced by a flickering firefly (the new king Shánkara·deva, who did not continue his predecessor’s patronage).

Only an elephant, who batters towering cliffs with relentless assaults of his spear-pointed tusk-tips knows the pain of the thunderbolt-swipes of a lion’s paw; not a jackal, whose spirit perishes at the yapping of a puppy.

403 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-8814-1  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-8814-9  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation


“Mockery of the Kali Era”
(pp. 319-339)
(28 pp, 1.37mb)

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Download the title page and table of contents and one chapter of the book (in English and Sanskrit on facing pages), bundled together as a .pdf file. You can also download the CSL Front Matter (6pp, 1.3mb). It describes how we transliterate the Sanskrit text in the Roman alphabet and includes a guide to pronunciation. It also explains our system of representing phonetic fusion (sandhi).

You can set Adobe Acrobat Reader to display the Sanskrit text and translation in facing page view. Simply go to “View” in the toolbar, select “Page Layout” and click on “Facing.”

About the Translator

Somadeva Vasudeva is Assistant Professor in Sanskrit at Columbia University, New York. He has also translated The Recognition of Shakúntala and The Quartet of Causeries (together with Csaba Dezső) for the CSL.

About the Foreword Writer

Mani Shankar Aiyar is a former member of Lok Sabha and has held several Union Cabinet ministerial positions in Petroleum & Natural Gas, Panchayati Raj, Youth Affairs & Sports and Development of North Eastern Region. He is the author of several books. His latest book, A Time of Transition: Rajiv Gandhi to the 21st Century, was published by Penguin Books India in 2009. Read Forward (pdf).