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


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

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.