There is a perception that Sanskrit is as little associated with satirical writing as it is with Kashmir, says well-known translator of Sanskrit classics A N D Haksar who has come with an English translation of 11th century Kashmiri poet Ksemendra’s ‘Darpa Dalana’ to “provide some slight corrective to this impression.”
The ‘Darpa Dalana’, composed in 11th century Kashmir, is a satirical look at human attitudes in classical Sanskrit. It is a part of Ksemendra’s satiric poetry.
Its text was first published in 1890, translated into German in 1915, and commented on at length only 70 years later in Canadian scholar A K Warder’s monumental ‘Indian Kavya Literature’.
Haksar says ‘The Ending of Arrogance’, published by Rasala Books, presents a full and total English translation of ‘Darpa Dalana’, perhaps for the first time.
The poem consists of 587 Sanskrit stanzas, spread over seven chapters called ‘Vicaras’ or thoughts. These expound on subjects the poet regards as the main causes of human arrogance which deserve to be understood and eliminated.
Ksemendra, who came from an old, cultured and affluent family in Kashmir, titles them family, wealth, learning, beauty, heroism, charity and holy penance.
There also seems to be a moral objective underlying his projections: to focus on the sense of discrimination which reveals the hollowness of arrogant pride.
The whole is done through flashes of satirical poetry, sometimes biting and brutal, at others compassionate and tender, but always couched in graceful verse.
Each chapter is illustrated with a colourful story to drive home the poet’s point.
“These tales narrate everyday or miraculous episodes, featuring men and women, humans and animals, kings and commoners, as also beings from this or another world,” says Haksar.
According to him, the present translation has been done verse by verse.
“It attempts to combine fidelity to the original text and its spirit with the requirements of contemporary English usage for conveying both meaning and flavour. A few verses have come down incomplete or unclear, and they have been excluded.
“In a departure from standard Romanisation of Sanskrit, I have used the nominative singular masculine form for words whose stem forms are not easily recognised,” he says.