Kṣemendra’s Darpa Dalana
Translated by A.N.D. Haksar
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The Darpa Dalana is an unusual poetic work in classical Sanskrit from 11th century Kashmir. It is a satiric look at human attitudes as also a social comment on the times. Its 587 verses are spread over seven sets of vicāras or thoughts. These dwell on the main causes of man’s arrogance: family, wealth, learning, beauty, power, charity and sanctimony. All need to be understood and discarded for a better life.
Each discussion is enlivened with a story. They feature humans and animals as well as divinities. The hero of one is the Buddha in person, and of another the great god Śiva, pointing to the poet’s own broad based outlook on belief. He is Kṣemendra, a well known figure in Sanskrit literature, whose epigrammatic verses are also quoted in anthologies. His work includes critiques on poetics and prosody, devotional poetry, epic abstracts and social satires. Most seemed lost over time till the location and publication of 18 works over the last century and a half.
The Darpa Dalana was first published in the original in 1890, and translated into German in1915. Though quoted in works like A.K. Warder’s Indian Kāvya Litrature of 1992, its full text is translated into English perhaps for the first time in this Rasāla edition.
About the Author
Kṣemendra lived in eleventh century Kashmir and wrote in classical Sanskrit. Often quoted in anthologies, his literary output over at least three decades included still studied works on poetics and prosody, apart from devotional and didactic verse, three epic abstracts and several mordant social satires. Eighteen of his works were recovered in the last century and sixteen others are known through citations. They have established Kṣemendra as a brilliant multi-faceted writer and an important name in Sanskrit literature.
About the Translator
A.N.D. Haksar is a well known translator of Sanskrit works. A career diplomat for many years, ten of his translations have been published as Penguin Classics. They range over poetry, prose and drama, and include Kṣemendra’s Three Satires from Ancient Kashmir and The Courtesan’s Keeper, both of which were till then virtually unknown to modern readers.