Mirror to reality

Among the innumerable scholars and polymaths that India has seen, the name of Neelakantha Dikshita occupies a prominent position. An erudite Sanskrit scholar, writer, brilliant strategist and a minister in the Tanjore Nayak and Madurai Pandya Kingdoms, Sri Dikshita lived in the seventeenth century. 

A large body of his works are available even today, of which the ‘Kalividambanam’ is one. This work of hundred stanzas is a satire on the hypocrisies, social customs, habits and nature of men in this ‘Kali’ age, the current period of time through which the world is now passing. 

The poet employs subtle humour to point out flaws in society. Whether it is performing rituals more for showing off ones status and wealth or deceitful astrologers who thrive on peoples gullibility and psychological weaknesses or opportunistic relatives waiting to grab their share of one’s affluence or incompetent teachers who bulldoze hapless students into silence or quacks who make merry on peoples ill health, Neelakantha Dikshita lampoons them all with his sharp observations, but never does he tread on personal or religious sensibilities. 

Many of his comments, especially on the degeneration of societal mores and values and disregard for ethics seem to be written with an amazing anticipation of the devaluation of morality and hold true for the contemporary world also. The reader is put to introspection after going through the tongue-in-cheek verses, as they hit at the truth with all seriousness, yet make him smile as he cannot deny the truth contained therein. The poet offers tips to those wanting to win in debates and arguments. 

“Do not be afraid, do not make an attempt to understand what your opponent is trying to say and do not allow him to complete his speech. Just say what comes to you immediately.” It may make sense or nonsense. Just unleash a verbal barrage.  Here are some more tips from the poet. 

“Do not be afraid to be shameless. Be ready for everything. Show contempt for the opposite party. Laugh loudly. Heap praises on the decision maker or judge. Shout loudly and create an uproar. This will help, especially if the judge is weak or not learned enough. But if the judge is indeed learned and unyielding, then accuse him of partiality.” Is this not the scenario today in political discourse, on debates on television, where it is a slanging match, no-holds barred mudslinging, with ‘shout louder, bring personal matters into public and emerge winner’ being  the dictum?  It is in human nature to want to be praised and admired. But to win this fame and admiration, one needs to work hard and achieve something in the respective field. It also takes time to reach this level. What is the quick and easy way? “Write books and teach” says the poet. Cut-copy-paste, plagiarize, write a tome and strut about as a knowledgeable person. “Who will admire a fool? So, he praises himself and derives satisfaction,” says Neelakantha Dikshita in Kalividambanam.

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