Evergreen truths

Evergreen truths

The different facets of human nature, especially those like ignorance, belief in the supernatural powers of sorcerers, cheating and exploiting people in the guise of curing them of their ailments and so on have always been the focus of writers. Neelakantha Deekshita was one such scholar of the seventeenth century, who in his famous work ‘Kalividambanam’ throws light on such matters in a lighter vein, yet managing to conceal profound and undeniable truths in  the verses.

For instance, he speaks about ill-equipped teachers who do not have thorough knowledge of their subject and hence do not encourage questions from the students. What do such persons do when faced with questions from curious pupils? “Come on, can’t you understand such simple things? Read it yourself slowly and you will find the answer to your question.” Or “there is no time now. I will explain it later.” Otherwise “wait, as we go along, everything will become clear.” Needless to say, that ‘later or afterwards’ never comes! The innocence and helplessness of the students also come in handy for such incompetent teachers. The poet lists three such, namely, inability of the students to find other competent teachers, blind faith in the existing teacher and their tendency to be satisfied with superficial knowledge. Especially with the last-mentioned condition, the poet sarcastically says that if our minds do not acquire real knowledge in any discipline, then one is fit to become a conjurer, yogi or ascetic.
Obviously, the poet is mocking at the fraudulent men who pose as learned recluses to cheat people. The poet devotes much space to spurious astrologers, soothsayers, sorcerers and others of this kind who thrive on people’s weaknesses. “Even if the earth is searched till the depths of the oceans, there is no place even the size of a fist to be found without an astrologer,” says Deekshita. Such is their all-pervasiveness. People approach soothsayers and astrologers in the hope of finding a cure for the ills and troubles they are undergoing. Exploiting their enfeebled psychological condition and sometimes greed, these astrologers make money by suggesting various remedies like rituals, charms etc. “If the purpose of the exercise is achieved, then the astrologer is praised. If there is delay or no result at all, then the astrologer declares that the task undertaken is a complicated one and will take some more time and he extracts some more money,” says the poet. These astrologers are benefited by the happiness of happy people and also by the misfortune of unlucky people.

“Astrolgers should behave strangely or remain silent for long periods. People will interpret it as greatness. Keep predictions vague, which can be interpreted variously. Predict long life spans, because if it turns out to be true, you will be praised, if not, who will be there to ask? Predict money for the poor and more money for the rich. You will be successful,” advises Deekshita.

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